Dozens of Rhode Island residents called in to a State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today to testify in favor of a slate of bills that would end all business with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in the State of Rhode Island, as well as eventually shut down the widely detested Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls. They joined over 30 people who sent in written testimony in favor of the legislation.

The bills, S0400, S0399, S0248, and S0394, would forbid any future business with ICE by any local or state government in Rhode Island, as well as make it impossible for the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls to continue operations once its current ICE contract ends. The bills were introduced by  State Senator Jonathan Acosta, a former City Councilor for Central Falls who was among those who voted to end the city’s contract with ICE. 

Most of the testimony shared tonight invoked the deep moral cost of profiting from the misery of prisons and ICE detention, and many brought up Wyatt’s financial problems—the facility has repeatedly failed to meet the revenue promises made upon its construction, and is costing the city of Central Falls money.

“To allow private prisons to continue to operate in Rhode Island represents a total disavowal of the people we choose to put into prison. It means that we have no problem with outsourcing our responsibilities to both our communities and incarcerated people, rather than taking on the difficult work of offering those punished a new chance on life and helping victims, their families, and loved ones find healing. Not only do we wash our hands of everyone touched by the harms of criminal justice, we allow others to earn a profit off of it. This is, frankly, an expensive and immoral practice that cannot continue in RI. We deserve better, and so do those affected by the criminal justice system. 

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Please pass these bills out of committee to shut down private prisons in RI.”

Elizabeth Saldaña

“Today, we choose to punish people for the ‘crime’ of fleeing danger and unlivable poverty in their home counties. The Wyatt Detention Facility is nationally known to be a place of torturous conditions for innocent people. Freezing cells, uncontrolled COVID 19, a pattern of violent and unaccountable retaliation from guards from those inside stand up for their basic rights. Such a place is a shame on Rhode Island and has no place here, or anyway in a country claiming to embrace freedom. It must be closed.”

Rachel Bishop, MPH

“Privatized prisons are strongly motivated to provide substandard services, as this

again increases their profits. They are less likely to provide a nutritious and varied diet to

inmates. Investigative journalists have found that privatized prisons serve spoiled food, food scavenged from the trash, and food infested with maggots. Privatized prisons also provide fewer rehabilitative and educational programs and do less to prepare inmates for re-entry, as well as doing less to prevent trauma from impacting inmates. They reduce contacts between inmates and their families and support networks outside the prison by limiting visits, moving inmates far away from their families, and charging exorbitant rates for telecommunications services.”

Dr. Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur


S0400, S0399, S0248, and S0394 are being held for research in the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee.

One Comment

  1. Nancy Green says:

    Thank you, Pat. It’s all true. Central Falls was sold a lie and has got nothing but trouble from this. Private prison is the OxyContin of city budgets.

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