chrissadowski / istock

Federal Union Calls for Biden to Keep San Diego Detention Center Open

The union and a lawmaker are questioning the applicability of President Biden’s executive order to not renew contracts with private prisons.

A federal employee union is calling on the Biden administration to keep open a private California detention center for the U.S. Marshals Service in order to save 300 jobs. The union is questioning the applicability of the president’s executive order to not renew contracts with private prisons, a decision agency officials said would be “detrimental” in some areas. 

In recent weeks, the National Federation of Federal Employees, along with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an affiliate of AFL-CIO, have called on the Biden administration to keep open the Western Region Detention Facility in downtown San Diego. The prison is operated under a U.S. Marshals Service contract with GEO Group that is set to expire on September 30. The Marshals Service is a federal law enforcement agency within the Justice Department responsible for transporting federal prisoners, among other things. 

“Mr. President, we are calling on you to stand with workers and save these 300 good-

paying, union jobs,” said Randy Erwin, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, during a press conference on August 26. “These workers provide an invaluable public service to the community. These jobs are critical to these 300 families and the San Diego area, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 7%. Please, do not stand in the way of U.S. Marshals Service continuing their contract to keep this senseless closure from happening. These workers are depending on you.”

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice and the San Diego County sheriff have also sent letters to Biden in support of the San Diego facility. 

Biden signed an executive order on January 27 saying, “the attorney general shall not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities, as consistent with applicable law.”

Erwin told Government Executive the executive order does “not necessarily” apply to the U.S. Marshals Service as “the role that USMS plays to detain individuals for a short period of time while awaiting trial is very different from the role prisons play detaining people for longer periods of time who have been found guilty of crimes.” He also noted that in May, the White House allowed the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center to remain open, suggesting that if the executive order applied to the Marshals Service, it would have been closed. 

Neither the executive order itself nor remarks by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice during a briefing on the day of the signing specified which Justice Department agencies were affected by the order. The White House did not respond to a request for comment by the time of this article’s publication. 

In a letter to the president on August 17, Erwin and Robert Martinez Jr., international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, wrote that the agency “does not have the statutory authority to own or operate detention facilities; therefore the use of contractor owned and operated detention space is essential to the USMS’ ability to house prisoners pending adjudication.” The Marshals Service uses private detention facilities in areas that lack federal or state options..

“The Department of Justice is committed to implementing the president’s executive order on private detention facilities,” said Lynzey Donahuem, U.S. Marshals Service spokesperson, in a statement to Government Executive on Monday. “The U.S. Marshals Service is carefully examining its existing contracts with these facilities, mindful that any plans should avoid unnecessarily disrupting access to counsel, court appearances, and family support.”

The closure has also gotten the attention of Congress.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., in whose district the facility is located, sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday, obtained by Government Executive, saying that while he fully supports the goals of the January executive order, he doesn’t believe “applying [it] to U.S. Marshals’ facilities will serve to remedy the problems we face within our criminal justice system.”

He shared his worries about the implications of closing the San Diego facility as well as said “it is my understanding that E.O. 14006 is being selectively enforced; a contract for a similar facility in Ohio was recently extended.” He noted that his office has reached out to the Justice Department about the closure.

Other lawmakers have previously expressed uneasiness about the executive order. 

In April, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., sent a letter to Biden raising concerns about the order’s impact on the U.S. Marshals Service. They cited an internal agency document, dated February 10, 2021, that says “losing the use of these private detention facilities would be detrimental to USMS districts that currently rely on private facilities,” where there are no state or local facilities to use. 

The document, obtained by Government Executive, notes that, “The primary impact of losing the privately-operated detention space is the effect it will have on the operational mission, as well as the capability to house prisoners proximate to the federal courthouses where they are being prosecuted. … If the USMS was required to house prisoners further from the courthouses, additional transportation resources would be needed, either funding to support the additional costs that would be incurred by the state and local facilities to transport prisoners or with additional Deputy United States Marshals (FTE) to perform the transports.” 

The document notes that the Marshals Service tries to house prisoners within 50 miles of the courthouse hearing their case to “accommodate defendants’ need for access to their legal counsel and personal support system, such as family.” 

The agency declined to comment on the document. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.