Prisonville, Florida: Low Taxes and Big Yards, All for the Price of a Box Full of Immigrants | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


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

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Today, Siple says she's still researching that option: "I voted for [the water and sewer agreement] because I didn't realize that it was there. I'm not going to take full blame, because no one else at our meeting brought it up either."

Poliakoff says the town added the water and sewer clause just a few days before Pembroke Pines voted on it "because they wanted to confirm that Pines had the capacity to service the facility." Its cancellation may be a moot point, he says: "In the event that Pines did not provide water, the facility would still be built but would have to provide its own water."

Poliakoff, who was in high school when CCA first started trying to build on the site, says the time to put up obstructions is long past. "The time to say you object? That was in the 1990s," he says.

But the work of the agitators left its mark on Pembroke Pines officials. They might have spent years quietly voting through development of the facility with little public feedback, but on the evening of Tuesday, January 10, city commissioners made a grand, if possibly futile, gesture. They voted unanimously to draft a letter of opposition to the detention facility — and send it to the president of the United States.

Poliakoff expects a final decision from ICE within two months. In the meantime, he's putting together a new contract with CCA that he says will be the best possible deal for the town. He promises plenty of time to review it.

Di Scipio has engaged the services of a rookie attorney in Tampa to sue the Town of Southwest Ranches for $1.25.

"It's the first suit I've gotten where the plaintiff's attorney's bar number is listed as 'pending,' " scoffs Poliakoff.

Di Scipio claims that the town clerk wrongly billed him for copies of records that he should have been able to view and photograph for free under state law. He had only a dollar and change in his pocket at the time, so he handed it over for a few pages of copies. Later, he took legal action, a crowning move on top of his months of research and frustration.

Poliakoff is treating the suit seriously — and thoroughly. Di Scipio says he was furious earlier this month when Poliakoff deposed his wife. As a possible upside for both parties, the men are not allowed to speak to each other as the case proceeds.

Ryann Greenberg, however, is more typical of residents who oppose the prison. A stay-at-home mom and Di Scipio's strongest ally in the fight, Greenberg lives in Laguna Isles, a Pembroke Pines development.

On a cold day, she brings her 2-year-old daughter to the playground by the clubhouse, where immigrant workers are laying new mulch and a fierce wind blows down the edge of the Glades. Something is burning in the distance, turning the sky hazy.

"It's been a challenging six months," Greenberg says of her recent past as an activist, organizing protests and digging for information. She understands normal glad-handing politics, she says, "but it's a completely different thing to put a prison next to homes and schools." Recently, she notes, the real estate firm Coldwell Banker sent a letter to prospective sellers, saying it wouldn't be held responsible for declining home values because of the prison.

"You should have done your homework," says Doug McKay, the vice mayor, in response to people whose home values stand to be affected. Most of the people who are now complaining bought their homes after CCA had moved in next door. Few of them, least of all Pembroke Pines residents, were aware of the long-term plans for Southwest Ranches.

"I'm not some idiot NIMBY person," Greenberg says as she bundles her daughter back into her minivan. "Nobody knew this was going to happen."

Back at home, she gets the neighbor to watch her daughter for a minute, then climbs up the steep grassy embankment behind her house. Across the street is a post office and, in the distance, the mound of the old county dump.

In between, where high-tension wires stretch overhead, is a little piece of Southwest Ranches: the empty plot owned by CCA. It's not beautiful or even very natural-looking, and it's obscured by trees on adjacent properties. An unremarkable sight, for now.

But if you lean over the hedgerow and squint really hard at it, on a clear day, when the sun isn't too low in the sky, you can almost see the money.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph

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