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Lowest Bidder Should Not Run Prisons

TimesLedger Newspapers

Despite the thinking that the private sector can do almost anything government does better and for less money, we remain uncomfortable with private companies running our prisons and jails. Case in point: the federal immigration detention center in Springfield Gardens.

In a letter sent last week to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and some borough electeds criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for refusing to investigate the GEO Group, which is responsible for many of the detention centers in the United States, including the facility in Springfield Gardens.

The elected officials believe the detainees at the Queens facility are the victims of unjust practices that include lengthy periods of solitary confinement.

The alleged abuse becomes complicated because the GEO-run detention center houses suspects accused of violating immigration policies. They have few advocates and may not be entitled to the same rights afforded federal prisoners who are U.S. citizens.

According to de Blasio, in 2009 two of the facility’s guards were convicted of covering up the beating of an inmate.

Detainees do not forfeit their basic human rights, even if they are immigrants who may be in this country illegally. There is evidence that private contractors often perform unacceptably when hired to run prisons. The time has come to bring this practice to an end.

City Turns Back on Jamaica Students

The fact that the city Department of Education has decided to phase out Jamaica High School is not an excuse to neglect the remaining students.

Last week students and teachers stood on the steps of Jamaica HS to protest the city’s failure to give them the most basic support.

“This is a disgrace by the mayor and chancellor,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who organized the rally. It’s like these students are a lost generation the city’s doesn’t care about.”

It was foolish to begin phasing this school out and it is unconscionable for the city to turn its back on the students who are still there.

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