Updated: June 24, 2014 2:00AM
HOBART — An active member of the Concerned Citizens of Hobart group has asked the City Council to adopt a resolution stating no prisons would be built in the city, a move that he believes would stop The GEO Group from operating an immigrant detention center here.
“No matter how GEO spins it about it not being a prison, if you can’t leave until someone lets you leave and forces you to stay there, then it’s a prison,” said the Rev. Charles Strietelmeier, a member of the group formed in opposition to having a for-profit prison or immigrant detention center in the city.
The GEO Group is a for-profit builder and operator of prisons and immigrant detention centers and has purchased the former St. Sava church hall property on 49th Avenue.
However, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company has not come before any city board or commission with a proposal as yet.
“I’m concerned that this processing facility is brought to town and isn’t needed, but there is a need for a replacement for Westville (prison),” Strietelmeier said. “You can pass a resolution saying it can’t happen.”
Council members didn’t respond to Strietelmeier’s suggestion of a resolution.
Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd, said he recently met with GEO representatives who showed him photos of other facilities they own and gave him a flier about the company. GEO’s local attorney, John Bushemi, brought some of those fliers to the council chambers for the public to take at Mendez’s request.
In the fliers, GEO states the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has identified a need for a new immigrant processing center in the Chicago metropolitan area. Should the federal government decide to build one in the region, GEO would determine if the St. Sava site would be appropriate for the use.
GEO contends the centers are not prisons and the average stay is less than 30 days.
The company has awarded a contract to demolish all the buildings on the 49th Avenue property, including the former church social hall. A GEO spokesman said Boyd Construction in Hobart will raze the buildings.