CoreCivic asks county to reconsider decision

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

CoreCivic has asked Leavenworth County commissioners to reconsider a decision they made regarding the company’s Leavenworth Detention Center.

But the chairman of the County Commission does not know if commissioners will revisit the issue.

“I just don’t know the answer to that right now, but it would take a lot for me to want to bring that back,” Chairman Mike Smith said.

Officials with CoreCivic, which operates private detention facilities, have asked the county government to take over the operation of the Leavenworth Detention Center. The center houses pretrial detainees for the U.S. Marshals Service.

The request from the Tennessee-based CoreCivic came after President Joe Biden issued an executive order that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from renewing contracts with privately-run detention facilities. The Marshals Service is an agency of the Justice Department.

The current contract for the Leavenworth Detention Center is set to expire at the end of the year.

CoreCivic officials proposed the county could lease the facility from the company. And staff members at the Leavenworth Detention Center could become employees of the county.

Commissioners voted May 5 to notify the company that they are not interested in pursuing the proposal.

Among the concerns expressed by commissioners is the potential for lawsuits that could be filed against the county as the operator of the facility.

Following the commission’s decision, CoreCivic Vice President Natasha Metcalf sent a letter to County Administrator Mark Loughry.

The letter, dated May 11, asks the commission to reconsider its decision and “notify the (U.S. Marshals Service) of its interest in engaging in discussions to more fully understand the opportunity. An expression of interest would not obligate the County or the USMS to proceed with the execution of a contract.”

Metcalf stated CoreCivic is willing to dedicate additional resources to “facilitate further exploration of the new contract structure by the County.” This includes appointing Joseph Norwood, former secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections, to serve as a liaison between the company and the county.

Smith said he hates to see the loss of the Leavenworth Detention Center’s 175 jobs. But the County Commission chairman said the potential for lawsuits in federal court remain a concern for him.

Smith also expressed concern that a contract between the county and a federal agency may be adversely impacted by future changes in the same way that CoreCivic has been impacted by the president’s executive order.

He also expressed concern about the county being accountable for the management of the center including the payroll and employee benefits.

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