KANKAKEE — Kankakee County is getting more money for housing federal detainees, thanks to an increase in reimbursements.

Because of a rate increase from the federal government, the county is averaging $5,000 more per day, Sheriff Mike Downey told a county oversight committee this week. If the current trend continues, the hike amounts to about $150,000 more per month or $1.8 million per year.

The county houses people for the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Before the rate increase, the county was getting upward of $1 million per month from the federal government.

In 2004, the county’s first contract with the U.S. Marshals Service called for giving the county $60 per day for each inmate. That number increased to $72 in 2008 and then to $80 in 2013.

Since March 1, the $10 per-inmate rate increase has pushed the daily total to $90 per day.

If the hikes only kept up with inflation, the county would get about $80 per day.

The federal money has been a key to helping the county make ends meet in the last few years.

‘LEGITIMATE FELONIES’

In another development, Downey reported that two-thirds of immigrant detainees taken to the Kankakee County jail last month were sent there for criminal offenses.

At the oversight committee meeting, the sheriff said the proportion of immigrant detainees who have criminal histories has ranged between 60 percent and 90 percent. Thus far this July, it’s 72 percent.

Downey noted there is a dispute with immigrant advocates regarding what constitutes a criminal offense in ICE’s eyes.

“The majority of all of them are legitimate felonies. There are some DUIs,” he said.

Even though DUI typically is a misdemeanor, Downey said, it’s still a serious crime that can result in death.

“You can call it a misdemeanor, but it becomes serious when someone hits you,” the sheriff said.

As for those immigrants in the jail for illegal entry, Downey said, “If you cross the border and get deported and come back again, that’s an automatic deportation. Those are Washington, D.C.’s, rules.”

Immigrant advocates have questioned how the federal government counts those with criminal histories, contending that ICE mixes noncriminals in the group with criminal histories.

They maintain that ICE classifies those who have been arrested but never convicted as having criminal histories.

The local jail recently stopped accepting inmates from Cook County because the local inmate number increased. The county’s priority, as the sheriff points out, is to house local inmates.

‘BENEFICIAL FOR US’

On another issue, County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, asked the sheriff who is responsible for taking juvenile inmates to a youth jail in Will County.

By law, the sheriff said, it is the job of each police department to drive their suspects to jail. But he said it’s better if the sheriff’s corrections department makes such transports.

“Our mentality for 30 years is that it has been beneficial for us,” he said. “You’re better off to have police officers on the street rather than transporting a juvenile to Will County.”

Wheeler said he would rather have another patrol deputy on the road in the county than going to Will County.

Downey assured him that jail employees handle 95 percent of juvenile trips, and patrol deputies take care of the rest.

A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.

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