Saturday, March 2, 2013

AZMEX I3 27-2-13

AZMEX I3 27 FEB 2013

Note: Re: AZMEX SPECIAL & UPDATE 27-2-13

Dip in migrant numbers at SCC jail hurts revenues
Manuel C. Coppola
SCC jail
In the past three months, the number of undocumented aliens being
held at the county jail has dropped precipitously, from 143 on Dec. 5
to only 34 on Feb. 20.

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:14 am
By Curt Prendergast
Nogales International | 2 comments

The number of undocumented aliens being held at the county jail is
dropping. So are the substantial dollars they bring to county coffers.
In the past three months, their ranks at the county jail has dropped
precipitously, from 143 on Dec. 5 to only 34 on Feb. 20. Each
undocumented alien represents a $65 per night paycheck for the
county, courtesy of an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service
dating back to August 2010.
The revenue for the county generated by this agreement frequently
reaches $250,000 per month, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff
Antonio Estrada.
At the Feb. 20 meeting of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors,
Estrada announced the recent payments the county had received from
the Marshals, with a $257,000 check coming in for December 2012.
"We're expecting one for the month of January that should be about
$220,000. The February billing is probably going to go pretty low,"
he said, noting that the numbers for Feb. 20 were "the lowest we've
had so far."
The opportunity to make money from housing federal inmates was one of
the selling points used to convince county voters to approve the bond
and half-cent sales tax needed to pay for the construction of a new
$46 million jail, with 372 beds for inmates, and courthouse,
completed in 2011.
"We have a jail district, we have a consumer tax, and this is extra,
it's a supplement, but in one way it was also kind of factored in
that we would generate some income as a result," Estrada said in a
side interview with the NI.
"It concerns me that we based the building of the jail on the
understanding that we were going to have X amount of holds to really
help offset some of the operating costs," Supervisor Manuel Ruiz said
at the meeting.
County figures show that the half-cent sales tax brought in $1.31
million from July 1, 2011, to Jan. 31, 2012, but dropped to $1.21
million for July 1, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2013. The jail district tax
collections dropped by a similar amount for the same periods.
Ruiz offered to help Estrada convince the federal government to send
more detainees to the county jail. However, there is only so much the
county can do, Estrada said.
"The U.S. Marshals have a contract with a private prison and they
have priority, unfortunately," he said, adding "most of the county
jails are going through the same thing right now."
The reason for the decline in the number of undocumented aliens held
at the Santa Cruz County jail and other county jails is that the
total prisoner population held by the Marshals in Arizona, 80 percent
of whom are being held for immigration-related offenses, has dropped
from a high of 7,953 in October 2011 to about 5,500 today, said
Fidencio Rivera, chief deputy U.S. Marshal for the Arizona district.
Sending federal detainees to the county jail is done as "a favor to
Santa Cruz County," Rivera said, adding that "it's a partnership that
we do value" and "we want to help out Santa Cruz County."
"Right or wrong, we've become economic development for a lot of
counties," he said.
While county governments may lament the loss of federal dollars, the
contracts the Marshals have with private prisons predate the
agreements with the counties by more than a decade, he said.
"We have contracts with Corrections Corporation of America going back
15 years or so," he said. In those contracts, "there's a fixed amount
for the first 3,200 prisoners, so if I have one prisoner in that
facility or 3,200 prisoners I pay the same amount," he said.
The cost-savings increase after 3,200 prisoners are held, with the
Marshals paying $15.15 per inmate, as compared to $65 per inmate at
the Santa Cruz County jail, he said. "If I don't use them, I'm going
to pay more anywhere else. Nobody is cheaper than $15.15 a day," he
In addition, the Marshals prefer to hold prisoners in facilities that
have their own infirmaries, to keep down medical costs, and are
located close to cities with federal courts, to keep down
transportation costs, Rivera said.
The CCA did not respond to a voicemail and email by press time.

The reason for fewer prisoners being held by the U.S. Marshals in the
state is that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona has fewer
resources to prosecute federal crimes in the state, he said, adding
that prosecutions have decreased 40 percent in Tucson and 8 percent
in Phoenix.
"Budgetary constraints are not significantly impacting our ability to
review and, if appropriate, prosecute cases referred to our office by
federal law enforcement agencies," John Lopez, executive assistant
U.S. Attorney, wrote in an email response.
Instead, "our case numbers are based primarily upon the number of
cases presented to our office for prosecution by federal law
enforcement agencies," Lopez wrote.

"While there may be fewer federal detainees in custody today compared
to the peak in October 2011, during FY2012 (October 1, 2011 and
September 30, 2012), under Operation Streamline alone, our office
prosecuted over 20,000 misdemeanor immigration cases," he wrote.
The number of Border Patrol apprehensions of people attempting to
enter the country illegally decreased by 50 percent between 2008 and
2012, according to a recent DHS press release.

If immigration reform is enacted by the federal government and fewer
undocumented aliens are detained, the Marshals will honor their
contracts with private prisons before sending detainees to county
jails, Rivera said.
"The irony in all of this is that people are saying 'don't target
illegal aliens,' but everybody wants the revenue," he said.

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