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Not for profit? – Wyatt Detention Center issues a statement defending the facility’s standards and detainees access to Health, Legal and Religious Services



The Wyatt Detention Center issued a press release today defending the facility’s standards and the access to health, legal and religious services for detainees, including those zero-tolerance Southern border detainees sent to the prison by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The press release may be in response to questions raised by reporters on July 8.

See: Meeting of the Wyatt Board generates more questions than answers

“The Donald W Wyatt Detention Facility is a non-profit, quasi-public facility,” states the press release in its opening paragraph. “It is not a for-profit, private prison.”

I asked for clarification on this, since Wyatt bondholders, through UMB Bank, are suing precisely because their investment was supposedly threatened by the actions taken by the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation Board (CFDFC) regarding ICE detainees, which threatens the profits they wish to see in their investment. Another point is that the profits from the prison, were there to be any, are to go to the City of Central Falls.

Can we please ask a favor?

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I received this reply from Wyatt spokesperson Christopher Hunter:

“Pursuant to Rhode Island General Law Chapter 45-54 the Wyatt Detention Center is a non-profit, quasi-public entity. Similar to other quasi-public entities, the Wyatt’s enabling statute allows the facility to issue revenue bonds.

“The bond holders recently took legal action regarding debt incurred in connection with the construction and expansion of the facility because they believed the actions taken undermined the Wyatt’s ability to re-pay the monies they are owed.”

The press release continues:

“Since the Wyatt’s inception in 1995, it has continuously been American Correctional Association (ACA) accredited. ACA audits are conducted every three years for re-accreditation. The most recent ACA audit was conducted in 2017 and Wyatt was found to be 100 percent compliant with ACA standards – the same finding having been made since Wyatt’s first re-accreditation in 1998. In addition, over the past ten years, Wyatt has undergone nine quality assurance reviews conducted by the United States Marshals Service (USMS). These reviews were conducted in 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008. All resulted in at least a satisfactory or acceptable rating. More recently, in 2014 and 2017, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) conducted Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) audits and determined that Wyatt was fully compliant with all requirements. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted pre-occupancy inspections in 2014 and 2016 and found no deficiencies. Prior to the arrival of the ICE detainees in March, ICE officials visited Wyatt on three occasions – two in late 2018 and one in early January 2019. As these numerous audits and reviews show, Wyatt has been subjected to constant scrutiny and oversight, and has been found to be operating well – providing safe, clean, and humanitarian conditions for its staff and detainees.

“More recently, on June 11-13, 2019, the USMS conducted an audit of the facility. A final report is pending, but the preliminary findings were positive. Additionally, on April 9-11, 2019 the facility underwent an inspection on 39 National Detention Standards as they pertain to ICE detainees and their treatment. A group of subject-matter experts from around the country reviewed operations from safety, security, detainee rights and health services provided, including access to and quality of medical care. Preliminary findings by ICE indicated that the facility was meeting or exceeding all requirements and providing services required on a daily basis to ensure all detainees are treated in a fair and humane way.

“The Warden has assembled a team of four individuals to oversee the care of the ICE detainees. The team consists of an ICE Monitor, ICE Captain, ICE Counselor, and Registered Nurse (RN).

“The ICE Monitor is responsible for ensuring compliance with the 2000 National Detention Standards (NDS) and ensures that ICE detainees are provided the services and care required by the NDS on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The facility’s ICE Monitor has over 30 years of correctional experience, including ten years as a subject matter expert in Safety, Security and Detainee Rights as recognized by the United States Department of Justice. The ICE Monitor has also conducted over 200 inspections based on the 2000 National Detention Standards (NDS), the 2008 Performance Based National Detention Standards (2008 PBNDS), the 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards (2011 PBNDS) and the 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards with the 2016 update at Contract Detention Facilities (CDFs), Special Processing Centers (SPCs), and local and state facilities that house ICE detainees throughout the country.

“The ICE Captain manages the day-to-day operations of the ICE housing units, ensures the safety and security of the ICE population, and addresses any questions or needs as required by the NDS. The facility’s ICE Captain is a 17-year veteran of the Wyatt and is bilingual.

“The ICE Counselor is responsible for ensuring that all requests and/or questions related to the detainees’ detention are addressed in a timely fashion, including access to, and information about, the legal process. The facility’s ICE counselor is also bilingual.

“Lastly, the RN is responsible for handling the daily medical care and other health care needs of the ICE detainee population. The RN, too, is bilingual. In the RN’s absence, a bilingual Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) will be assigned to cover the ICE detainees.

“The services provided to all federal detainees, including ICE detainees, include medical, dental, mental health, pastoral, and legal. Upon arrival at the facility, all detainees are provided an orientation booklet created by the Wyatt and ICE detainees receive an additional detainee handbook created by ICE. Both documents are readily available in English and Spanish and both outline detainees’ access to services.

“At Wyatt, ICE detainees are housed in two units dedicated solely to ICE detainees. They never commingle with the other federal detainees. Within the housing units, there is a bulletin board with important information regarding pro bono legal services and phone numbers for the various consulate offices. This information is posted in English and Spanish and these calls are free for detainees. Every other Friday, a Know Your Rights legal presentation is held for ICE detainees within the housing unit. This presentation is facilitated by the Roger Williams University School of Law Immigration Clinic and Dorcas International. Some ICE detainees arrive at Wyatt already represented by counsel. Depending on the location of their attorney, these detainees’ legal services may be conducted in-person, over the phone, or by video conference. To date, there have been no claims that any ICE detainee has been denied access to his attorney.

“A schedule of weekly religious services and other programs is also located on the bulletin board within each housing unit. Religious services are available for the following faiths: Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Jehovah Witness, Spanish Pentecostal, and Baptist. Currently, Catholic services are held every Wednesday morning, Protestant services are held every other week, Jehovah Witness services alternate on Friday with the Know Your Rights presentation, and Voice of the Crying Wilderness, a Spanish Pentecostal service, is held weekly. There is a process in place for detainees to request services in other religions and this process is outlined in the facility’s orientation booklet.

“The primary mission of the Wyatt is to securely and humanely house detainees sent to the facility by referring partner agencies including the USMS, ICE, and the United States Navy. The Wyatt plays no role in the policies of the federal government.”

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.