Marcella Sandoval and Eileen Yarborough, executive director of Cibola Communities Economic Development Foudation. Sandoval told the Guardian: The prison is a lifeline for us. Photograph: Oliver Laughland for the Guardian
Milan and Grants lost three-quarters of their population in the late 1990s after uranium mining in the regions rich mineral belt ceased. It was around this time that CCA bought facilities in the area, offering a chance of employment to those who remained in town.
The prison drew almost instant controversy. In 2001, inmates rioted over the quality of food, drawing local police and outside law enforcement who used teargas to quell the unrest. But residents soon grew used to the prisons presence. Many who spoke to the Guardian in September felt slighted by the federal governments decision to close the prison. In this heavily Democratic county, some said the decision had been enough to make them vote Republican at the election in November. Sandoval said the county was given no advanced warning and no assistance was offered to the local economy.
Milans police chief, Jerry Stephens, who commands the villages seven-strong police department, said just two escapes had occurred from the prison during his tenure as chief.
I dont think the community here worries about it at all, he said. A records request indicated his department had attended 49 assault calls at the prison between 2014 and 2015.
Despite this, the Department of Justices inspector general found that inmates in its contract prisons were nine times more likely to be placed on lockdown than in other comparable facilities, and assault rates were 28% higher than in federal prisons.
In an interview in October, Sandoval told the Guardian that the reopened facility could now eventually hold 1,400 detainees expanding its already stretched capacity by 200 beds. The decision basically saved us. Theyre rehiring and will have even more jobs this time, she said, relieved.
Jose Jaramillo wrote a short statement after he was arrested for illegal re-entry in August 2006: I know what I did is against the law and so I accept full responsibility for my conduct. I came back to work and be with my family.
Jaramillo had been pulled over as he drove from the chilli fields outside of Roswell, where he had worked backbreaking shifts for most of his life, starting at 5am and finishing at sunset. A sheriffs deputy had noticed he had a broken headlight, and later reported him to border patrol agents in New Mexico after he failed to present identification papers. Instead of running away when agents called to inform him he was likely to be arrested, he waited for them to arrive at the door that evening.
I think that just shows you what sort of a law-abiding guy he was, Lisa Curtis said.
That year over 29,000 people were convicted for illegal entry and re-entry. By 2013, that number had soared to just under 88,000 meaning more than half of all federal criminal prosecutions that year were for unlawful border crossings. By the time the DoJ announced it was abandoning all contracts with these 13 private immigrant jails, their populations had swelled to 22,000 inmates, costing the federal government $600m a year.
After he stabilized in 2009, Jaramillo was moved to the nursing home in Las Cruces. The federal government had initially moved to deport him, but the family successfully appealed after arguing he would die within days if he was moved back to Mexico. But the brain damage was irreparable. He had no movement from the neck down. When he spoke it was often nonsensical. On rare occasions when he could muster a coherent sentence, he told his daughter Judy, born in the US with full citizenship, that he wanted her to finish high school and become a nurse.
It was his dream, she said.
Judy is now training to become an elementary school teacher, but visited her father twice a week at the nursing home until his death in July. The family, who settled with CCA in 2014 for an undisclosed amount with no admission of liability, placed the money in a trust to pay for Jaramillos care, but knew the end was coming as his health rapidly deteriorated from another infection.
I just felt like the world was hitting me, Judy said of the day her father died. It was sadness and anger. Anger at the prison.