Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America has 1,918 beds at the Stewart Detention Center south of Atlanta for immigrants facing deportation. Up to 780 more ICE detainees will be held at a separate detention center in South Georgia starting early next year under a new five-year contract recently signed by the federal government and Charlton County. BY JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

Up to 780 immigrants facing deportation to be held in South Georgia

Up to 780 immigrants facing deportation will be held at a detention center in South Georgia starting early next year under a new five-year contract recently signed by the federal government and Charlton County.

To be located adjacent to an existing federal prison near the Georgia-Florida border, the Folkston ICE Processing Center will be operated by GEO Group, a private corrections company that is expecting to generate $21 million in revenue from the agreement. The contract is also projected to create 231 new jobs — primarily detention center officers — and generate $265,000 in annual property tax revenue and management fees for Charlton, which will handle transactions between GEO and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The center could start housing adult male ICE detainees as soon as the first quarter of next year. A top county official said it is needed partly to house Haitians who are entering the U.S. without authorization.

News of the contract comes as the Obama administration is considering phasing out the use of privately run immigration detention centers in Georgia and across the nation. The U.S. Justice Department has already announced it is going that route for its prisoners. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said her agency — which includes ICE — is now considering recommendations from an advisory panel.

Critics want the government to sever ties with privately run detention centers, saying they are profiting off the imprisonment of immigrants. But dumping them and replacing them with publicly owned and operated ones could take years and cost billions of dollars in taxpayer money, according to ICE.

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