Hall County votes to end jail contract with Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Starting in 2024, the Hall County Department of Corrections will no longer house ICE detainees.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:06 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Hall County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday morning to end its contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).

Starting in 2024, the Hall County Department of Corrections will no longer house ICE detainees.

Hall County Board Chairman Ron Peterson and Corrections Director Todd Bahensky signed a letter notifying the agency that they plan to end their contract.

In the letter, they said they appreciated the positive relationship they’ve had with all of the personnel over the years with the county being in contract with the agency since 2008. The plan is to end on December 30, 2023.

The letter cited changes in regulations and the approach to audits have “created circumstances that are no longer in our best interest.”

It goes on to say “We pride ourselves in protecting inmates from assault, providing care and consideration for transgender individuals, and providing detainees with access to the courts and their attorneys. The extensive and increasing bureaucracy, however, has taken away from our ability to keep detainees safe and healthy rather than contributed to it. This process has been at the expense of efficiency and seems more intended to perpetuate the bureaucracy.”

Local4 questioned Bahensky further to better understand the reasoning, he said when it comes to regulations ICE doesn’t consider its detainees as inmates. He said the agency expects them to provide a lot of privileges or benefits that they aren’t able to provide in a county jail setting. Bahensky said they are a jail and they handle things a certain way and it makes it more difficult to comply.

He added that the U.S. Marshal Service also has certain standards but those are similar to what the jail has to already do to comply with Nebraska Jail Standards.

Right now, ICE pays $75 per day per detainee with the jail currently holding 17.

Bahensky said they typically have less than 20 at any given time but prior to 2020 after the State decided to no longer house their inmates at county jails, the number of ICE detainees increased to as many as 80.

While they do bring in money to the jail, no longer having them there opens up space for more inmates from the U.S. Marshals Service.

Each U.S. Marshal inmate brings in $105 per day with some there for months on end. Bahensky said right there are currently 65 inmates with the Marshals being housed at the jail.

The money that the jail gets from housing these inmates helps cover expenses for them like food and basic medical care.

Bahensky did add while they plan to stop permanently housing ICE detainees by the end of the year, if a local ICE officer has a need, they will help them out.