Vermont sending over 200 inmates to private Tallahatchie prison

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Troy Catchings / Clarksdale Press Register / AP file

The Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, shown Wednesday, July 21, 2004, in Tutwiler 

A private prison in Mississippi that began holding federal immigration detainees this summer will soon also house inmates from Vermont.

The VT Digger reported Sunday that the state’s department of corrections will sign off on a contract this week with private prisons operator CoreCivic to transfer over 200 inmates in October to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler.

Over the summer, CoreCivic also began housing people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

About 500 ICE detainees are already at the Tallahatchie facility, CoreCivic CEO Damon Hiniger said in an earnings call to investors Aug. 9.

The detainees are housed under a contract between CoreCivic and the U.S. Marshals Service which began June 14. The contract allows the U.S. Marshals Service to place up to 1,350 prisoners in the Mississippi facility “with the option of 1000 additional populations should additional capacity be available,” Hiniger said.

The contract lasts two years with unlimited two-year extension options, according to CoreCivic. Both the Federal Bureau of Prisons and ICE are authorized to make use of the contract.

It is one of two federal contracts CoreCivic has obtained this summer that “are scheduled to ramp up in the second half of this year and are expected to contribute meaningfully to earnings growth to 2019,” Hiniger said in the call.

In addition to ICE and the state of Vermont, the Tallahatchie County Sheriff’s Office also houses detainees at the site. And in June, South Carolina moved 48 prisoners to the Tallahatchie facility following a deadly prison riot earlier this spring.

The Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility currently houses inmates and detainees from six federal, state and local entities: the U.S. Marshals Service, ICE, South Carolina, Wyoming, U.S. Virgin Islands and Tallahatchie County, a spokesperson for CoreCivic said.

CoreCivic deferred questions concerning the number of people being held under each contract to the other entity in each contract.

“In response to a surge in border arrivals earlier this year, ICE began using the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility as a staging center to temporarily hold persons awaiting an initial hearing,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in an emailed statement. “Following that initial hearing, all persons temporarily held at this location are transferred to an ICE detention center in furtherance of their immigration proceedings.”

In June, California moved all inmates housed with CoreCivic out of the Tallahatchie prison.

CoreCivic operates one other prison in Mississippi, the 2,232-bed Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, under a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. The federal prison bureau also operates a facility in Yazoo County.

CoreCivic has not operated a prison for the state of Mississippi itself since 2013, when the company lost its contract to run the 1,000-bed Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. That contract was awarded to Utah-based private operator MTC instead, which now remains the only prison contractor for state-owned facilities.