By Jimi Coplen
As many of you have heard, our detention center is set to close on March 24th. The current employees have been put in limbo while management companies and the federal government figure out what they are going to do next. This has been a frustrating situation for all concerned.
Part of our mission at the DCOH is business retention and expansion. We care about all jobs, especially those we already have in Haskell. And, we know how difficult it is to come up with a business that creates 140 jobs in the community. That is why the DCOH and the county have been working diligently to find solutions to this problem.
We glean new information daily, but no one can give us a straight answer as to why this happened in the first place. Moving forward, here are some of the challenges we are faced with:
- Management companies want a guarantee they will have detainees before they agree to take over.
- ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) wants a guarantee they will have a facility fully staffed when they return.
- Employees are being laid off because there are no detainees at the facility now.
- And, the federal government has implemented a strenuous background check that makes it almost impossible to get a job at the facility.
One can easily see the predicament we are in. Our hope is that ICE will make a “deal” with a new management company this week to house their detainees in Haskell. Along with a new management company, we hope ICE will lift the strenuous hiring processes in order to get the facility staffed quickly.
We are cautiously optimistic this will be resolved, but we have no indication how long this process could take. We hope only a few weeks. On Friday, some good news came from one important ICE official in Washington D.C. He told us they have no problems utilizing Haskell, and he is working on getting us something in writing stating they will be bringing ICE detainees back. He is also working on an answer for us in relation to the long hiring process.
In the meantime, we want to brag on each person working at the Rolling Plains Detention Center (RPDC). They have done a fantastic job under very chaotic circumstances this past year. They all deserve to be applauded for their patience, long hours and tough working conditions. We can’t begin to imagine the stress this has caused them. We want to thank them for all they have done to keep the RPDC open and running smoothly.
After the set closing date, you may notice the lights are still on, security is still in place, and the facility is still in operation. There will not be detainees on the property, but it will be kept operational in anticipation of detainees coming back soon and to deter any problems with equipment, etc.