New Jersey Company Is Given Jail Contract It Lost
By SAM DOLNICK | Published: December 14, 2011
Over the summer, Essex County, N.J., abruptly canceled plans for a contract with a private company to house federal immigrant detainees after questions were raised about the sole bidder, a company with close ties to Gov. Chris Christie. But after county officials conducted a new round of bidding in October, the same company was again the only participant, and on Wednesday night, county officials unanimously approved the contract.
Essex County signed an agreement with federal authorities this year to house 1,250 immigrant detainees, for roughly $50 million a year.
Some 800 immigrants would be housed in the county jail and the rest would be sent to a privately run facility.
At the time, Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., the county executive, hailed the deal as a victory for his administration and for the county.
Federal immigration authorities have planned to make the New Jersey detention center a model for other facilities across the country.
They say that increasing the number of beds in the Northeast will allow detainees better access to lawyers, who are more numerous in the region, and to their families, and curb the need to transfer immigrants to facilities as far away as Louisiana and Texas.
Advocacy groups for immigrants have criticized Essex County’s actions, saying that the county government, and a private company, should not profit from immigrant detention. About a dozen opponents attended the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting on Wednesday night to object to the awarding of the contract.
The bidder, Education and Health Centers of America, is an affiliate of Community Education Centers, a detention company based in in West Caldwell, in Essex County.
Community Education has ties to several prominent New Jersey officials. John J. Clancy, its chief executive, has donated to Mr. DiVincenzo’s political campaigns, as have his senior executives and several members of his family.
William J. Palatucci, a senior vice president at the company, is one of Mr. Christie’s closest friends and a former law partner.
“I and everyone that works for us will be committed to providing the highest quality of services,” said Mr. Clancy, who is also the president of the affiliated bidder, at the Wednesday night meeting. Community Education offers rehabilitative services to state and county inmates in locations in New Jersey and across the country.
Community Education housed immigrants in a Newark detention facility in 2008, but after a detainee escaped, the other immigrants were removed from the company’s supervision and transferred to county custody. With the approval of the deal on Wednesday, immigrants will return to that same facility, Delaney Hall.