An Invitation for Abuse in Essex County
This past August, the Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo, entered into an inter-governmental services agreement (IGSA) with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase the number of ICE detainees held in Essex County to 1250. The contract is being touted as a way to generate huge revenue for the county, which may, in turn, benefit some property owners. However, serious questions regarding whether the county will experience any net benefit from the contract, and the effect that incarceration for profit will have on already inhumane conditions remain. We are also left with the overarching question of whether or not using the incarceration of people as a way to make money is an acceptable way for Essex County to raise revenue.
Unfortunately for Essex County's coffers, the prison business is labor intensive and one where economies of scale do not easily apply. The $50 million per year the County Executive claims Essex will receive is significantly overstated. Essex County has admitted, through written communication, that this is both a gross revenue number and one calculated using an absolute best case scenario of all 1250 beds being filled at all times at the full $108/day reimbursement rate.
Though Essex County claims that "all appropriate analysis have been done," it has been less than forthcoming about the costs associated with the contract. We know from published reports that the subcontract with Community Education Centers (CEC), the politically connected, for-profit firm that runs Delaney Hall, alone will reduce this number by at least $8-10 million.
No calculation of the increased cost of additional guards, or required improvements to the facilities has been provided and Essex County is claiming that despite repeatedly promoting the increased training that all guards would undergo as a result of the new contract there are no costs associated with this training. Despite repeated requests for information, all the Essex County Administration will say so far about the costs of the contract with ICE is that they are "fixed based on our operational costs." Although, the costs associated with running a public facility is public information, Essex County has yet to divulge what those costs are.
Essex County Freeholder Ralph Caputo who is chair the penal committee for Essex County says the new contract between the county and ICE is "unpleasant but useful" because it will raise revenues. Joe DiVincenzo has called the agreement between Essex and ICE a "homerun" and. says it will "help reduce the financial burden on our taxpayers." However, the county has no control over property taxes. That is up to the individual municipalities to decide. In fact, Newark just announced a 4.6% property tax increase for the coming year despite the fact that Essex County presented a balanced budget for 2011 that included projected revenues of $27.5 million from the ICE contract.
This past June, after months of testimony from advocates, service providers and community members, Freeholder Caputo announced that Essex County would investigate charges of violations of the NJ Administrative Code and other civil & human rights violations. He invited advocates to join this effort to oversee the jail. Essex County has since reneged on this offer.
It appears that Essex County is either not being realistic about costs associated with running an immigration detention facility or they are going to be running a facility that is woefully unprepared to adequately meet the needs of the expanding immigrant detainee population.
The Essex County Executive and the Freeholders want us to believe that they can spin the misery of the immigrants in their custody into gold for the rest of the residents of Essex County, but by perpetuating an environment in which profit is the primary motivator while shirking their responsibility for oversight, they are inviting abuse.
Please join at Peter Francisco Park in Newark tomorrow at 1:30 pm as we demand that the Freeholders revoke the new ICE contract and institute a community oversight board for the jail and Delaney Hall.
Whether or not you can come please sign the petition.