JEROME — The Jerome County Jail would be “an ideal location” to house immigration detainees due to where it is, its potential to take more inmates in the future and the possibility it could be used as a site to hold immigration hearings, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement paper evaluating the possibility.

The paper, which was prepared in January by staff at ICE’s regional office in Salt Lake City and released by the county as part of a records request by the Times-News, says ICE is looking for a new location to house people it arrests due to its loss of access to 300 beds at Utah County Jail last year, and it says it would pay Jerome County $75 per inmate per day to house up to 50 inmates.

It mentions “future plans to add infrastructure to conduct detained hearings within Idaho” — currently, detainees are taken out of the state for hearings. And, it says one of the advantages of the Jerome County Detention Center is that it has “the potential for a future 60-bed expansion within the existing infrastructure.” The jail, which opened in 2016, was built with room to add four more “pods” housing 60 more inmates.

At the moment, there aren’t any facilities in Idaho or Montana where detention hearings can be held, according to the paper, meaning detainees must be moved to Seattle or Salt Lake City every week, resulting in extra transportation expenses. ICE hopes to one day hold detention hearings in Jerome, the paper says.

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ICE’s Salt Lake City field office holds about 500 inmates a day, according to the paper, of whom about 60 are from Idaho but most of whom end up being transferred out of state. Most detainees are held in Nevada currently. ICE does keep some at the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center and at the Elmore County Jail currently, but neither of these facilities houses ICE’s female detainees, the paper says. It also notes the jail’s proximity to ICE’s offices in Twin Falls and Boise.

“(Salt Lake City) believes the addition of 50 beds at Jerome County Detention Center would allow for streamlined detention operations and facilitate fewer and less frequent transfers of detainees out of state,” it says.

The paper estimates it would cost the federal government $1.46 million a year to house inmates in Jerome, of which $1.37 million would be the per-diem payments to the county, the other $93,000 in transportation costs that include guard-hours and fuel. It recommends ICE move forward with the contract, but also recommends against agreeing to a guaranteed minimum population as part of the deal.

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