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Main Street jail renovations waiting on local, federal agreement

POSTED: March 4, 2009 11:08 p.m.
TOM REED /The Times

The old Hall County Detention Center is now being renovated for use as a jail, run by Corrections Corp. of America.

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Officials with a private prison company hope to start hiring locally in the next few months for an immigration detention facility at the site of the old Hall County jail.

The Correction Corp. of America’s renovation work at the Main Street jail continues while the company waits for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and Hall County to finalize an intergovernmental service agreement.

Ivan Ortiz-Delgado, a spokesman for ICE, confirmed the agency was in “the final stages” of the agreement with Hall County.

Hall County is leasing the old 487-bed jail to CCA and has already received $2 million from the company for the first year’s full payment, Assistant Hall County Administrator Phil Sutton said.

Hall County will take ICE inmates with CCA acting as the private contractor that operates the detention center.

The last step before making the North Georgia Detention Center official is a signed agreement between ICE and Hall County. Corrections Corp. of America officials, anticipating an agreement will be reached, have already started some renovation work, including replacing air conditioning units, plumbing, flooring and paint.

“We’ve gone ahead with some of the work, but we are not at full go mode,” CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant said.

Grant hopes an official announcement can be made in April.

Grant said she expects the detention center will hire about 150 people, “and the majority we would anticipate hiring from the local community.”

According to preliminary contracts that have not been finalized, CCA plans to house 511 immigration detainees and charge ICE a daily rate of $79 per inmate. The company would be responsible for picking up detainees in four North Carolina counties. The company also plans to house local immigration detainees who are processed for deportation at the Hall County jail.

A preliminary staffing breakdown lists 142 positions for the new detention center, including 50 in security operations and 65 in unit management. New employees would undergo 174 hours of training in the first year, including 54 hours of basic training and 40 hours of on-the-job training, according to the proposals.

The company has ambitious renovation plans for the aging jail, parts of which were built in 1982. They include a complete overhaul of security systems and the addition of office space for ICE agents.

ICE currently uses about 300 local and state detention facilities under intergovernmental service agreements similar to the one being finalized in Hall County. In fiscal year 2008, the agency funded a total of about 32,000 beds for immigration detainees.



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