Franklin County Jail: Illegal immigrant costs plummet

PASCO, Wash. -- KEPR is following up on a story we first brought you last year -- the sizable bill to house illegal immigrants in jail. Now we learned you're paying much less. And the number of prisoners is also down.

It's a shocking figure. You paid $750,000 a year to cover room and board and three-squares a day for people who aren't even supposed to be in the country.

And that's just the cost to house illegal immigrants at the Franklin County Jail. This past year, that number plummeted -- to a little more than 300,000.

Captain Rick Long is modest about the savings.

"The best that we can figure is better community policing, we've got individuals being removed from the community quicker," said Franklin County Corrections Captain Rick Long.

These figures reflect people who committed crimes -- they weren't picked up just for their citizenship status. Fewer illegal immigrants are also ending up in jail. Last year, an average of 37 inmates were housed per day. Now, that's cut in half -- to just 16 every day.

REPORTER: Do you really think we have a more law-abiding community in that case?
Captain Long: "Well, I'd like to think we could get that way. I believe that there's been notable changes and work going on in the Tri-Cities that for gang abatement."

Although the cost for housing illegal immigrants may be down there's another expense to consider. As of a couple years ago, federal government now requires jails to pay for ICE holds once their sentence is complete.

The jail is required to hold people for two-days beyond the end of their sentence until immigration officers pick them up. And local taxpayers foot those costs.

The feds are trying to help. If a young offender was picked up for petty charges -- they might not go through the deportation process. But deportation remains still a strong deterrent for people who may commit a crime.

"They don't want to go to jail. If they go to jail, now they're going to end up with a detainer from the ICE agency. And so they're doing everything they can to keep that from happening," explained Captain Long.

Which creates a savings for our community -- and a safer one as well.

There were 431 prisoners at the Franklin County jail who were in the country illegally from October of 2011 to this September.

The going rate of housing any prisoner is $51 per day.