Prisonville, Florida: Low Taxes and Big Yards, All for the Price of a Box Full of Immigrants

Prisonville, Florida: Low Taxes and Big Yards, All for the Price of a Box Full of Immigrants

There's a town next to the Everglades, 30 minutes up the expressway from Miami. It's a strange, meandering place occupying ten square miles of homes, horse meadows, and pine trees. Except for part of a big-box mall that falls within its borders, there are no shops. There's no road department or police department, no department store.

But if everything goes according to plan, the 7,400-resident town will soon be home to 1,400 immigrants in a new federal detention center run by a private corporation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has tentatively approved the plan, but the road of negotiations that led here is as long as one of the town's quiet, unlit streets. It began a dozen years ago, when the town was formed and a prison looked like a brilliant source of tax revenue.

Or maybe it began before that, when developer-king Ron Bergeron sold a spot of forsaken land to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Or even before that, when man pushed westward into the swamp, past sprawling homesteads and retention ponds, to a place where he could hide such things as prisons.

Immigration policy can be an abstract issue, but the mechanics need to take place somewhere. Four hundred thousand people a year are rounded up and shipped out of the country on buses or unmarked white jets, repatriated to an even more broken place. On the way, there's paperwork to be done and an average wait time of 28 days, during which the immigrants remain for "processing" in U.S. government custody. But where to put them?

You need three things: a plot of land, a company willing to build a prison, and a local government willing to bend over backward to persuade the feds to hold their captives there.

Add in some residents enticed by the promise that their corporate neighbor, left to do its unpleasant business, could help keep their taxes low forever.

Bienvenidos a Southwest Ranches.

Here is a usual Thursday-night Town Council meeting last year: A couple of dozen people fill a town hall made from doublewide trailers on rented land. Five council members greet residents and take their seats. The Town Council includes Freddy Fisikelli, an 80-year-old cattle farmer who was here from the beginning. He has seen the town through budget crises, corruption, and infighting. Now he's keeping quiet on contentious issues.

There's the group of homeowners' association officials clustered around the back table, talking among themselves about gossip or a flooded lot, same as it ever was.

That's Lee Rosselli by the door: a standup guy, a sheriff's deputy who's about to retire. He's been here forever, and everybody has a story about him. He's been known to help round up cows or tow a tractor in a pinch.

But one night last October, the scene was different. A new element was in play, one that could forever change the way business is done here. Deputy Rosselli was more agitated than usual. Instead of chatting, he stood outside the doors. He was refusing to let anybody in — fire code, he said. Too many people.

Out in the parking lot, TV news vans rumbled, their cameras providing the brightest lights around. Cars continued to overflow the parking lot, spilling onto the grass. People got out, carrying signs written in Sharpie on neon boards. They were speaking intensely, some in Spanish, as they formed a procession down the driveway.

The man with a megaphone, standing on the grass with a determined look on his face, was Bill Di Scipio. He wasn't a member of the immigrant-rights coalition that helped him organize the protest, and he certainly wasn't one of the longtime Ranches homeowners. He'd started out as a curious citizen, relatively new to the place, looking for answers about the big detention center supposedly moving in next door.

He was met with silence from the Town Council. A few weeks before the protest, he had dared to ask why.

Fisikelli, the old farmer, turned to the town attorney, Keith Poliakoff.

"Keith, explain to him why we're doing the 'cone of silence,' " Fisikelli said.

"We've been asked by Homeland Security and CCA," Poliakoff answered.

That was all Di Scipio needed to hear: A federal agency and a private corporation were putting the gag on his elected officials. This was the perceived injustice that spurred Di Scipio to start a long public-records fight with the town and organize several protests. He would push its usually friendly leaders further into nervous silence. Poliakoff would become his enemy.

This new guy in town, with his accusations and curiosity, disrupted a cardinal rule of Southwest Ranches: Live and let live. He stirred up a system that had been accustomed to operating undisturbed. And amid his finger-pointing and name-calling, some of his neighbors realized — belatedly — that along with their low-tax land, they had purchased a share in the prison business.


Bill Di Scipio drives his Prius 20 miles every day to a warehouse in Opa-locka, where he runs a manufacturing company. He moved to the Ranches from Northern California. He had built a successful business and decided he liked the "quirky little town" with decent schools and low taxes in a rural setting. In 2006, he paid just under $1 million for a 3,000-square-foot home.

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86 comments
Sid
Sid

As soon as Debbie Wasserman Schultz name comes up and the backdoor description of her dealings? I know I am against whatever that broad is for..umm $1000 dollar donation..isnt that sweet?

