The Jena facility has been closed for almost eight years. PLN previously reported on problems at the prison when it held juveniles under the management of GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut), including a March 2000 lawsuit filed against the company by the U.S. Dept. of Justice related to violence and abuse. [See: PLN, Aug. 2000, p.8].
Now GEO Group has announced plans to expand and remodel the detention center at a cost of $30 million, and convert it into a 1,160-bed immigration prison called the LaSalle Detention Facility (LDF). GEO has already entered into an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees at the facility; the expansion is expected to be complete by mid-2008.
The LDF will include a federal courthouse and federal administrators, which will allow trials to take place at the facility. Whether trials at the privately-run prison will be open to the public, as required by the U.S. Constitution, is unknown. Up to 125 full-time federal employees are expected to work at the LDF in addition to GEO’s private prison staff.
This leaves local business leaders salivating over millions of dollars in projected economic benefits – the LDF is expected to have an annual payroll between $5 and $7 million.
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