I.C.E. detainees

Some of the 240 I.C.E. detainees rounded up in the Trump administration's border crackdown wait for their court dates in the Bossier Parish Medium Security jail in Plain Dealing.

The Bossier Sheriff is also using the chance to house I.C.E. detainees to make up for lost money from the state of Louisiana.

It's simple math. Compared to the feds, the state pays low to house state inmates -- $24.39 per day per inmate. And that might get cut even lower.

The feds pay more than double the state rate -- $62 a day.

And as Louisiana looks at further tightening its budget, and the Trump administration cracks down on the border, Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington says "hasta luego" to a lot of state inmates to make room for I.C.E. detainees.

Combined with vacancies, the Bossier Sheriff's office has moved 182 Louisiana state inmates out, to hold adult male I.C.E. detainees together in its medium security lockup. The sheriff says money is a factor.

"State rate is a whopping $24.39 and headed down to 19," Whittington said.

That current rate doesn't even cover what the sheriff's office says is the cost of housing an inmate -- $29 a day. Whittington spoke in disdain of dwindling money from the state.

"If the state follows through with a five dollars per diem cut on our state inmates, that will affect us to the tune of $1.8 million dollars. And I for one am going to return the DOC prisoners. The parish of Bossier is not going to support and pay for state prisoners. The state needs to get their act together and take care of their business," Whittington said.

With the state furloughing prisoners to tighten its budget, The Bossier Sheriff's Office was already on pace to bring in about a million dollars less from the state this year. Almost half way through 2018, Bossier has received almost $3.5 million dollars. It received more than $8 million each of the last two years.

Bossier received more ICE detainees this week, and now has 240 of them at the medium security lockup in Plain Dealing. That's an amount the sheriff's office intends to hold steady, at least as long as the Trump crackdown of prosecuting border crossers continues.

"Depends upon national events," says I.C.E. regional spokesman Bryan Cox. "We'll have to see how the situation plays out. But Bossier Parish is a long standing location where ICE has capacity that we've used in the past."

The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency expects each detainee to stay in Bossier about 30 days before their cases go before a federal immigration judge in Oakdale, in central Louisiana. That's where their cases have been transferred.

The Bossier Sheriff's Office will also be reimbursed for transporting the detainees there, and for staff overtime pay that goes with it.

The parish is housing the detainees in dorms separate from the rest of the jail population. Spanish speaking interpreters have been hired part-time.

The sheriff's office says those detainees were all caught in south Texas after crossing from the Mexican border. But they're not only from Mexico. They came from a total of a dozen countries in North, Central and South America, as well as some in the eastern hemisphere.

Bossier will continue to take state inmates. Even after moving some out to make room for ICE detainees, the parish still has more than 700 inmates the state doesn't have room for in its prisons -- about half of the current Bossier jail population.

Whittington is not alone in wanting to return state inmates. Sheriffs across Louisiana are prepared to do the same if the $5 per diem cut goes through. So the state's corrections chief is making plans to furlough thousands of non-violent prisoners, in case the legislature fails to fully fund his department.

"This is not a scare tactic," says Louisiana DOC Secretary James LeBlanc. "This is where we are in our budgets in this department. And they want to talk about a fiscal cliff? We're at a public safety cliff."

I.C.E. also has an agreement to send detainees to Caddo Parish. But Sheriff Steve Prator says it's been a long time since I.C.E. has sent him a busload of illegal immigrants. Having space to isolate them is a key factor.


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