Corrections Corp. Shows Crime Pays As States Turn Jails Private

Signage stands outside the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy on Tuesday, May 11, 2010. 

ELOY — Officially, all California prisoners incarcerated at the CoreCivic La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy have been returned to California, except a few facing local charges, who were sent to Florence.

This opens La Palma Center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees.

La Palma had previously housed 1,000 ICE detainees before the removal of more than 2,200 California prisoners at the end of June.

Now, ICE has contracted with the CoreCivic facility to hold only its detainees.

Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, ICE public affairs officer, stated in an email to PinalCentral: “Currently ICE has contracted space to house 3,240 adult detainees at the La Palma facility in Eloy.”

Pitts O’Keefe said no families or unaccompanied minors will be detained at the facility. Pitts O’Keefe did not disclose if the detainees would be male, female or both.

When asked what changes must be made to the Eloy facility to accommodate the detainees, Pitts O’Keefe responded, “As with all facilities either owned by ICE or contracted, they all must meet the ICE National Detention Standards.”

Those standards include safety, security, order, care and activities, justice, and administration and management of the detainees.

Inside the ICE National Detention Standards, federal documents state, “This detention standard ensures a safe environment for detainees and employees by establishing contingency plans to quickly and effectively respond to emergency situations and to minimize their severity. This detention standard applies to the following types of facilities housing ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) detainees: Service Processing Centers (SPCs); Contract Detention Facilities (CDFs); and state or local government facilities used by ERO through Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGSAs) to hold detainees for more than 72 hours.”

The La Palma Center is a Contract Detention Facility.

The federal directive includes the requirement for the facility to provide communication assistance to detainees with disabilities and detainees who are limited in their English proficiency.

The ICE facility is required to provide detainees with language assistance, including bilingual staff or professional interpretation and translation services and to provide them with meaningful access to its programs and activities.

All written materials provided to detainees must be generally translated into Spanish, according to the ICE narrative.

ICE requires the searching of detainees but the rules actually prohibit strip searching them unless “reasonable suspicion” warrants a strip search.

ICE requires medical and mental health screenings of detainees to protect the health of others in the facility.

The detainees will be evaluated and receive a “custody classification level before being admitted into the general population of the facility.”

Any detainee who cannot be classified because of missing information at the time of processing, like a criminal record check, will be kept separate from the general population in isolation.

Things that are examined when a detainee is classified, according to ICE documents, include, “any current criminal offense(s), past criminal offense(s), escape(s), institutional disciplinary history, documented violent episode(s) and/or incident(s), medical information or a history of victimization. Personal opinion, including opinions based on profiling, familiarity or personal experience, may not be considered in detainee classification.”

The initial classification of a detainee and initial housing assignment is supposed to be completed within 12 hours of admission to the facility, according to ICE guidelines.

The detainees are classified into three different groups — low custody, medium custody and high custody.

Those in the custody levels should not be allowed to be “co-mingled” with different custody level detainees, ICE dictates.

ICE holding facilities are required to, “ensure that detainees are provided a nutritionally balanced diet that is prepared and presented in a sanitary and hygienic food service operation.”

ICE has detailed established written directives to ensure the health, hygiene and medical care of detainees are properly met.

ICE requirements maintain the facility must allow detainees correspondence and other mail, trips for non-medical emergencies, marriage requests, recreation, ability of religious practices, access to telephones, visitation and even a volunteer work program.

ICE also requires that detainees have access to the justice system and even a law library.

ICE has not yet stated how long detainees can be held inside the La Palma Center.


Jim Headley is a reporter covering breaking news, crime and justice around Pinal County. He can be reached at

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