JAWZ
JAWZ

I do like the Poster artwork for this story ! Would look good on the back of a t-shirt or Framed.

Shelby7789
Shelby7789

It's a box for "Illegal Immigrants" Call it what it is.

EricShun
EricShun

Jose can you see by the twilight's last dawn?

Great Country
Great Country

A millionaire sues a city to get back $1.25.  Are we a great nation or what!

Jilirk
Jilirk

That's what you think!!!!!!!You should update your info. You're behind the times!!!!!!!!!!!!

PeopleRock
PeopleRock

And to those of you who think you might actually get construction jobs at the proposed site, forget about it!  That's "fixed", too.  Should this get to the point of construction, Bergeron has the lock on that contract, and he has his own people.

PeopleRock
PeopleRock

Those of you calling area residents opposing the prison nimby's and whiners are missing the point... this project does not belong in ANYBODY'S backyard.  There are plenty of locations this could be built where not even one family would be affected, but would still be easily accessible to employees, vendors, etc.   The town council of Southwest Ranches is not only desperate, they're lazy!  There are any number of highly profitable uses of that site that would enhance the entire area.  Instead, they cling to the back room promises of CCA who has just one customer for their proposed prison - the federal government - and one type of detainee - illegal immigrants - whose numbers could dwindle dramatically, or even entirely, depending on the ever changing political climate.  Oh, let me revise my previous statement... The town council of Southwest Ranches is not only desperate and lazy, they're also foolish!

Bystander
Bystander

Prisons do have to go somewhere, but they dont belong in a residential area. This area was alot different years ago, alot less developed, and no schools. If these people that want the prison were smart, they would have built this before all the development. Ron Bergeron of all people should have known better, he had a huge part in west browards development so he knew all along he was going to put a prison near schools  He should be ashamed for HIS actions. Shame on Alligator Ron Bergeron - shame on you for knowing what was going on all these years, and shame on your for wanting to put a prison and casino on the edge of the everglades.

Shocker
Shocker

So let me see if I understand this story:

1.  After 6 pages the way I understand it, a man who hires warehouse workers in Miami, who himslef lives in a house worth close to $1m, is fighting a deportation facility.  What a shocker!

2.  A stay at home mom who bought a home near the property, is fighting it.  What a shocker!

3.  A property owner who has been there forever and knew that it would be placed there wants the facility.  What a shocker!

4.  A Town that claims that it desperately needs the revenue has instructed its beyond politically connected Attorney to get the facility.  What a shocker!

I dozed off twice reading this article, which could have been summed up in less than 1 page.

Carpenter
Carpenter

I just read this article.  I am an out of work carpenter who needs to support my family.  Does anyone know when this will be built and who I can call for a job?

Jilirk
Jilirk

Go to North Fork Okla. CCA could use you there.

FQS9000
FQS9000

Ah, NIMBY's in an uproar.  How quaint.  How stupid.  DiScipio would have an entirely different take on the whole property rights versus a whining weasel if it was his property that he had negotiated permits for 10 years ago.

Prisons are a LEGAL business.  Deportees have to go somewhere.  Corrections Corporation really, Really, REALLY doesn't want these inmates loose in the town either.  So all the sniveling is merely about a big concrete box, that makes no noise, no smell, no pollution, is to all building codes, provides employment, obeys all federal, state, county and town laws and pays taxes.

DiScipio is a jerk.  

Out of Work
Out of Work

Does anyone know if this facility will be hiring?  What about the construction jobs?  If anyone know where I can sent my resume please let me know.

Jazz
Jazz

This is not the area for a prison, much less a for profit prison or immigration detention facility. There are almost a dozen schools within a 5 mile radius with thousands of children attending these schools on any given day. Private prisons are known for cost cutting measures to make their shareholders money. The first areas they cut corners is training, staffing and security. Their guards are paid $10/hour and are not required to meet the same standards as a state prison guard, sheriff or local police. They are not properly certified to carry weapons in alot of cases. Because of low pay and inadequate benefits, there is a high turnover rate. Security systems are not correctly monitored or maintained in facilites, leading to breaches of security within the prison, and leading to the possibility of escapes. Imagine the lockdown that would occur if there were an escape.

Private prisons are known to understaff their facilities; there are numerous accounts of riots and escapes. Private prisons staff less guards per inmate than state prisons. Its also proven private prisons do not save states money. States have saved millions of $$$ by closing CCA facilities, yet at the same time, Florida wants to privatize prisons using our tax money.

