August 25, 2016

Udall, Heinrich: Bureau of Prisons Must Extend Help to Cibola County Workers Affected by Prison Closure

Senators ask BOP to extend contract for minimum of 6 months, provide job search assistance, work with county and Tribes to identify new use for prison facilities

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich urged the federal Bureau of Prisons to extend its contract with Corrections Corporation of American (CCA) to allow workers at the Cibola County Correctional Facility in Milan, N.M., adequate time to find new jobs before the Department of Justice closes the privately operated prison. The Justice Department has decided not to renew its contract with CCA to operate the Cibola County facility, which will be the first of several private prisons to close across the country as the Bureau of Prisons phases out its use of private prisons.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Udall and Heinrich said they are concerned that the move doesn't give workers in the rural county enough time to find new jobs. They urged Yates to extend the contract with CCA at least six months and provide the employees with help finding new employment. The senators also urged the Bureau of Prisons to work closely with the community, including the Tribes, to find a new use for the prison facility.

"We recognize the Department's interest in reducing the number of private prisons. However, the closure of these facilities, particularly in rural areas where the employment they provide is crucial to the economy, must be done in a prudent way," Udall and Heinrich wrote. "Cibola County is rich in history and culture, in no small part because it is home to several federally recognized Tribes; many CCA employees have strong ties to their communities, and moving on short notice to find work elsewhere may not be a realistic option."

"We ask that the contract at the Cibola County Correctional Facility be extended a minimum of six months to provide the employees with sufficient time to seek alternative employment," the senators continued. "We further request that the BOP commit to providing any possible assistance to help displaced workers find alternative employment and that the BOP work with the local community, including Tribal governments, to identify a possible new use for the correctional facility and surrounding property."

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

August 24, 2016

Hon. Sally Q. Yates
Deputy Attorney General


We write in regard to the Department of Justice's policy announced last week to phase out the use of private prisons. We have concerns about the unintended consequences its abrupt implementation will have on our constituents and request that the Department delay the termination of the contract for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility in New Mexico.

The first facility to be closed by the new policy is the Cibola County Correctional Facility in Milan, New Mexico, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). This facility has a capacity of over 1200 inmates and employs approximately 300 people in a rural area of our state. Its closure will have a significant impact on the local economy and leave many people out of work.

While the Department's new policy was only announced last week, CCA was notified that its contract would not be renewed on July 29 and that the current contract would terminate on October 30. Unlike the other private facilities that will be closed in the next few years under the new policy, this abrupt announcement about the Cibola County facility gave the community no warning and provides insufficient time to plan for the significant impact of the closure.

We recognize the Department's interest in reducing the number of private prisons. However, the closure of these facilities, particularly in rural areas where the employment they provide is crucial to the economy, must be done in a prudent way. Cibola County is rich in history and culture, in no small part because it is home to several federally recognized Tribes; many CCA employees have strong ties to their communities, and moving on short notice to find work elsewhere may not be a realistic option. Consequently, we ask that the contract at the Cibola County Correctional Facility be extended a minimum of six months to provide the employees with sufficient time to seek alternative employment.

We further request that the BOP commit to providing any possible assistance to help displaced workers find alternative employment and that the BOP work with the local community, including Tribal governments, to identify a possible new use for the correctional facility and surrounding property.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Tom Udall
United States Senator

Martin Heinrich
United States Senator