New Jersey Prisons Earning Tens of Millions Each Year Housing ICE Detainees

County prisons and state correctional facilities across New Jersey are earning tens of millions of dollars each year housing ICE detainees—often putting non-criminal immigrants in criminal detention without bond, trial, or criminal charge.  In today’s CityLab article, “Where Cities Help Detain Immigrants,” reporter Tanvi Misra reviewed data agreements between ICE and publicly-operated facilities to detain immigrants pending immigration court proceedings.

While the number of facilities authorized to hold ICE detainees is in the thousands, Misra found that:

[t]here were around 111 publicly operated facilities actively taking in immigrants in November 2017, per this data.  The ones with the highest average daily populations: York County Prison in Pennsylvania, Essex County Correctional Facility and Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey, Theo Lacy Facility in California, Glades County Detention Center in Florida, and Etowah County Jail in Alabama.

The three with the highest national averages: York County Prison in Pennsylvania, followed by Essex and Hudson County Correctional Facilities in New Jersey, at second and third respectively.

When entering into an agreement to become an ICE-approved detention facility, each New Jersey detention facility negotiates the daily detainee rate directly with ICE.  New Jersey has 11 publicly-operated facilities that are ICE-approved to hold immigrant detainees.  Only 7 of the 11 reported the daily rate; 3 refused.  Of the 7, Essex County Correctional Facility ranks at the top of the daily detention rate scale at $117 per ICE detainee.  With an average of 652 ICE detainees a day in 2017, Essex County’s estimated 2017 ICE detainee revenue for 2017 was over $27 million.  That’s a lot of money.

For New Jersey municipalities, agreements with ICE such as the ICE-approved facility certification program and 287(g) Agreements, bring great financial reward to the annual budget.  The cons, however, are many.  Any possible political criticism aside, any agreement must be carefully negotiated (from daily detention rate to who can do what and when, and more) and drafted to limit potential liability for a variety of state and federal civil claims, to ensure proper indemnification, and to provide the taxpayer with every protection for one time when an incident arises that leads to a federal lawsuit and the federal government washes its hands claiming sovereignty, thereby leaving the New Jersey taxpayer to bear a possibly significant financial burden and years of litigation.

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