ICE Taser policy will not affect local jail ops
September 6, 2007
SUMMIT COUNTY – A federal policy against holding suspected illegal immigrants in county jails that use Tasers won’t affect the Summit County Jail even though its employees are armed with the electric stun guns.Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ended a contract with the Garfield County Jail last month because it uses Tasers in its operations. An ICE representative did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story, but told the Glenwood Post Independent last week that ICE has very specific detention standards, including not contracting with facilities that use Tasers.The Summit County Jail does not contract with ICE for detention purposes, but does holds suspected illegal immigrants who are arrested for local crimes while they await sentencing, per state law, said Summit County Sheriff John Minor. After any local cases are closed, ICE picks up the immigrants and transports them to another facility for a deportation hearing.Contract facilities are used to hold detainees picked up by ICE agents for immigration violations.Minor said he wouldn’t consider signing a contract with ICE under the current circumstances.”If we were an ICE contract facility, they would require me to tell my deputies they can’t have Tasers. My response is, ‘Have a nice day, just don’t have it here,'” Minor said.Summit County Jail deputies were first armed with Tasers about three years ago and use the non-lethal weapons as a tool to de-escalate situations at the jail, such as unruly or violent inmates. Most of the time, the threat of a Taser shock is enough for an inmate to calm down, Minor said.Minor said a contract with ICE could net the county about $162,000 a year considering a charge of $45 per day to house inmates for the federal agency, but to him, the money isn’t worth being told how to run his jail from bureaucrats in Washington D.C.”I figure if it’s good enough for an American citizen to get Tased, it’s good enough for an illegal alien to get Tased if they get out of line,” Minor said.Minor said he also doesn’t agree with an ICE policy against contracting with jails that allow inmates to sleep on mattresses on the floor during overcrowding situations at the jail.Most of the county sheriffs in Colorado share the same sentiments as Minor, said Don Christensen, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado.”These jails are not torture chambers. They protect the civil rights of people. It’s hypocrisy to have them dictated (to) from Washington. They won’t do it,” Christensen said.Christensen said ICE has made other rules in the past, such as not contracting with jail facilities that use canines to regain control among rioting inmates, and many sheriffs feel the multiple restrictions aren’t worth the effort of segregating suspected illegal immigrants to abide by federal rules.Christensen did not know how many Colorado jails contract with ICE, or the number that have lost their contracts with ICE due to the Taser policy, but said it’s almost universal that sheriffs will not contract with ICE because of the restrictions.The association meets next Thursday and will discuss its formal position on the ICE policy at that time, Christensen said.Minor said he has suggested that the association pen a letter to the head of ICE voicing its disdain for the policy and the practice of dictating to local sheriffs how to run their facilities.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.