No federal contracts at Mohave County Jail

July 6, 2018

La Paz County’s jail has seen an approximately $1 million surge in revenues for housing outside inmates – most of them illegal immigrants.

La Paz County Sherriff Bill Risen says the federal authorities are choosing to house illegal immigrants in Arizona because of California’s sanctuary laws, which limits how state and local law enforcement agencies cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters.

The big paydays – such as the $10,000 per day received by the county for housing 149 federal inmates in late-June – have contributed to La Paz County Jail District’s $1.17 million in actual revenues during the 2017-18 fiscal year, which exceeded its budgeted revenues of $81,000 for the year.

The same cannot be said for Mohave County’s jail, however, as securing federal contracts are not high on management’s list of priorities.

“The Mohave County Jail currently is not providing any contract housing for federal or other agencies other than the immigration detainer process which many other Arizona Counties have in place,” wrote Don Bischoff, the jail’s captain, in an email. “Historically, the Sheriff’s Office has avoided entering into ederal contracts with the mindset that our primary goal would be to keep jail beds available for the local needs of our county before we contracted out bed space.”

Keeping beds available for local needs has become increasingly important for the Mohave County jail as its inmate population has experienced a steady increase last year, some days reaching more than 600 inmates, stated Bischoff.

“As the population goes up it becomes increasingly more challenging to safety and appropriately housing these inmates,” he said. “Not everybody gets along, not everybody can be housed together…so when we have fewer and fewer beds because we’re filing them up with somebody else then it becomes more difficult to put everybody where they need to be to keep them safe.”

Bischoff added that that jail’s number of employees also needed to be taken into account before taking in more inmates.

In addition to not receiving revenues from federal agencies for housing inmates, Mohave County does not receive money for working with immigration officials during the detainer process.

Detainers are requests issued to local authorities by immigration officials to hold non-citizens for 48 hours after their release date. At any time, the Mohave County jail commonly has between six and eight pre-trial detainees who have an immigration-related detainer in place, according to Bischoff.

The La Paz County jail, however, was created to house inmates from outside entities as a way to generate revenue for the county, officials said.

“La Paz County is in a good position to do what they’re doing (and) obviously it’s working in their advantage but their situation is such that they can safely take on and contract out those beds and still allow themselves some breathing room; we don’t feel that we’re in that position,” said Bischoff.

According to Bischoff, Mohave County’s jail does make some revenue from its inmate telephone system and commissary but that the funding is used “for the enhancement of the jail.” For example, he said, the county used some of the funding to replace old television sets.