Butler County sheriff explains decision for ending immigration contract

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones address the media Tuesday morning in the Monday, May 10, 2021, officer-involved shooting. The shooting victim faces multiple child porn charges, and possibly federal charges, Jones said. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones address the media Tuesday morning in the Monday, May 10, 2021, officer-involved shooting. The shooting victim faces multiple child porn charges, and possibly federal charges, Jones said. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Butler County sheriff said he will end a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that included housing detainees in the Butler County Jail who are awaiting immigration hearings.

The facility at 705 Hanover Street houses inmates from county jurisdictions as well as those in cooperation with the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Prisons.

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The county has had a contract with ICE since approximately 2003, Sheriff Richard Jones said. The most recent update to the deal was signed in June 2020 and says the term will last until “either party terminates or suspends” it.

Jones said he gave the agency a 60-day notice to have ICE prisoners out of the jail, noting increased inspection demands and an unorganized process have made the contract no longer cost effective.

The jail has held as many as 180 ICE prisoners in the Butler County Jail, which happened in October 2018, according to Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer. The agency averaged about 130 prisoners in the jail in 2017 and 2018. On Thursday, that number was about 40.

The Butler County Jail is one of five Ohio facilities used by ICE for detentions. The others are in Bedford Heights, Chardon, Mt. Gilead and Tiffin, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

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“We operate an efficient correctional facility, and federal officials continue to add unreasonable and cost prohibitive mandates to hold these illegal immigrants,” Jones said. “With the crisis at the border getting worse, it concerns me that the feds will ship detainees to my facility, then release them to the streets of my community under some technicality.

“It’s better to just end this arrangement now, than to let that happen. Unlike this current administration, I’m still a firm believer that our government should strictly enforce the immigration laws and I will continue to promote that stance at every opportunity.”

Jones and Dwyer said the inspection process for facilities housing ICE prisoners has become more frequent, and the outcomes are inconsistent.

“They have got it so screwed up now, it is not worth it financially to have them in our jail,” Jones said. “They do more inspections, require more and more and it changes every week. It is such and unorganized process.

“The ICE people and agents we deal with every day are great people, but it has changed at the top. It is time for us to get out of this contract.”

BCSO charged $72 per day per person to house ICE prisoners. Housing for federal prisoners is $68 per day, and for other outside agencies is $60 per day, according to Dwyer. He said there will be no difficulty in making up for the lost 40 ICE prisoners.

“Agencies are always looking for jail space,” Dwyer said. “There will be no loss of personnel (in the corrections division) or loss of revenue. In fact, we are still hiring.”

Jones said the office receives frequent calls from agencies wanting to house prisoners in the Butler County Jail.

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