Jefferson County leaders got some good news when the county’s jail was medically cleared to begin housing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees.
The county lost its contract with ICE in December because of medical staffing issues. The move set the county scrambling to cut expenses because ICE detainees were expected to bring in $3 million in revenue this year.
More than two dozen layoffs followed and the county had to rework its budget less than a month into the fiscal year.
Although the county will not get back the money it lost, it will begin generating revenue once ICE detainees are back at the county jail.
“We’re hoping in the next week or two that we’ll start seeing those detainees come back, but there’s no guarantee when or how many,” Jefferson County Board Chairman Robert White said.
But in Illinois, every silver lining is surrounded by a gray cloud.
The county plans to rehire 12 to 20 corrections officers laid off because of budget cuts.
Paying for the guards is going to be a problem. White said it would take “every bit of three months of consistent revenue, if not longer.”
White said the county would explore its options to bridge the gap until the additional staff could be self-sustaining.
“We’ve got some flexibility and we’re working on that,” White said. “At this point there’s no clear path.”
Jefferson County Board committees meet the second week of May. The board’s next meeting is May 20.
White said a special meeting may be called to authorize addition funds for the sheriff’s office if ICE detainees, who could number more than 100, are back in the jail before then.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s a step toward getting out,” White said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Roger Mulch did not respond to interview requests.
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