Crime & Justice

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens offers OC jail cells to immigration officials

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Orange County has a glut of empty jail cells. Immigration detention facilities are bursting at the seams. Orange County’s Sheriff is trying to make a deal with immigration officials in Washington to solve both problems.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens says ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — doesn’t have enough beds in Southern California to house the people it’s detained for immigration violations. She says ICE spends a lot of money flying detainees out of state.

The sheriff’s been meeting with ICE officials, offering a less expensive solution: put them in Orange County jail cells. "Our population is down right now," she says, "so we have bed space available. We have 24/7 medical on site, which they’re very interested in. We have room for female detainees."

Hutchens says if she doesn’t get the ICE contract, she’ll have to lay off guards.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants those jail beds, too.

Inmates with less than a year to serve are kept in county jails. To reduce overcrowding in state prisons, Governor Schwarzenegger wants to send the counties inmates with sentences of less than two years. But Sheriff Hutchens says the Governor’s proposal doesn’t include any extra cash for counties.