Private Tallahatchie prison to house 1,350 federal detainees

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The Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, shown Wednesday, July 21, 2004, in Tutwiler, Miss., was the scene of an uprising from Colorado prisoners one day after a similar riot at a private prison run by the same Tennessee company near Olney Springs, Colo., prison officials said. There were no injuries.

A privately-owned prison in Tallahatchie County will soon house up to 1,350 prisoners on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Nashville-based CoreCivic announced earlier this month that it had entered a new, two-year contract with the U.S. Marshals Service beginning June 14 to place detainees in the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility located in Tutwiler.

“The U.S. Marshals Service has experienced an increasing need for detention capacity as its average daily prisoner population has increased throughout the past year,” said Damon Hininger, president and CEO of CoreCivic, in a statement.

“Our Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility has the available capacity to accept detainee populations quickly due to our existing staff of experienced, well-trained corrections professionals. We are pleased to provide the Marshals with immediate capacity to assist the agency as it carries out its critical public safety mission.”

CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, has owned the facility since 2000. The company is one of the country’s two largest correctional firms and the company has prospered in recent years as President Donald Trump has promised a tough-on-crime agenda.

Shares of CoreCivic stock rose 3.5 percent last week on the day Trump signed the executive order ending migrant family separations at the border. Since April, the company, which also donated to the president’s inaugural committee, has seen its stock rise 20 percent since April 2.

CoreCivic did not respond to requests for clarification about who would be housed at the prison. A U.S. Marshals Service spokesperson also would not confirm who would be held at the Tallahatchie County facility.

In a recent report by the investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, analysts said the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward migrants crossing the border will also prove profitable for private prison companies like CoreCivic. The subsequent rise in immigrant detainees could allow them to bypass the usual “cumbersome and lengthy public processes” that accompany contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Marketwatch reported June 25.

CoreCivic operates one other prison in Mississippi, the 2,232-bed Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, under a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. The federal prison bureau also operates a facility in Yazoo County.

During a 2004 riot at the Tallahatchie prison, inmates lit mattresses, clothing and a portable toilet on fire, leading the private operator to add 25 guards to the facility, the Associated Press reported at the time.

In May 2012, prisoners rioted at the Adams County Correctional Center, taking guards hostage and injuring other inmates, resulting in the death of one correctional officer. Several inmates have since been convicted for their roles in the incident.

In 2013, CoreCivic (then CCA) lost its contract with the state of Mississippi to operate the 1,000-bed Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. The contract was awarded to Utah-based private operator MTC instead, which now remains the only prison contractor for state-owned facilities.

According to the BOP website, the majority of inmates in contract prisons like the Adams County facility are “sentenced criminal aliens who may be deported upon completion of their sentence.”

On June 23, prison officials in South Carolina announced that 48 prisoners they characterized as disruptive would be moved to the Tallahatchie County facility, the Associated Press reported.

On a daily basis in 2017, the U.S. Marshals Service held an average of 50,532 prisoners, some 9,095 of which were housed in private facilities. As of that year, the marshals had 13 contracts with privately managed detention facilities.