View Full Version : Article: Border Patrol boosts Hancock jail

01-19-2005, 01:56 PM

Posted on Wed, Jan. 19, 2005

County gets $20 per day, per prisoner


HANCOCK COUNTY - Illegal immigrants arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol are held for several days before being deported, providing a revenue stream for the Hancock County Justice Facility.

The county receives $20 per day, per inmate, for housing prisoners for the Border Patrol. With a daily cost of $3.40, for three meals and orange prison garments, the jail makes $16.60 a day on each inmate.

Last year, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 1.15 million illegal aliens. While the national numbers are on the rise, the local figures are declining.

Last year in South Mississippi, agents apprehended 178 people trying to sneak through the ports of Pascagoula, Gulfport and Port Bienville. That's a dramatic decline from 2001, when 685 illegal aliens were apprehended locally.

Bill Botts, the agent in charge of the Gulfport Border Patrol, agreed that a relatively low cost of living in South Mississippi is attractive to illegal immigrants, but he said the availability of jobs is the largest magnet.

"With the exception of a small percentage of illegal aliens who are actually here for criminal purposes," Botts said, "most of them are just here looking for work."

The Hancock County Justice Facility houses an average of 20 Border Patrol prisoners daily, but occasionally, the county will log as many as 30 new inmates at one time.

The rent the Border Patrol pays adds up fast - more than $120,000 a year - and the money goes back into the jail's annual budget.

"That money is used for things in the jail," Sheriff Steve Garber said. "If we need to repair or purchase something, then the money is there for when things come up and it's money the taxpayers don't have to spend."

Immigration prisoners are kept away from the jail's general population, and warden Naomi Childress said Border Patrol inmates usually keep to themselves.

"They don't really cause too many problems at all," Childress said. "They know that they're only here for a short time."

Border Patrol prisoners are held in Hancock County for two or three days before being transported to New Orleans, put on an airplane and deported.

Most of the illegal immigrants apprehended at local ports are members of international ship crews, who don't have visas, and others are stowaways on larger vessels. Botts said most of the crewmembers carry visas, but those who don't are not allowed off the ships.

The Border Patrol relies on Hancock County for the majority of its cases, but when space becomes an issue, the agency will also use jails in Harrison and Jackson counties.