Worst Financial Decision in Pinal County History
In 2004, the Pinal County Jail held an average of 600 to 700 inmates in a facility which was originally built to only hold 472. Then, Sheriff Roger Vanderpool worked with the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to expand the jail. County Supervisors at the time agreed with Sheriff Vanderpool’s plan to offset construction costs by housing ICE detainees. The jail expansion project expanded the jail to hold 1,499 inmates/detainees.
In 2006, a contract was signed by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement Detention Removal Operations (ICE DRO) to hold an average of 625 detainees per day. ICE DRO agreed to pay $59.64 per day for each detainee who was placed in the jail.
In January of 2013, Pinal County Internal Audit completed an analysis of the contract and determined the County was losing $2 million dollars each year. At that time, Sheriff Babeu pointed out that the auditors were using old ICE population numbers which skewed the audit and the revenue was much higher using the current population averages.
The Board of Supervisors at the advice of then County Manager Fritz Behring attempted to negotiate a new contract rate of $87 per day. Due to the Federal Government Sequestration the negotiations took longer than they wanted.
Sheriff Babeu asked the Board of Supervisors to do a staffing study of the jail before any attempt to cancel the ICE contract as our staffing levels could not return to pre ICE standards. The Board of Supervisors refused and County Manager Fritz Behring at the direction of the Board of Supervisors sent ICE a “100 day contract cancelation notice.”
Per U.S. Senator Jeff Flake’s Office, when ICE received the 100 day notice they ended the negotiations process.
After the ICE Contract was cancelled, the BoS had a staffing study completed by an independent company they hired. The staffing study and County Manager Stanley confirmed the jail could not return to pre ICE Contract staffing numbers and in the end 113 jail employees were laid off. The plan also only cut $7.2 million from the jails budget.
Since 2009 the County received an average of $10,975,441 per year from ICE. During 2013 which was the last full year of the ICE contract they received $11,669,758 and in 2012 they received $11,744,308.
The 100 day cancellation notice was the worst financial decision in Pinal County history. The County now has over $4 million dollars of lost revenue they would still be receiving had they not sent the 100 day notice to cancel the ICE Contract. The cancellation also resulted in 113 positions largely worked by residents residing in Pinal, that will no longer be filled.