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Chris Christie Champions Horrendous Company Running Horrible Texas Detention Center

by: Ben Sherman

Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 00:00 PM CST

"Community Education Centers" sounds like a perfectly lovely company, right? Far from it. In Texas, CEC runs the Polk County immigrant detention center which is routinely deemed one of the nation's worst. While people wait for asylum in the United States, numerous groups have found that they live in horrendous conditions in an ICE-licensed facility.

"I've visited a bunch of detention facilities in Texas, and that's by far the worst," said Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, a prison reform group. "Inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, lack of access to legal services, absence of meaningful programming, and a willful neglect of those who are imprisoned there plague the Polk detention center." Those observations were made in 2012 and 2013.

Thousands of miles from Texas, a man who puts the 'bully' in 'bully pulpit' serves as CEC's greatest advocate. Maybe it's that Christie served two years as a registered lobbyist for CEC. Maybe it's that the company's long-time senior vice president, Bill Palatucci, is one of Christie's closest friends. Such a close friend, in fact, that rumors swirled about Christie appointing him to deceased Sen. Lautenberg's seat. Palatucci's political involvement with Christie would have been far from new: he chaired the governor's 2013 re-election campaign and co-chaired the inauguration committee. "There is probably nobody more important to Chris Christie's political operation than Bill Palatucci," former New Jersey GOP chairman Jay Webber said last month. It was Palatucci's stepping down from CEC in 2012 that has allowed him to get increasingly involved in Christie's political team.

It only gets more nauseating. More below the jump.

Salon's Josh Eidelson explains the facts, one of which is that conditions have not appeared to change in Polk County, despite two different reports on substandard conditions.

...[A]dvocates from Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families who returned to the facility last September reported the asylum-seekers there "in many ways" faced conditions "even direr" than those observed the year before. Among the allegations the groups reported hearing from inmates: "serious chronic medical conditions that were not being adequately addressed by medical staff"; "the quantity of food was not sufficient"; "staff called the men who could not speak English 'stupid' or 'crazy'"; and "Bad-tasting and smelling water." The activists thus urged that ICE cease using the facility entirely.

Do these inhuman conditions sound like something Chris Christie would approve of or willingly ignore in his own state? Unfortunately, yes, and even more unfortunately, yes he has.

A series of New York Times stories blew the lid open on CEC's mismanagement of New Jersey halfway houses. The company receives tens of millions from the state, but it was "not closely examined" and neither were its "financial standing or operations, according to documents, former company executives and state officials." The Times learned that "that the company had kept staffing levels very low" and thus "did a poor job delivering counseling and other services intended to help inmates make the transition to society." Violence is rampant CEC facilities, including a 2012 murder.

Christie's administration, predictably when you know the background, did nothing about these revelations, despite the state comptroller's critical audit which followed the Times' reporting. New Jersey lawmakers then tightened halfway house oversight rules, and Christie sliced them up with a line-item veto.

"Places like this are to be celebrated," Christie said of CEC at the company's 10th anniversary party. "A spotlight should be put on them as representing the very best of the human spirit. Because when you walk through here as I've done many times, what you see with your very eyes are miracles happening."

Christie Christie, a thug if modern American politics has ever seen one, embodies the worst of the human spirit.

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