Franklin County shuts ICE detention center


April 28, 2021
CommonWealth Magazine
By Sarah Betancourt

Says closure was a financial, not a political, decision

THE FRANKLIN COUNTY Sheriff’s office shut down its detention center for immigrants, saying the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was not steering enough detainees its way.

The 80-bed facility at the Greenfield jail dropped from an average of 65 immigrant detainees to an average of 20 in the past couple of years. On the final day of the contract, the facility held only nine detainees.

“More than a year ago, Sheriff [Christopher] Donelan called ICE and both parties agreed that a minimum of 30 detainees was needed to keep the contract going,” said a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “ICE has not met that threshold.”

The spokesman said the decision to shut down the facility was “financial, not political.”The shutdown means ICE has only two detention centers left in Massachusetts – in Bristol and Plymouth counties. An ICE detention center at the Suffolk County Jail closed in 2019. The centers house immigrants facing criminal charges and/or deportation proceedings. Those without papers are also held at the facilities.

A spokesman for ICE in New England declined to comment on specifics of the agreement termination, but said the final nine detainees were transferred to a Plymouth correctional facility, which is almost 130 miles away from Greenfield.

Mario Paredes, a staff attorney for Prisoners’ Legal Services who worked with the detainees in Franklin County, said the transfer was disruptive because video visitations with family members are not available in Plymouth.

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