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FBI Investigates CCA-Run INS Center in New Jersey

A Corrections Corporation of America operated immigrant detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey is under investigation due to alleged misconduct by company employees. Federal officials confirmed on April 13, 1999 that the U.S. Dept. of Justice had requested the probe, which is being conducted by the FBI. The Elizabeth Detention Center has been operated by CCA since 1997 and holds asylum-seekers and other non-criminal immigrant detainees.

On January 28, 1999, Salah Dafak a detainee at the facility, was beaten so badly that he required hospital treatment.

Kevin Simpson, who worked as a transportation officer for TransCor America, Inc. a CCA subsidiary said when he arrived at the detention center to take Dafah to the hospital he noticed that Dafali's clothes were bloody, his chin was split open and a shoe imprint was visible on his face. Simpson said CCA guards told him Dafali had injured himself by hitting his head and face against the wall of his cell. "I didn't believe it. I still don't. I don't see how you can get a shoe print on your face from a wall," he said. Simpson was fired after he allegedly refused to cooperate with an internal investigation.

Oluwole Aboyade, a Nigerian immigrant at the facility, has claimed that CCA guards put him in an isolation cell after he organized a peaceful hunger strike in October 1998. He said the cell was covered in feces and urine; he was left there for six days.

"These are some of the most serious allegations of abuse we have received about a detention center," stated Andrew Painter, legal counsel to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, D.C. Lorelei Valverde, an INS official, said videotaped footage of incidents at the facility, taken by CCA guards, has unrecorded gaps. The agency is investigating whether the missing video segments were intentional or accidental.

In April 1999, the Bergen Record, a local newspaper, published an expose about the CCA facility. Among other findings, the paper reported that allegations of degrading and abusive treatment by guards dated back over a year; that two senior CCA officials were removed at the request of the INS; that the turnover rate among guards is 30-40%; and that CCA has been notified of 18 contract violations since Jan. 1999. These problems occurred despite the presence of seven INS contract compliance monitors at the ACA-accredited facility.

CCA spokeswoman Susan Hart said an internal investigation by the company found no evidence of abuse. She confirmed the recent resignation of the warden at the detention center, which she said was due to personal and career-related reasons. Since Feb. 1999 the chief of security has been removed, a guard has been fired, and two supervisors and six guards have been barred from having contact with detainees. Three other guards quit in April following an investigation into drug use.

PLN reported last year that a former assistant warden at the detention center had filed a lawsuit against CCA, claiming he was fired after he informed the INS that detainees were being improperly restrained and involuntarily sedated (see: "Abuses continue at private INS facility," PLN, Nov. 1998).

The Tennessean, The Jackson Sun, Prison Privatization Report Int'l

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