Jail Biz Backfires for Rhode Island Town's Immigrants

Privately run jail causes discord in town full of immigrants
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2008 10:04 AM CST
An activist supporting rights for undocumented workers speaks in front of the Wyatt Detention Center.   (crowley767)
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(Newser) – Locking up accused criminals is big business in America, but an attempt to cash in came with a high cost for one Rhode Island town, a New York Times investigation finds. The Donald D. Wyatt Detention Center, a maximum security jail, promised to bring jobs to the largely Hispanic town of Central Falls. But residents found themselves living in fear after the jail expanded to include immigration detainees, and neighbors began to vanish.

The Times looks at Wyatt as a window into the expanding crackdown on illegal immigrants, in which half a million are detained a year, without criminal charges and the due process that protects criminal suspects. Critics note that the center employs few locals and has failed to deliver the promised boost to the local economy. After an immigrant died at Wyatt last summer, the jail is under investigation. Federal officials have moved all their immigrant detainees out, leaving the jail scrambling to find other incarceration deals.