The immigration incarceration complex in Central Falls

The New York Times continues its strong Rhode Island-based reporting on immigration, using a lengthy front-pager today to highlight the meager returns generated by the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility for its host community of Central Falls, and how the privately managed prison functions as a cog in incarceration's answer to the war on drugs.

Wyatt offers a rare look into the fastest-growing, least-examined type of incarceration in America, an industry that detains half a million people a year, up from a few thousand just 15 years ago. The system operates without the rules that protect criminal suspects, and has grown up with little oversight, often in the backyards of communities desperate for any source of money and work. ....

The city was nearly bankrupt in 1990 when developers made a proposition: Build a profit-making jail for two or three hundred nonviolent federal detainees, and guarantee a steady stream of money and jobs for Central Falls.

But the deal that emerged, like many elsewhere, proved better at paying private investors than generating public revenue. The municipal corporation borrowed $30 million through a state bond issue to build Wyatt, and hired the Cornell company to run it. Six years later, the municipal body borrowed $38 million to refinance, buying back most of the bonds at a premium that gave the original bondholders a lump-sum return of 28.5 percent on their investment in addition to 9 percent annual interest.

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