By RICK HAYES
---- — MT. VERNON — It appears Jefferson County government is giving up on the idea of housing Immigrations, Customs & Enforcement prisoners this fiscal year, and perhaps long range.
The federal prisoners were taken out of the county jail in early December last year due to missing medical documentation for some prisoners. Since that time, the county hired an independent medical firm, Advanced Healthcare Corrections, to deal with medical issues at the jai.
“We have worked hard to figure out if we can get ICE back. We know we lost ICE because we had a management issue pertaining to medical issues. Long term it is a good proposition for that jail.” said County Chairman Robert White during a Fiscal Committee meeting.
“The whole goal here has been to get ICE detainees back. We contracted with AHC to provide the healthcare needed to meet ICE standards.”
White said he was led to believe that once a medical inspection was approved, ICE prisoners would be returned to the Jefferson County Justice Center soon.
However, during a conference call Wednesday including ICE officials, Sheriff Roger Mulch and White the county learned the county would have to go through a full inspection by a third party contractor, and the earliest that inspection could be scheduled is October, according to jail administrator Randy Pollard.
“Even if they did the inspection in October, reports have to be written, they have to go through red tape and reviewed by ICE officials in Washington before any approval is given to the Chicago field office to retain detainees in our facilities. Several months in my opinion,” Pollard said.
Major Scott Burge of the sheriff’s office said Ricardo Wong, an ICE liason, was just recently made aware that a new inspection had been ordered.
“In my opinion that tells me at least six months, before we see an inspection” White said, adding, “And if we pass with flying colors it will probably take another 60 to 90 days to get the people back in the facility. You’re looking at almost a year from now before ICE detainees would be returned to this facility.”
White surmised, “It’s safe to say ICE detainees returning this fiscal year I’m convinced that’s done.” He also suggested when budget work begins soon for next fiscal year that it be done with the “absence” of ICE detainees. The county’s fiscal year ends on Nov. 30.
“We can’t unbuild the jail. We’ve got to figure out what the best approach is with the least loss and move on, said Fiscal Committee Chairman John Keele.
Board member Jim Laird added, “Let’s say ‘no’ to ICE; let’s just say we’re done.”
“We need to focus on the reality of who we are, where we’re at and how we’re going to move forward,” White said. “The bottom line is we’re not pining for ICE. We have to deal with what we know. The reality is that ICE is just not going to work out now.”