Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington held a press conference Wednesday to clear up any confusion or concern about housing federal detainees in BSO facilities.
He said his corrections department has had no problems after the sheriff’s office agreed to a federal request to house Level 1 Federal Detainees.
“So far, so good,” he said.
He did say the Bossier Sheriff Corrections Division staff is experiencing a few hiccups having to face something they’ve never experienced before, particularly with a language barrier. However, the sheriff’s office has sought interpreters in the community and even employed school teachers on summer break to help facilitate communication.
“Our biggest concern (when it comes to communicating) is the medical screening,” said Sheriff Whittington. “So far we’ve been able to manage with interpreters.”
All detainees are of the lowest security level since they have not been convicted of any crimes, and are being detained for entering the United States unlawfully.
The move comes as part of President Donald Trump’s focus on securing national borders.
“This is a small part of President Trump’s effort to stem the flow of illegals into the country,” said Sheriff Whittington.
He revealed his office was contacted approximately 10 days ago about housing the detainees. According to Sheriff Whittington, the ability to do this started a year ago when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials did preliminary work to evaluate and establish Bossier Parish’s ability to house these detainees.
The Bossier Sheriff Corrections Division is prepared to take up to 240 ICE detainees. Currently, the facility is housing 102 detainees, all adult males.
The majority were detained in south Texas and are from Mexico and Central America. But the population is made of countries including Nicaragua, China, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Peru.
“My understanding is they have been very cooperative,” said Sheriff Whittington. “It’s a sad situation. A lot of people risked their lives to get here and unfortunately a lot to American-born citizens don’t appreciate what they have. It has given some of our staff a new outlook on life.”
Their average stay is 45 days before being transported to Alexandria. There will be video arraignments to limit need for transport. These detainees will be held in the parish facility until the federal court system determines their outcome.
Sheriff Whittington assures that none of these detainees will be released locally.
In order to comply with the federal request, the Corrections Division had to make changes to its offender population. This resulted in 180 department of corrections offenders being relocated to other parish facilities for housing.
The sheriff’s office will be reimbursed for housing and transportation costs associated with the detainees.
Sheriff Whittington admitted that a decrease in per diem from Louisiana for housing state inmates contributed to the decision to house the federal detainees.
The current federal contract rate with the marshal service is $62 per day. This compares to the state rate of $24.39 for inmates, which is decreasing to $19.
This will affect the parish to a tune of $1.8 million, according to Sheriff Whittington.
“It was certainly a factor,” he said.
Sheriff Whittington said that this decrease in funding may lead to state inmates being returned to state facilities.
“The Parish of Bossier is not going to support and pay for state prisoners. The state needs to get its act together and take care of their business,” Sheriff Whittington said.