Defunct Torrance County prison could reopen to house ICE detainees

New Mexico

The closed-down prison in Torrance County could soon house ICE detainees. The county says it’s in talks with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to get the facility back open, and that could mean the return of hundreds of jobs. 

The closure of the privately run Torrance County Detention Center in 2017 was a blow to the small community of Estancia. 

“Mostly what I saw was people moving away. People who were working for Core Civic got transferred to other prisons in the nation,” said Terry Whatley, Moriarty resident. 

On top of the transfers, there were hundreds of layoffs. “People were scared, they were scared about what they were going to do,” said Whatley. 

Now, two years later, Core Civic is posting job listings online and advertising job fairs for the prison. 

KRQE News 13 spoke with Torrance County Manager Wayne Johnson. He says the listings are a good sign that the prison, which mostly housed federal inmates, could be back in business soon. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that they will indeed be reopening that facility. So at this point, I would say it’s a good sign that they intend to reopen the Estancia facility,” said Johnson. 

Johnson says Civic Core is currently negotiating a contract with the federal government to reopen the facility with a new purpose. 

“My understanding at this point, is that they’re talking with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and that negotiations are underway to hold prisoners that ICE would be bringing to that facility,” said Johnson. 

Johnson says nothing is set in stone just yet, but people who KRQE News 13 talked to have seen the Civic Core recruiters around, giving them hope. 

“She said we were out doing interviews and hiring and trying to get things set up,” said Marilyn Coburn, Estancia resident. “I think it’s wonderful.” 

Johnson says he’s not sure how many positions will be needed, and he didn’t have a timeline for when the prison would reopen if the contract is approved. 

It’s unclear exactly what type of detainees could be held there. 

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