Detainees Busted Prince William Jail Budget

Detainees Busted Pr. William Jail Budget
Immigration Agency Pays $800,000 Difference

By Kristen Mack
The Washington Post, August 6, 2008; B08

Prince William County's jail spent nearly $800,000 more than expected to hold suspected illegal immigrants during the last budget year, officials revealed yesterday.

'Resources needed to support the program were estimated or unfunded due to the uncertainty of the size, impact or cost of the program,' said Col. Peter A. Meletis, jail superintendent, who added that projected revenue was 'equally uncertain.'

The 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement officials to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in processing illegal immigrants, consumed significantly more jail resources than anticipated, Meletis said.

When the county got involved last year, it wasn't sure how long it would have to house suspects.

Federal immigration officials were taking weeks, not the agreed-upon 72 hours, to pick up suspected illegal immigrants, which led to crowding at the jail.

The cost to house detainees exceeded the budget by $413,000. Other higher-than-expected costs included nearly $130,000 in unbudgeted overtime and $179,000 in medical and drug costs.

ICE has reimbursed the county for all of the additional expenses. The Board of County Supervisors voted at its weekly meeting yesterday — the last one before a month-long recess — to apply the roughly $800,000 to the shortfall in the 2008 budget, which ended June 30.

Prince William spent the money expecting to be repaid, County Executive Craig S. Gerhart said.

This comes after the board nearly cleaned out its contingency reserves earlier this year, when it transferred close to $800,000 to pay for the start-up cost of the crackdown on illegal immigrants.

'We knew this was going to be expensive when we did it,' Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries) said.

The Adult Detention Center budget was $32.9 million last fiscal year. Its adopted budget this year is $39.7 million, a 20 percent increase.

The average daily inmate population at the jail was 981 during the last budget year. The cost to house and feed an inmate was $97.52 a day, an increase of $2.17 from 2007.

Prince William's 287(g) agreement has been in place since July 2007.