CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — The Central Falls City Council has taken the first steps to cut ties with the Wyatt Detention Facility – citing financial issues and the facility’s current agreement with the U.S. Marshals Office to house ICE detainees.
The Wyatt Detention Center came to Central Falls almost 30 years ago, when the city entered into an agreement to build the facility.
“The city at that time was going through very dire financial conditions,” Former Central Falls Mayor and City Councilor Thomas Lazieh said.
Lazieh was mayor when the city chose to build Wyatt in 1991. He said in hindsight, the agreement was an excellent decision since Wyatt served as an economic engine for the city.
But decades later, the current city council says there is no longer a need for the detention center.
“We don’t need them here, we really don’t benefit from them,” City Council President Maria Rivera said.
In a 4-1 vote Wednesday night, the city council voted to rescind the resolution from 1991, which is what allowed Wyatt to come to the city.
City Solicitor Matt Jerzyk said this is the first step in what could be a lengthy legal process to cut ties with the facility.
“We knew this was going to happen sooner or later because most of us do not agree with them [Wyatt] not paying us and living off taxpayer money,” Council President Rivera said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Jerzyk said Wyatt has not made payments to the city since August 2017.
Rivera said members of the city council are also upset the facility began housing ICE detainees earlier this year.
Documents reveal ICE has requested to use 225 beds at Wyatt, but Mayor James Diossa said his administration never approved the contract.
Wyatt has defended the practice of housing detainees, saying Diossa’s office knew about the decision prior to their arrival.
“My biggest step right now is trying to cancel that contract and stop them from bringing the detainees based on the zero-initiative tolerance,” Rivera said. “And the second step is we need to continue to figure out how we are going to get them to shut down.”
Rivera said if the city does cut ties with the Wyatt, the city would have many uses for the building once it is reconstructed.
Eyewitness News reached out to the Wyatt Wednesday night for comment on the city council’s decision. Prison spokesperson Chris Hunter said the Wyatt would not be commenting.
Wyatt’s Board of Directors is set to meet Friday at 6 p.m. to discuss its’ contract with ICE.