Soapbox

Ending Sacramento County jail contract puts logic on ice

Activists deliver a public records request to the Sacramento Sheriff's Department about the contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in March 2017.
Activists deliver a public records request to the Sacramento Sheriff's Department about the contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in March 2017. Sacramento Bee file

On Tuesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate our contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house detainees at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.

I was on the losing side of the 3-2 vote. Due to the controversy surrounding the contract, I want to explain my decision.

When someone is arrested, local law enforcement has no idea whether that person is an illegal immigrant or not. After the person is booked into the jail for serious or violent crimes, information is sent to ICE, which checks and notifies the Sheriff’s Department if that individual is an illegal immigrant. The jail holds that individual until they serve out their sentence, then releases them to ICE for deportation.

Now due to the ICE contract being terminated, detainees will be sent out of state and the Sheriff’s Department will treat all illegal immigrants in custody just as any other inmate. After they have served their sentence, they will be released back into the community.

Sue Frost.JPG
Sue Frost

I voted to extend the ICE contract for three reasons.

First, I believe that reducing crime and keeping violent criminals out of our community should be our highest priority. I do not believe we should mass deport illegal immigrants whose only crime was entering our country illegally. But I also believe we should immediately deport them if they have been arrested for a serious crime.

Opinion

The detainees in the county jails under this contract had committed heinous crimes including homicide, assault, domestic violence and sex offenses. Ending this contract does nothing to protect vulnerable members of the immigrant community or their families, nor do I have compassion for anyone that has committed such crimes.

Second, terminating the contract arguably worsens the situation for illegal immigrants. Those housed in our jail will be transferred to another state, likely Texas, making it effectively impossible for family members to visit. In addition, ICE will continue to enforce federal immigration policies, just not in the jail. Instead, ICE agents will go into homes, workplaces, schools and public places to make these arrests. I much prefer them being taken into federal custody within our jails, rather than directly in our communities.

Third, the contract was worth $4 million a year in federal funding. That money will now vanish from the county bank account. I have been vocal about Sacramento County’s fiscal health. We only have about 1.5 percent of our money in reserves when it should be closer to 15 percent to 20 percent. Of the larger counties in California, we have by far the lowest reserves. The next lowest is Riverside at 9.2 percent, and the average is 26 percent.

Our reserves are about $300 million shy of where they should be, and we also have a $1.2 billion unfunded pension liability. We cannot afford to throw away $4 million.

While I am saddened that the contract was terminated, I remain steadfast in my support for public safety and will do everything in my power to ensure that this $4 million loss does not result in fewer sheriff’s deputies in our community.

Sue Frost represents the 4th District on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. She can be contacted at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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