GOSHEN — Commissioner Mike Yoder announced on Facebook Monday morning, Jan. 22, that Core Civic informed the county commissioners it was pulling the zoning request and would not be seeking a possible location in Elkhart County.
CoreCivic released a statement through the Elkhart County Planning Department which read “After careful consideration, CoreCivic has decided to withdraw its application for the map amendment. We appreciate the professional manner by which you and your staff have approached this project.” A call to Steven Owens, CoreCivic community relations, for additional comment was not returned.
Opposition to the proposed 1,400 bed Immigration Detention Center had come from various facets of the Elkhart County community. A grass roots organization The Coalition Against the Elkhart County Detention Center quickly had 3,500 members from Elkhart County and the surrounding region. Also against the proposed plan were business leaders and educators.
Yoder said there had been a lot of communication between county officials and CoreCivic in the last 30 to 40 days. “The commissioners were sharing with them what we were hearing,” he said. He added the county commissioners were willing to give CoreCivic a fair hearing in March.
Yoder, who did considerable research into the project, said the prison industry, whether private or public was “an ugly business.” Still he felt the focus was on the negative aspects of having a detention center in Elkhart County while the positives weren’t heard.
According to Yoder, CoreCivic planned to pay $20 to $21 an hour. The detention center would have been built in a tax increment finance district and not eligible for tax abatement. Yoder said property taxes would have been around $1 million a year. CoreCivic and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service had also agreed to work with Elkhart County to create a community oversight committee that would have local oversight of the detention center, including conducting routine inspections.
Yoder explained the facility would have been a transitional location for people who were in the country illegally and had served a jail sentence and needed to be housed for a due process hearing with ICE.
Those against the project brought up a number of concerns, including CoreCivic’s track record in operating its prisons. In a 2017 Department of Justice inspection report, it was noted CoreCivic was understaffed anywhere from 11 to 23 percent.
The company was also caught putting three prisoners in cells meant for two, along with other issues.
Business leaders who were against the project expressed concern about the center having a negative affect on the economy including recruiting talent to the area. Others felt a detention center did not fit in with the strategic planning for attracting and retaining new residents to the area. There was also concern over having an additional 1,400 prisoners would put a strain on the area’s medical community which is experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians and mental health professionals.