CoreCivic defends surveillance of Leavenworth detention center

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For the past 30 years, through the Democratic and Republican administrations, the Leavenworth Detention Center at CoreCivic has helped care for those entrusted to us by the US Marshals Service.

You would never know what a lasting partnership this has been from the misleading, hyperbolic, and downright inaccurate claims made by the Kansas ACLU. Let me share some facts. The USMS provides support to virtually every part of the federal justice system, but does not own or operate secure facilities. This is why the agency relies on entrepreneurs like CoreCivic and the LDC team.

USMS detainees have either been remanded in custody by a federal judge while awaiting or going through their criminal trial, or have been convicted and sentenced by a federal court and awaiting assignment to a federal prison. USMS detainees are held for a short time, usually only a few months.

Eliminating the agency’s reliance on private contractors will not change any of the underlying factors that lead to a person being detained or incarcerated, but it will be much more difficult for the USMS to provide a fundamental public service.

For example, without our services, detainees may find themselves in institutions further away from their lawyers and the courts themselves. Or they may be housed in prisons, which are not subject to the same standards and surveillance as facilities operated by contractors.

Facilities like LDC are also able to accommodate multiple levels of security, which is critical as USMS inmates have been charged or convicted of a wide range of offenses.

Regarding LDC in particular, the Kansas ACLU said the facility remained on lockdown with residents “confined to their cells 23 to 24 hours a day.” This is simply not true. Detainees have access to the day rooms and the commissary, subject to observance of the institution’s rules, and they receive three meals a day, two of which are hot meals.

They also claim that the cell doors do not lock which is not true. All LDC cell and facility locks are operational. The inaccuracies they perpetuate continue, but a key point to remember is that the establishment has a full-time contract controller who participates in the regular inspections of the establishment. This person is an employee of USMS – independent of CoreCivic – and ensures that we meet the high standards of our government partner.

The allegations made by the Kansas ACLU are designed more to exert political pressure than to serve as an objective assessment of the work our dedicated LDC staff have done to meet the needs of the USMS.

They are more concerned with scoring political points than ensuring that people in our facility have easy access to a lawyer, the justice system and other needs. What organizations like the Kansas ACLU fail to understand is that companies like CoreCivic are not the engines of mass incarceration and other challenges in the criminal justice system.

The facts show that we have a small but valuable role to play. Only 8% of inmates are cared for in facilities run by private contractors, and under a long-standing zero-tolerance policy, CoreCivic does not draft, lobby or promote legislation that determines the basis or the length of incarceration of an individual.

Critics who advocate removing this important tool would prevent the USMS from using a resource for which the agency already has strong oversight and accountability, and which it uses wisely to fill critical gaps.

At LDC, we’ve been part of the community for three decades, and our dedicated team, including officers, chaplains, nurses and more, will continue to work to critically support our government partners every day.

Ryan Gustin is the director of public affairs for CoreCivic.


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