CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — Following the Central Falls City Council’s vote to begin cutting ties with the Wyatt Detention Facility, the prison’s Board of Directors voted to temporarily suspend its contract with ICE.
According to Board Chair Joseph Molina Flynn, the decision will suspend the contract for at least 90 days. The board also asks that any detainees being held at Wyatt be moved out of the facility within seven days.
On Wednesday, city council members cited financial issues and the facility’s current agreement with the U.S. Marshals Office to house ICE detainees as problematic for Central Falls.
Documents reveal ICE requested to use 225 beds at Wyatt, but Mayor James Diossa said his administration never approved that contract. City council ultimately voted to rescind a resolution from 1991 that allowed Wyatt to come to the city.
Flynn hopes the temporary suspension of the contract will ease tensions in the city and prevent another uproar from residents since the board fears the protests occurring outside the facility are putting staff members and detainees at risk. Last Thursday, dozens of people marched to Wyatt following an emergency meeting called by Diossa to protest the presence of ICE in the city.
Flynn, who was recently appointed as the chair of the board, said he has concerns about the conditions the detainees are living in at Wyatt and understands why the city is concerned.
He said in his experience as an immigration attorney, he knows sometimes people will provide officials with a false age at the border.
“We’ve heard some information that some of the people detained there may be under 18 years old,” Flynn said.
Former Mayor and City Councilor Thomas Lazieh said he still supports the facility and believes conditions there are up to standard.
“We need changes to immigration nationally, but it doesn’t start here at this facility,” Lazieh said. “Within 45 minutes or so, they decided that the detention facility wasn’t operating properly.”
Flynn said the next step in the process involves receiving a report from the prison warden regarding the board’s concerns, which include access to legal care, mental health care and medical care.
Eyewitness News reached out to a spokesperson from ICE, who said Wyatt complies with their high standards.