There is no guarantee detainees housed in this facility wont have violent criminal backgrounds or mental issues. There is no guarantee pedophiles and sex offenders wont be kept here. There is no gurantee inmates from Texas and California wont be transferred here. CCA cannot protect or guarantee SWR indemnity in the case of an escape where damages and costs are incurred from from the incident. They say the town will be indemnified, but no insurance company is going to provide that kind of liability for our town. CCA cannot even get the liability coverage they need, how can they tell us theyre going to indemnify the town? There are several instances where CCA has broken contractual agreements with towns regarding coverage. . CCA is known to use tax loopholes any way they can to avoid paying their share of taxes. In 2002 the IRS sued them for back taxes and in other cases, CCA has tried claiming thier prison residential to avoid taxes. This is money lost to our children and schools.

So before you berate and belittle the NIMBYs perhaps you should do your homework. This facility does not belong in the middle of a residential area, it belongs in a more remote area. If this was going to be built 800 feet from your home and family, youd have issues with it too.

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Jazz
Jazz

I dont think the point is money...its more about the sunshine law and citizens' access to public records which were denied in this case

Jilirk
Jilirk

That's what you think!!!!!!!You should update your info. You're behind the times!!!!!!!!!!!!It's called "FREEDOM" Get your facts right!!!!!!!! Educate yourself about your GOVERNMEMT and ELECTED OFFICIALS and how they try to DISTORT the TRUTH and HIDE it.

Carpenter
Carpenter

Bergeron builds roads not buildings.

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

Though Mr. B didn't speak to me, I was unable to verify or substantiate the claim that he has a construction contract locked in. Original sale called for him to provide roadway improvements. If you have any other information, please provide it: stefan.kamph@browardpalmbeach.com

Susanwest
Susanwest

PR you do realize that CCA owns the land not SWR, and if you read the article you would have found out that they owned it before the town was formed, and if you haven't worked it out the area is already zoned for this use, so how could the "lazy, foolish" town find another use without getting their pants sued off.  Sometimes its better to get on a wagon than get run over by it.

Jilirk
Jilirk

You sound like a "CRONIE"

Jilirk
Jilirk

Go to North Fork Okla. CCA could use you there.

Jazz
Jazz

They're so understaffed there the nurses were asked to arm themselves and help quell a prison riot!

Jilirk
Jilirk

You must be one of the GANG OF SIX" and a definite CRONIE. The reason you quoted all the false information is because you  as part of the GANG OF SIX stands to personally benefit monetarily.

janesdobbs
janesdobbs

 @4fcdc516de5bb69612c676bf03620d7d:disqus At least DiScipio is standing up for something!  All you ever do @FQS9000:twitter  is sit behind your computer writing snide comments that make no sense.  These facilities DON'T belong near homes and schools.  Go do a little research online and you'll find out they are pretty bad.  No Matter WHERE they are!  privateci.org  start there... I'll save you some time!  Come back and we'll talk after you take a look around!

Jilirk
Jilirk

Go to North Fork Okla. CCA could use you there.

Out of Work
Out of Work

I'd love to make $10 an hour.  Do you know where I can send a resume?

Irony
Irony

After seeing the decimation of the beach by development all this years, it's about time you rich people get a taste of it as well.  Amazing that most of the people who profited off of the housing boom live in your area, and now they are complaining about development.  Irony!!!  Glad your finally getting a taste of your own medicine.  

Which Came First
Which Came First

Which came first the prison or the residential area?  Classic NIMBY story.  This one just impacts a few rich people.  Oh well.  

SueSue
SueSue

Get your stories right, I read in another article that he was not denied access but there was a question on how he could copy it, which was later (a few minutes) cleared up.  And people wonder why our taxes are so high here is a good reason why,  pay the lawyer more to work this, brilliant, it appears this has nothing to do freedom.

Jilirk
Jilirk

That's what you think!!!!!!!You should update your info. You're behind the times!!!!!!!!!!!! for $150,000,000 you'll learn fast how to build buildings  real fast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PeopleRock
PeopleRock

Of course I know that CCA owns that land.  It was purchased years ago in connection with a specific prison deal at that time.  That deal fell through and nothing was done with that parcel.  In the years that followed, the surrounding area grew into an overwhelmingly residential community; there was no reason for residents or prospective home buyers to think that a new prison facility would ever be built there.  Property prices were climbing higher and higher.  It was not uncommon for property owners to hold onto their parcels hoping to sell at the absolute highest price (many, to their detriment if they did not sell in time).  To the average on-looker, CCA could have been holding that investment for a number of reasons, none of which included a prison.  Meanwhile, SWR had plenty of time to re-zone parcels to reflect and enhance the residential and wildlife preserve area that had developed there in west SWR and Pembroke Pines.  But the inexperienced and gullible council members of SWR were easy prey for the pros at CCA.  They sold-out their own town and Pines as well.  The SWR council had every opportunity to oppose the proposed use or prevent it over the years, but instead they did just the opposite - and they did it behind everyone's back, plotting quietly for years with CCA.  Don't throw around that made-up excuse about SWR fending off a potential lawsuit from CCA -- that is absolute rubbish.  The only lawsuit SWR has to worry about is from the many thousands of area residents if the council of SWR doesn't withdraw its support for the proposed prison.

