Franklin County closes ICE detention center


May 3, 2021
Greenfield Recorder
By Domenic Poli

GREENFIELD — The Franklin County Jail and House of Correction has closed its immigration detention center, saying the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has not maintained the threshold agreed upon to financially justify keeping it open.

Sheriff Christopher Donelan said he leased to ICE one of his four 80-bed facilities, but the average number of immigrant detainees has dropped from 65 to roughly 20 in the past few years. Historically, the number had been 70 to 75 at any one time. The nine detainees remaining when the facility shut down a couple of weeks ago were taken to the Plymouth County Correctional Facility about 135 miles away.

Donelan explained the decision was a financially driven one, not a political one.

“We had an entire housing unit committed to this,” he said, elaborating that this entails food, security and medical services. “Over the course of time, those numbers (of detainees) were continually dwindling.”

The sheriff said he and officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ICE Boston Field Office in Burlington agreed to a minimum of 30 immigration detainees to keep the facility open.

“And they never kept that threshold,” Donelan said.

He said his jail had an eight- or nine-year contract with ICE that required at least 30 days’ notice if the decision was made to close the facility. Donelan said he called one morning late last month and an ICE van was in Greenfield to retrieve the detainees that afternoon. He said the detainees, most of whom are from Latin America, have cases active in court.

Donelan said there are various factors that drove down the number of immigration detainees in Greenfield. He speculates one reason is that the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, a private, for-profit correctional facility in Central Falls, R.I., was pushing during the Trump administration for more detainees to be sent there. A request for comment from the facility was not returned by press time.

Donelan said the closure means there is one fewer responsibility for his department.

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