One year later, the prison is still there and residents will once again take to the streets to urge the Geo Group, a private prison company based in Florida, to pack its bags and leave 150th Avenue."We understand there is no easy walk to freedom," said Councilman James Sanders, who pulled the protest together. "We understand there is no easy walk to our community being respected. The price of liberty is vigilance."The existence of the prison was first revealed by Sanders late in 2005, after a constituent called him to complain that someone was bidding an exorbitant amount for a warehouse on 150th Avenue. It turned out that Geo, which currently houses about 200 inmates awaiting trial or sentencing, had quietly opened a jail at 182-22 150th Avenue and was looking to double its capacity.The community outrage derailed the expansion, but in May, the prison received a second one year contract. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, who monitors the status of the jail through the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees all prisoners housed at private jails, said the new contract expires on Aug. 7, 2007. Still, there is no sign that Geo has plans to close up shop.Sanders is concerned that Geo will seek more than a one year contract this time around and said he believes the company, which did in fact purchase and still owns an adjacent warehouse, remains determined to expand its facility."Now more than ever its necessary for the good people of this district to stand together and speak with one voice and say Geo must go," Sanders said. "Geo want the home run this time. They picked a horrible spot which poses a constant danger to the community."The prison, which sits amidst warehouses and businesses that serve John F. Kennedy International Airport, is located just blocks from a residential neighborhood and a school. Sanders believes Geo will wait until community outrage over the prison dies down, then move forward with its plan to expand its capacity to hold close to 400 inmates.Meeks, however, said there is no evidence that Geo has plan to resurrect its expansion project and that anything more than a one year contract would not be acceptable."They are not interested, nor will they try to expand," Meeks said, referring to a recent conversation he had with a Justice Department official who oversees the facility. "A long term contract would not be acceptable."The march against the prison will take place Monday, Jan. 15 at 11:45 a.m. Marchers should meet on 147th Avenue.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@times
©2007 Community News Group
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