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New Immigrant Detention Center To Open In Folkston, Georgia

This April 13, 2009 photo shows a detainee at Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., leaving the cafeteria after lunch to go back to their living units. The all-male detention center with a capacity of 1,924 detainees is operated on contract by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest private prison firm. (AP Photo/Kate Brumback)
This April 13, 2009 photo shows a detainee at Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., leaving the cafeteria after lunch to go back to their living units. The all-male detention center with a capacity of 1,924 detainees is operated on contract by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest private prison firm. (AP Photo/Kate Brumback)
Credit Kate Brumback / Associated Press
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A new 780-bed immigration detention center is scheduled to open in South Georgia next year. The GEO Group, a private corrections company, said it signed a five-year contract last week with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Charlton County to run a new center in Folkston, Georgia.

The Folkston ICE Processing Center will be at a facility next to the D. Ray James Correctional Facility, which The GEO Group currently owns and operates.

Shawn Boatright, Charlton County administrator, said the new immigration detention center will create about 200 additional jobs.

“It’s a huge benefit to the community,” Boatright said.

The announcement comes as private corrections companies have been under scrutiny. Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department said it would phase out using private companies to run federal prisons, saying private facilities were less effective and less secure.

After the Justice Department’s announcement, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, said it would study the use of private facilities for immigration detention centers. In a report released this month, the Homeland Security review panel said it should continue using private companies for immigrant detention centers.

In November, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson authorized ICE to find more detention space for detainees because of an increase in people being caught at the U.S-Mexico border in October. The new Folkston facility will house male adult detainees, ICE said.

“ICE uses a variety of detention models to meet agency detention needs and maintain detention standards, while achieving the most cost effective use of taxpayer funds. As the agency responsible for management and oversight of the nation’s civil immigration detention system, ICE remains committed to providing a safe and humane environment for all those in its custody,” said Sarah Rodriguez, deputy press secretary.

Immigrant advocates have called to shut down privately-run detention centers like the one in Stewart, County in Georgia, citing poor conditions.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Azadeh Shashahani, legal and advocacy director at Project South, who also worked on a 2012 ACLU report about conditions in private facilities in Georgia. “Private prison companies have had a record of abuse.”

“At GEO we do not believe in cost cutting for profit’s sake as critics like the ACLU contend, instead we believe in running an efficient operation that provides adequate staffing and relies on state of the art technology for monitoring, communication, and healthcare,” said Pablo Paez, a spokesperson for The Geo Group, in a statement.  

Folkston ICE Processing Center will be the fourth immigration detention facility in Georgia. 

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