Embattled Prison Firm Also Runs ICE Lockup

A prisons business that recently lost a contract with the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) is also running an in-state federal facility that detains immigrants from around the country.

The Geo Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections, has been in charge of the Aurora ICE Processing Center since 1987.

The facility can hold over 350 individuals and took part in detaining arrestees from the Swift raids.According to a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) legal motion filed after the raids, attorneys sent numerous requests to the Aurora ICE center to find out where workers were being held: 

Numerous efforts were made by counsel retained to assist Petitioners to determine where Petitioners are being held by contacting an Colorado, the Denver office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, the Denver offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Counsels were advised that the whereabouts of the petitioners were unknown.

It was later revealed that the ICE facility had detained former Swift employees:

Megan Hall, a lawyer with the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network in Westminster, said she gave a legal rights presentation to about 50 Swift workers at the Aurora ICE jail. She said about 70 of the Swift arrestees are being detained at that jail.

The Geo Group recently lost a contract in Pueblo, Colorado, after the business sought changes to the deal and failed to start construction four years after the agreement. 

A state audit also found that a Nolin Renfrow, a former DOC official, may have violated state law in helping the Geo Group win a $14 million-per-year contract for a prison in Ault, Colorado.

In 1998, 22 prisoners were suddenly moved from the Aurora center to other prisons while contract negotiations between the Geo Group and the federal government were being resolved.

A U.S. District Judge issued a restraining order against the government that halted the transfers, after attorneys filed a lawsuit charging unfair treatment of prisoners.

Also see:

Finley, Bruce. “Immigration-jail closure averted Battle over facility leaves inmates guessing.” The Denver Post. 29 Apr. 1998

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.