ICE Removes Immigrant Detainees From Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's Jail
|Cells inside the Pinal County Jail.|
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has removed its immigrant detainees from the Pinal County Jail, after the county and the federal government failed to come to an agreement over how much the county gets paid to house the detainees.
The end of this contract is a victory for human-rights groups that have complained about conditions at the jail for several years, and a loss for Sheriff Paul Babeu and Pinal County, which is set to lose millions of dollars from the deal's demise.
"It's a really important development," Victoria López, policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Arizona, tells New Times. "It's a win for people who have been detained at that jail and suffered the conditions there."
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The contract between ICE and Pinal County started in the mid-2000's -- before Babeu's time as sheriff -- when county leaders approved a plan to expand the jail, and housing these immigrant detainees to pay for it. The contract allowed for the county to house more than 600 detainees at a time.
The problem was, the per-inmate rate negotiated ended up a losing deal for the county. County spokesman Joe Pyritz tells us the deal has cost the county $2 to $3 million a year. County Manager Greg Stanley has likened it to Pinal County taxpayers subsidizing federal detention costs.
Meanwhile, the jail became the subject of protests and scrutiny from civil-rights groups. ICE has certain standards for such detention of detainees who are fighting civil immigration cases -- they're not supposed to be as harsh as conditions can be for criminal inmates.
The American Civil Liberties Union demanded that immigrants be removed from the facility, after their investigation documented that detainees weren't allowed outside, weren't allowed contact visits with family members, and lived in dirty conditions, among other things.
In 2011, conditions at the jail were the subject of a New Times cover story, which described how immigrants sometimes lived in these conditions for years while they fought their immigration cases.