The convoluted relationship between the The Wyatt Detention Center, the city of Central Falls, and the residents of the community has taken a key step in the right direction with the appointment of J. Molina Flynn to Wyatt’s Board of Directors, following a steam of organized protests, community meetings, backlash from local elected leaders, open records requests and media scrutiny against the facility.
Mr. Flynn, who is a prominent attorney and community organizer, has been a long-time, authentic voice for a wide swath of immigrant and underprivileged individuals. His personal backstory, containing experience as an immigration attorney and position as a respected regional leader uniquely qualify him for such a position.
His introduction last week was quickly followed by the suspension of the facility’s outrageous contract with ICE, the driver of much recent conversation and protest. The contract led to the caging of dozens of ICE detainees at the prison.
But, there is much more to be done.
Wyatt, which first received prisoners in 1993 as part of a quasi public-private agreement, has long been a bane to potential growth within Central Falls, representing, in real-time, the condescending tone too often cast upon the city by other elements of Rhode Island.
Central Falls has produced countless success stories, is forward-thinking in workforce development , nimble in repurposing its milltown elements, and has recently seen record low crime, yet much of the greater public’s focus has been spent on ‘problem areas’ associated with the city, such as poor public school standardized test score performance.
While schools and other issues are also urgent, they require a long term rethinking that starts with fundamentally reshaping the municipality in a way that instantly uplifts its population and summons their might, creativity and history to the forefront.
The Wyatt Detention Center is a tangible example that Central Falls has long endured second-class status, and it is the responsibility of all Rhode Islanders to ensure policies that reflect and reinforce such a mentality are immediately abolished.
The appointment of Mr. Flynn seemingly demonstrates the urgency of this matter from all party’s perspectives, and all Rhode Islanders should do their part to ensure that the facility’s contract with ICE is permanently terminated.
After a swift yet thorough strategy and development period, steeped in economic reality and, understanding the urgency of placing the Central Falls community’s long term wellbeing as the number one priority, key stakeholders must put forth plans that set in motion the closure and demolition of The Wyatt Detention Center.
Bill Bartholomew is a podcast host, musician and media contributor in Providence, RI
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