Tulsa County cancels Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail contract

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The David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

The Tulsa County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to end the Tulsa County Jail’s contract with the U.S. Immigraiton and Customs Enforcement to provide jail beds and transportation services for immigrant prisoners held by the federal agency.

Though Monday’s vote means that the contract to hold immigration detainees for ICE at the jail will end in 90 days, it does not end the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s contract with the federal agency to hold and turn over to ICE people with suspected immigration violations who are initially booked in to the jail on other complaints, known as the 287(g) program.

In May, the Tulsa Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to extend its contract with ICE to continue the sheriff’s office’s participation in that program.

The contract, which requires annual one-year renewals, allows the jail to hold up to 200 detainees for ICE, but the number has steadily decreased since 2017, county officials said. Under the contract, the jail receives $69 per-day, per-detainee, up to $380,742, and up to $30,800 for transportation services.

In a June 12 letter to the ICE field office in Dallas, County Commissioner Ron Peters said ICE had not requested an extension of the contract, and that ending the arrangement would be “mutually beneficial.”

Though the jail has held more than 200 detainees under the contract in 2017, it has declined significantly since then, Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado said. As of Monday, only 12 ICE detainees were being held at the jail under the contract, he said.

“We certainly still support ICE, but this was a financial and operational decision made on behalf of the Sheriff’s office and citizens of Tulsa County. We’ll continue to move forward with 287(b), just without the housing contract.”

Holding the ICE detainees required the jail to free up a pod to hold them, as well as at least four detention officers to man the pod, he said. Coupled with the time-consuming and difficult task of passing the required federal audits and the low number of detainees made the cost unjustifiable, Regalado said.

“I have an obligation not only to the sheriff’s office financially but to the taxpayers. It just really got to the point it didn’t behoove us to continue on in that contract,” Regalado said. “The time, the money, all those things that went into consideration in this decision, it just wasn’t feasible to continue.”

Regalado said ICE never fully explained why the number of detainees held there fell.

“I never got a reasonable explanation for why the numbers dipped,” he said. “I know there are other facilities, not just here in Oklahoma, but in Texas that have gone up. I’m only speculating at this point they had other facilities that were either closer or less expensive, so as a result our numbers significantly went down.”

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Clifton Adcock

Senior Staff Writer

A veteran investigative reporter who has covered eastern Oklahoma for more than 15 years, Clifton joined The Frontier in April 2017. A native of southeastern Oklahoma, he has covered numerous issues from criminal justice to politics for publications including the Tulsa World, the Oklahoma Gazette, and Oklahoma Watch. Clifton holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Clifton can be reached at clifton@readfrontier.com. Follow him on Twitter @cliftonhowze
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