Immigration and Customs Enforcement was looking for housing for immigrant detainees in Virginia.
The agency sent out an email about 10 days ago to the Virginia Sheriff’s Association asking members to help with providing 65 short-term bed spaces for immigrants, according to area officials. Some of those county sheriffs use facilities that include the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Winchester and the Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Warren Regional Jail in Front Royal.
Northwestern told the federal agency that they were not able to help, said James F. Whitley Superintendent of the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.
“I didn’t have the additional staff needed or the beds,” Whitley said.
Both Northwestern and RSW hold their member counties’ adult inmates. As such, neither of those facilities can hold children or families with kids for ICE. They could only hold adult federal detainees, local officials said.
Russell W. Gilkison, superintendent of RSW, said ICE officials toured his facility.
“It (the conversation) was all very hypothetical,” Gilkison said.
RSW does not have an existing contract with ICE or with the U.S. Marshal’s office and does not hold detainees for those agencies.
Because of the timeline involved in getting a contract in place, the RSW would not be able to meet those agencies immediate needs.
It does not, however, close the door to the possibility of a future contract.
“It’s my job as superintendent to bring all avenues of revenue to offset cost to the authority,” Gilkison said.
Those conversations with the RSW Regional Jail Authority board have not happened yet.
Mary Price, Shenandoah County’s administrator, sits on the board. She said she would like to hear what information Gilkeson has and what his opinion is.
“I would also like to know from other facilities who do this what they have to say,” Price said.
The possibility is one to consider, said Conrad Helsley, Shenandoah County supervisor.
“I think we would look at all revenue sources, then look to see if it is advantageous or disadvantageous,’ Helsley said.
Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron said it is worth exploring.
It should be treated the same as any other county requesting bed space at the RSW jail, he said.
First priority for bed space goes to inmates being received from Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren counties. Afterwards, any available bed space can be rented out to other counties, such as Page and Prince William counties.
“I am sure Russ will get all the information and present it to us,” McEathron said.
McEathron’s opinion was echoed by Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter.
“It is a way to recoup some revenue,” Carter said.
Carter said local facilities have held immigrants in the past who were being detained by the federal agency then known as Immigration and Naturalization Services.
“It went fine, just like holding other adult inmates,” Carter said.
Whitley questioned, however, how much revenue is generated by holding federal detainees.
Whitley estimated it cost $80 per day to house an inmate at Northwestern. He is reimbursed $70.
There are also specific guidelines to follow, such as with disciplinary measures, for federal inmates, he said.