The April 21, 2014, Arizona Republic editorial, “Pinal County holds losing hand vs. ICE,” had omitted key facts and distorted others. Let’s start at the beginning. Former County Manager Stan Griffis, who subsequently spent time in prison on unrelated charges, agreed to the original contract with ICE. At the time, a cost-benefit analysis was not performed. Last year, an internal audit discovered the County was losing about $2.6 million annually on the contract.
The County Board of Supervisors, County Manager and Sheriff agreed to renegotiate the contract. An outside firm was brought in to cost out the contract’s real requirements. ICE agreed to meet and renegotiate, and received approval to do so despite the sequestration in place at the federal government.
The initial proposal by the County called for an increase in the per diem rate from $59 to $79, an increase of 34%, not the 50% cited by the Arizona Republic.
Subsequent counterproposals by ICE called for a staffing increase of 52 by the PCSO Detention Facility. A County counteroffer brought down the staff increase to 14. Additional ICE “preferred” contract provisions increased the cost. As the provisions were “preferred,” PCSO countered with proposed deviations from ICE’s “preferred” provisions, which is part of normal negotiations. The Arizona Republic omitted these facts.
Because ICE will not guarantee a minimum number of detainee beds, the County had only history and current ICE policy on which to calculate per diem pricing. Again, the Arizona Republic omitted these facts.
As a result of the County protecting itself and its taxpayers, the last proposal submitted to ICE calls for a per diem of $87.96, based on ICE “preferred” provisions and an absence of a minimum bed guarantee. This per diem rate is 47% over the existing one, not the 50% cited by the Arizona Republic.
It is perfectly appropriate for the County and ICE to renegotiate the contract. Businesses do so every day. In this case, it should have been done long ago. The Arizona Republic’s view is that ICE “has all the leverage.” PCSO also has “leverage.” PCSO has the facilities ICE uses. The relationship between ICE and PCSO operation personnel is good. ICE Contracting Officers and Specialists, not operational personnel, are conducting contract negotiations. The Arizona Republic editorial omitted this fact.
The Arizona Republic editorial implied that ICE was reducing the average detainee population by 35% during the first four months of the year as a result of contract negotiations. In reality, ICE detainee levels are down due to the Obama administration’s “catch and release” program at the border. The Arizona Republic editorial omitted this fact.
In fact, last Friday (4/18/2014) ICE sent 42 detainees to the PCSO Detention facility and telephoned later to say another 81 detainees were on the way. This influx of detainees shows that both PCSO and ICE have need of the other. The ICE facility is a quarter mile up the road from the PCSO Detention Facility. Convenience translates into effectiveness and efficiency.
The Republic editorial also managed to report that two watchdog groups labeled the Pinal County Jail as among the worst immigration-detentions facilities in the country. The watchdog groups were anonymous. This was a cheap shot. The Arizona Republic should identify the so-called watchdog groups. If it cannot or will not name the groups, omit the slam. It begs the question about so-called journalistic ethics at the newspaper.
In fact, the PCSO Jail has achieved Level 1 100% compliance with Arizona Jail Guidelines (based on Constitutional and statutory requirements), National Institute of Jail Operations (NIJO) and the National Sheriffs Association. Another fact omitted by the Arizona Republic.
One thing worse than sloppy and inaccurate reporting is sloppy and inaccurate editorials. The Arizona Republic can have its own opinion but not its own set of facts.