Protect America
Protect America

Jilirk, you mean Kromie!  Save our Country and Protect our Boarders!

Shocker
Shocker

I live no where near this community, nor could I ever afford a house there.  I am simply a New Times reader, who saw this story.  Just because I lay out the facts as I see it should not subject me to such a childish response. 

Carpenter
Carpenter

I can only hope that one day you lose your source of income and learn what it means to struggle to survive.  You want me to leave because I am need a job.  You people are truly disgusting.

Jilirk
Jilirk

They sure are. It's in print and documented. on your internet type in CORRECTIONS CORPORATION of AMERICA. read all the articles that pop up about their ability to manage prisons, or read WHY I HATE CCA. Put in North Fork, Okla Prison

FQS9000
FQS9000

DiScipio is merely 'standing up' for himself, which makes him a greedy pig.  Not a particularly praiseworthy goal.  Home and schools are not impacted by a concrete box in anyway other than in silly land where mere proximity equals evilness.  Just as the proximity of a school does not improve any children who do not attend it.

Grow up.

I Agree
I Agree

I agree, and if I owned a warehouse and needed warehouse workers I would be standing up against this as well.

Out of Work
Out of Work

I live here, my family lives here.  I may be poor, but I'm certainly not stupid.  Maybe you should be in this facility!

Jilirk
Jilirk

Go to North Fork Okla. CCA could use you there.

Jazz
Jazz

Its amusing and makes my day when ignorant comments are made to refute facts. Is that all you have? Come back when you can make intelligent informed comments instead of spouting nonsense

Jilirk
Jilirk

It has everything to do with FREEDOM and the SUNSHINE LAW. SWR pays this attorney a high end salary. He should make sure the staff is oriented to the  correct way to provide information when requested. It wasn't provided in a timely manner and appeared that it wasn't going to be either. So how would youknow the time frame it involved? Sound "FISHIE" to me. The TOWN ATTORNEY gets copies of every piece of cummunication in and out of that office. The biggest KICKER of ALL and the ITEM that should WORRY you is WHY CCA ADAMENTLT INSISTED the OFFICIALS from SWR where told to stay at a HOTEL for $489.00 per night and not to stay anywhere else. YOU should insist on knowing WHO PAID FOR THAT BILL???  YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jilirk
Jilirk

This town has very nice cross section of residents from all SOCIOECONOMIC CLASSES and ETHNICITIES. It's not rich by any means. The elected officials believe they need a "JAIL" to pay our bills. We also have a working class. Since the value of homes decreased significantly, and too many foreclosesures on the market, it's very affordable if you want it. You are quoting HEARSAY about the man with the warehouse. So if you aren't a "CRONIE" I suggest you don't go after people you don't know. Go to CORRECTIONS CORP OF AMERICA, or WHY I HATE CCA try not to spend too much time selecting your topic. There are so many make sure you have spare time.

Bystander
Bystander

The people that are truly disgusting are the ones that want to bring this prison to our town. 

Jazz
Jazz

Google how corrections corp of America uses tax loopholes to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Educate yourselves and read Yale university reports, AFSCME reports and ACLU studies on how CCA is a burden on local taxpayers. Research the states that have closed CCA facilities because they cost more to run than a state prison. Read the university and state studies how CCA cuts corners on security and training to save monry. The list goes on and on....

Bystander
Bystander

DiScipio is standing up for everyone who believes this is the wrong place for a facility like this.  If you think this is just a "concrete box" youre delusional.  This is going to be a maximum security federal site, this has NO place near homes, much less schools.  You are seriously missing the point.

janesdobbs
janesdobbs

 I'm sure he would invite INS into his building to run through all of his employees.  It's not the fact that it's an ICE Prison...It's a PRIVATE PRISON... Their Secrecy BREEDS Human Rights Violations!!  Grow up!

Jilirk
Jilirk

I guess you are a "GANG OF 6". or one of the CRONIES. If not go educate yourself on the CORRECTIONS CORP OF AMERICA.

Jilirk
Jilirk

Go to North Fork Okla. CCA could use you there. What makes you believe you are intelligent and above us. You didn't quote facts. We have. You must be the" GANG of 6", or their" CRONIES"

 
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