JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A private prison in Mississippi could be in danger of closing, while one in Michigan is reopening, after the federal Bureau of Prisons awarded contracts Wednesday to imprison noncitizens convicted of certain felonies.
CoreCivic says Thursday that it’s seeking other users for the 2,200-bed Adams County Correctional Center near Natchez, which employs 380 workers. Spokesman Steve Owen says the Nashville, Tennessee, company hasn’t decided yet whether it will close the prison if no other government houses prisoners there after the federal contract expires July 31. A prison guard died in a May 2012 riot at the prison and a 2016 federal report was critical of its operations.
Geo Group of Boca Raton, Florida, says it has won contracts for 5,000 beds for the next 10 years, including plans to reopen the 1,800-bed North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan, a rural community about 175 miles (280 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. The other 3,200 beds are in two Geo-managed prisons owned by Reeves County, Texas.
The prisons are different than immigration detention centers that hold people accused of entering the country illegally. Instead they hold people convicted of crimes, including illegal entry. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in February blocked the sale of a former Michigan prison that was proposed as the site of a privately operated federal immigration detention center.
North Lake has opened and closed multiple times. It was built in 1998 as the Michigan Youth Correctional Facility, but closed in 2005 after the state decided it could save money by sending young inmates to state-run prisons instead of the private facility. It reopened briefly in 2011 to hold California inmates, and then opened again 2015 to hold fewer than 300 Vermont inmates. That contract ended in 2017 , with more than 100 workers being laid off, and the prison has been closed since.
Some Michigan lawmakers wanted the state to buy the North Lake facility in 2017. Geo had offered to sell the prison to the state for $100 million in 2016.
Geo said it expects the contract to bring in an additional $37 million a year. That’s less than $60.9 million that CoreCivic said it was paid by the Bureau of Prisons to run the Mississippi facility in 2018. CoreCivicsaid Thursday it didn’t know when federal officials would begin transferring inmates out of the Mississippi facility.
“We were disappointed to learn that CoreCivic was not a successful bidder,” CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist wrote in an email. She said the company would offer employees the opportunity to transfer.
A prison guard died in a riot in May 2012 at the Adams County prison and 20 others were injured. Inmates said they were unhappy about food, medical care, and staff members. A 2016 federal report found CoreCivic had fewer guards for most of the three years following the riot, as well as fewer health staffers than required. Only four of 367 employees were fluent in Spanish, even though most inmates were Spanish-speakers. That report questioned whether the Department of Justice was overpaying CoreCivic under its contract. CoreCivic disputed the calculations and said it had improved security since the riot.
The Bureau of Prisons didn’t respond to an email and a phone call seeking comment Thursday.