By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
On a day Grand Island was pelted with sleet, community leaders battled a difference kind of ICE. Immigration and Customs Enforcement numbers are down, but Hall County jail officials may have a solution.
Numbers at the Hall County Jail are down, in large part because they haven't seen as many immigration detainees as in the past.
But state prisons are at 148 percent of capacity, more than they were built for.
So Hall County leaders say why not hold state inmates in the local jail, where they have room to spare?
Hall County Supervisor Gary Quandt said, "I think it would be a win-win for the county, a win-win for the state. Sooner or later they're going to have to look at the possibility of another penitentiary."
Hall County Corrections Director Fred Ruiz has already met with state officials, including Director Robert Houston who was receptive to the idea.
But there's a catch.
"He did tell us there was no appropriations in his budget until the next cycle two years down the road," Ruiz said of his conversation with Houston.
A spokeswoman for the state says it would be at least a year and a half before they could make such an arrangement.
Hall County believes it, along with Omaha's jail would be at the top of the list because they will likely be the first two to comply with new federal standards.
And they're two counties hurting from the loss of federal prisoners.
Ruiz said, "Douglas County's in the same boat we are. They have ICE detainees as well and they would like to see revenue as well."
The spokeswoman for the state said they're going to update their master plan in the next few years and make projections for how many inmates they can expect.
Once they've made those calculations, they may consider a deal to house some inmates in local jails.