Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Wednesday he is terminating the county’s agreement with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to house federal detainees in the jails, saying he needs the space to accommodate growing numbers of inmates with mental health issues.
“Since 2015, we have seen a 40 percent increase in open mental health cases in our jails,” Barnes said. “The number of mental health cases now reach almost 1,800 on any given day. Consequently, we must focus on enhancing our mental health services and expanding the number of beds available for individuals with mental health needs.”
Barnes said the sheriff’s department will be upgrading three housing modules in the Intake Release Center to accommodate inmates with mental-health needs. The department will also add cells and restrooms that meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The upgrades are expected to add about “500 behavioral health beds allowing for the security, care and treatment of male and female inmates.”
He said ending the agreement with ICE will help free up staffing and space in the jail system. That agreement had been set to expire in July 2020, but it gives the county the ability to end the pact early.
“Once formally terminated, ICE has 120 days to transfer the detainees to other facilities,” according to the sheriff’s department. “Unfortunately, based on statutory language within SB 54, those individuals housed on behalf of ICE will most likely be transferred outside of California, separating them from family members who reside within this state.”
Barnes insisted the move “will not impact public safety.”
“OCSD will continue to work with ICE within the confines of SB 54 to ensure they are alerted to the release of serious and violent offenders within our custody who have ICE detainers,” according to the sheriff’s department.