Farmville is a small city (population ca. 8,000) here in Central Virginia. It’s not really in my area; it’s in Southside, whereas I’m in the Piedmont. Still, it’s not all that far away, and I know it pretty well.
I remember when the immigrant detention center in Farmville was first approved and built, sometime during the Obama administration, maybe eight or ten years ago. It was designed to handle what was then considered to be the inevitable future of America: mass immigration across the southern border. A private contractor runs it on behalf of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
The quotes below are excerpted from an article by Alexa Massey in The Farmville Herald. One of the things I like about truly local newspapers is that their news stories tend to be straightforward and factual, without editorial intrusions or skewing for the sake of the Narrative. This article fits the bill admirably, even if Ms. Massey did write “communicative diseases” when she meant “communicable diseases”. That’s a minor glitch in an otherwise informative article about the detention center.
The chosen excerpts are interleaved with my notes and commentary:
Detention Center: an inside look
by Alexa Massey
On Nov. 12 The Herald was invited on a tour of the Immigration Centers of America (ICA) Farmville Detention Center. The tour served as an inside look of the day-to-day operations of the facility.
On its website, the detention center states that its mission is to “provide a safe, humane and appropriately secure civil detention environment that offers an appealing alternative to the standard method of detention for federal immigrants while they navigate the immigration process.”
The facility, according to Farmville Detention Center Director Jeff Crawford, contains enough beds to house up to 736 detainees, although the number fluctuates from day to day. 576 individuals were being housed at the facility on Nov. 12, falling from a headcount of 650 the week prior. Detainees are all male and range in age with an average age of mid-30s. A typical day shift includes 28 officers on duty, and a night shift sees an average of 25 officers. The detention center as a whole has approximately 180 employees.
Based on the figures given above, we might expect an average of about 600 detainees to be housed in the detention center at any given point. There are 180 staff members, and we’ll estimate that they’re being paid an average of $40,000 a year. That may be low-balling it, but they’re private employees rather than government workers, so their pay is going to be lower than that of their counterparts in the federal workforce. Throw in the employer’s share of FICA and some benefits, and say the total expense to the contractor is about $50,000 per head. That would be a total $9 million per annum for the entire staff.
Divide that total by 600, and you get $15,000 per inmate per year. And that’s just for personnel costs. Add to that the cost of food, medical supplies, equipment, CCTV, infrastructure maintenance, plant depreciation, etc., and the total expense per inmate might be $30,000 every year. Bump the figure up a little more to assure the contractor a healthy profit margin, and you’re talking about a hefty annual bill for Uncle Sam, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. Or, strictly speaking, paid for by having the Fed print yet more pretend money, but that’s an argument for another day.