River Correctional on Hwy. 15 at Ferriday is housing approximately 510 asylum-seekers and others detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Space is available locally and statewide due to the decline in the number of state inmates during the past two years, the result of an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.
The Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office made agreements with ICE to house detainees in River Correctional, which is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private and for-profit operation. A similar agreement was made between the company and the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office, according to The Advocate in Baton Rouge.
The newspaper reported on May 9 that ICE has contracts to house ICE detainees at the following locations in addition to Ferriday: Plain Dealing, 250; Richwood, 1,000; Jonesboro, 1,000; Jena, 1,160; Alexandria, 400; Oberlin, 50 and Pine Prairie, 1,094.
In its May 9 edition, The Advocate wrote that the number of inmates in local jails from October 2017 to December 2018 dropped to 2,692 statewide. But ICE plans to fill those empty cells with 2,790 detainees.
Kevin Sumrall, a development executive with River Correctional, said Tuesday that approximately 150 ICE detainees were initially transported to the facility in February with approximately 510 housed there now.
He said the peak number would be approximately 535.
The detainees “come from various countries” but mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. He said detainees were transported to River Correctional from California, Texas, Arizona as well as other parts of the country.
“It’s just another part of our business,” Sumrall said. “We get different types of inmates all the time.”
He said the approximately 95 employees at the facility have benefited from the influx of federal prisoners. A corrections officer now starts out at $18 an hour rather than $10.
The Advocate reported that the “sudden surge of ICE detainees headed to local Louisiana jails comes amid a federal immigration crackdown under President Donald Trump, who has pushed zero-tolerance policies towards those living in the country illegally and ramped up deportations.
“The Trump administration has also moved to keep nearly everyone seeking asylum in the U.S. locked up in detention centers as their applications move through backlogged immigration courts – even as the number of new asylum-seekers has spiked.”
The Advocate reported that ICE pays Louisiana jails $65 a day per bed on average, compared to $24.39 paid by the Department of Corrections.