Multiple Agencies Looking To Woo Jerome County For Jail Bed Lease

Jan 3, 2018

Some residents in agriculture-heavy Jerome County say a heightened presence of ICE could lead to a culture of fear among the region's Latino population.
Credit Joy Pruitt / The Center for Public Integrity

Officials in Jerome County have been waiting a year for a contract from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to lease 50 beds in the county jail. The prolonged inaction by ICE has led to a host of entities expressing interest in renting the beds from Jerome County.

Among those courting the county for beds are the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Idaho Department of Corrections.

The Times News reports a majority of county commissioners now favor avoiding a controversial deal with ICE. Commissioner Charlie Howell says he views a deal with ICE as a last resort due to how it could impact the community.

“You know, I’ve talked to lots of businessmen – local businessmen; their concern is that they will lose workers due to the ‘intimidation factor,’ so then they won’t have the workers on the dairies,” says Howell. He calls balancing the need to pay off the jail and focus on economic development in Jerome “a tough balancing act.”

The concerns Howell raises are mirrored by some residents and social justice organizations. They claim a heightened ICE presence in the agricultural region could spur a culture of fear among the Latino population.

Jerome County has been waiting a year for a contract from ICE to lease 50 jail beds to the federal agency. After a story in the Times News last month claimed Jerome County officials were shopping the beds to other agencies, ICE expressed a renewed interest in moving forward with the deal.

Should a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Service go forward, Jerome County authorities would collect about the same rate ICE would pay for the beds: $75 per day. The state’s Department of Corrections has an official rate of $45 per day, but the state legislature could raise that to $60 this year.

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