August 25, 2023

Rep. Watson Coleman Leads New Jersey Delegation Letter Calling on Department of Justice to Rescind its Support for CoreCivic Lawsuit

Private Prison Company CoreCivic is Suing New Jersey to Keep Elizabeth Detention Center Open

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) along with 9 other members of the New Jersey delegation sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling on the Department of Justice to rescind its support for CoreCivic, a private prison company, in its lawsuit against the State of New Jersey to overturn a 2021 law which prohibits state and local entities from entering into agreements with private detention facilities to detain noncitizens.

The law, AB 5207, was signed by Governor Phil Murphy in August 2021 with the goal of ending the use of private immigration detention facilities in the state. The letter reads in part, “This legislation answered the call of local communities, concerned citizens, and advocacy groups that promote the interests of New Jerseyans over for-profit prison companies to permanently close the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC), a facility with a history of poor sanitation, crumbling infrastructure, and complaints of physical and verbal abuse.”

“The people of New Jersey believe in respecting the basic human rights of all people. For-profit prison companies have repeatedly shown that they cannot or will not respect the basic human rights of undocumented immigrants,” said Watson Coleman. “New Jerseyans were horrified by the mistreatment of immigrants during the Trump administration including in our own backyard at the Elizabeth Detention Center and New Jersey has taken the necessary steps to end this cycle of mistreatment. The actions taken by the New Jersey legislature and Governor Murphy align with President Biden’s vow to end the federal government’s use of for-profit prisons for the detainment of noncitizens. The Department of Justice should not be siding with a company that cannot guarantee basic standards of care.”

The EDC has been cited in reports for its poor conditions and abusive practices including poor handling of a COVID-19 outbreak, a lack of proper air quality, overcrowding, and inadequate medical and mental health care. Despite extensive complaints, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking to renew their contract which is set to expire on August 31st.

The letter submitted by the New Jersey delegation requests that the “DOJ rescind its statement of interest in the CoreCivic Lawsuit and stand with the citizens of New Jersey.”

The letter was signed by Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez and Representatives Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Rob Menendez, Jr. (NJ-08), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Andy Kim (NJ-03), and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11).

The letter can be read in its entirety here.