Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In light of COVID-19 pressures on jails everywhere, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth announced people who had been held at the jail for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have been moved out by the federal government.
"To safeguard our employees, their families, and the community we serve, all 170 detainees that were being housed in our jail facilities were transported by buses to other Sheriff departments that are currently engaging with ICE housing detainees," Beth said in a news release Tuesday.
"ICE detainees have come into the U.S. from around the world and the risks for bringing in new detainees to our jail facilities are far too great at this time." About 20% of the people housed in the Kenosha County Jail were ICE detainees.
Sheriff's Sgt. David Wright said because of the concerns, his office notified ICE on Friday that it would not take any more new ICE detainees. He said that seemed to upset ICE officials, who said they would then remove all the detainees who were already in Kenosha. The detainees were bused out Sunday, he said.
Wright said he thinks most were taken to jails in Illinois and possibly then flown to Texas and Florida. ICE officials did not immediately return an emailed query on Tuesday.
Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said his jail, which also contracts with ICE, has not stopped accepting new detainees, or accepted any of those moved from Kenosha.
He said inmates held for the federal government, both ICE detainees and those in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service while facing federal charges, comprise a little less than half his jail's population. The capacity is 356 he said.
Wright said the departure of the ICE detainees reduced the Kenosha County Jail population from around 800 to about 630, freeing up space for increased social distancing within the facility.
ICE paid Kenosha County $70 per person per day to hold the detainees and transport them to Immigration Court in Chicago when necessary.
But he said the overtime costs of dealing with the ICE detainees pretty much used up the extra revenue from taking the detainees.
Like several other counties' law enforcement agencies, those in Kenosha County are trying to reduce the flow of new inmates to the jail by arresting only people charged with violent crimes and certain misdemeanors, like domestic violence and repeat drunken driving, and ordering those with lesser charges to appear in court at a later date.
Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.