SE Queens residents oppose detention center expansion

By Craig Giammona

Residents of Springfield Gardens and surrounding neighborhoods expressed strong opposition Wednesday night to plans to expand a detention center located on 150th Avenue. The detention center, which has been located at the site for 11 years, formerly housed illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. During the summer the facility, operated by Florida-based Geo Group Inc, started housing low- and medium-level-risk prisoners awaiting trial and sentencing.

The shift reflected a transfer of the facility's contract from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the U.S. Marshals service. The detention center has room for 200 prisoners, but Geo recently acquired an adjacent building and plans to up its capacity to “just under 400” within the year, President George Zoley told the standing-room only crowd Wednesday at a town hall meeting organized by Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton).

Residents expressed uniform disapproval of the plan, citing the facility's close proximity to a school and residential neighborhood, and promised the demonstrations against the prison would begin soon. The area politicians in attendance also promised to begin formulating a legal strategy to fight the prison's expansion.

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