Suffolk County Sheriff's Department axes relationship with ICE

Suffolk County Sheriff's Department axes relationship with ICE

Police search a jail van near the entrance to John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse during the first day of the sentencing phase of the Boston Marathon Bomber Trial on April 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass.

BOSTON — As they shift their focus to improving rehabilitative services for women in the House of Correction, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department has terminated their relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Starting this week, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department will begin receiving pretiral and sentenced women from sheriff's offices in Essex, Norfolk and Plymouth counties.

The new agreement aims to "achieve greater regionalization and delivery of critical services for what has become the fastest-growing incarcerated population in the country".

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The department says they are intensifying their focus on providing care, custody and rehabilitative services to the incarcerated population.

Recent reports show that, while there has been an overall decline in prison populations across the country, the number of incarcerated women or those involved in the criminal justice system has soared.

The decision comes due to the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department's ability to provide unique care for this demographic with it's sepcialized, gender-sensitive programs, including the CREW program (Community Re-Entry for Women), which has been nationally acclaimed.

Women sent to the House of Correction are immediately placed in the Women's Program Services.

In response to the announcement, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins said:

"We are ending our contract with ICE to reallocate our resources towards helping local women to address long-standing issues that have contributed to their involvement in the criminal justice system. Our gender-specific programming, which is among the best in the country, allows us to address these issues, which include domestic violence, sexual exploitation and substance use disorders, to name a few. We take pride in the services that we have been able to provide to ICE detainees, but we are elated about this new opportunity to expand our services across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to reach more women with our dedicated programming so that we can begin to work on their recovery, address some the issues that first led them into the system, and return them to society better able to care for themselves and their families."

ICE, which first signed its contract with the Department back in 2003, will be completing its relocation of detainees from the House of Correction by mid-December.

In a response to the announcement made by the department today, the ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose today released the following statement:

"This decision presents an opportunity for ICE to release needlessly-detained people who want nothing more than to return to their families and to their communities. Given the Trump administration's xenophobic, anti-immigrant track record, it is more than understandable that any law enforcement agency would sever its relationship with ICE. However, it would be a disservice to Massachusetts families if this decision resulted in the creation of new detention space or a shuffling of custodial powers that resulted in detained people lacking access to family and legal representation. Now more than ever, Massachusetts residents should demand our leaders—particularly our legislature and Governor—stand up against the Trump Administration's cruel, anti-immigrant agenda and pass sensible measures such as the Safe Communities Act and the Work and Family Mobility Act (also known as the Driver's License bill) in order to keep families together and communities safe."