Illegal immigrants filling county jails
By Sean Thomas
Illegal immigrants are taking roost in three Panhandle jails and causing crowding issues.
Ochiltree County is making plans to deal with extra inmates in part because of illegal immigrants who have committed state crimes. Immigration and Custom Enforcement place holds on illegal immigrants, making it difficult for them to bond out of jail.
Ochiltree Sheriff Terry Bouchard said a proposed agreement between Ochiltree County Jail and the Dallam-Hartley County Jail will allow the county to ship inmates to the bi-county jail at $40 per day per inmate.
Moore and Carson County both ship inmates to other jails but would have their crowding issues relieved if illegal immigrants could bond out.
"We've managed to stay under (capacity) so far, but we want some kind of safety mechanism in case we run over," Bouchard said.
Ochiltree' 32-bed facility is 51 years old and typically runs an average of 26 inmates.
This week the county had nine inmates with ICE holds placed on them.
"When immigration places a hold on that person, the bondsmen don't want to bond them," Bouchard said. "If they do bond out, ICE will pick them up."
Ken Knowles, owner of Central Bail Bonds, which covers about 90 counties, said it ultimately depends on whether local jails will work with the bonding companies and the credibility of the inmate.
"I know some of these smaller jails due to the overcrowding and the overpopulation of immigrants, if these people have jobs and are somewhat stable, they will cut them loose on our bond," Knowles said. "We do post bonds on them if the credibility is there."
Ochiltree won't be stuck with illegal immigrants for inmates indefinitely. After they serve for the state crime, Bouchard said they are picked up by ICE.
Moore County Jail has six inmates at the Dallam-Hartley County Jail and still has 58 inmates in its 62-bed facility.
Corrections Officer Christie Rex said most of the 11 inmates with ICE holds have misdemeanor charges against them.
"If they were able to bond on those charges, my jail wouldn't nearly be as full. That would help us," Rex said.
Most of the jail officials did agree that ICE was punctual about picking up inmates once they had resolved their state issues.
Carson County Sheriff Tam Terry has two inmates staying with Armstrong County to help ease crowding at his 24-bed facility. Terry's nine inmates with ICE holds all face first-degree felonies.
"They are here and I can't get rid of them," Terry said. "If five of them were able to make a bond, that would help us out."