Two Bridges Regional Jail – now without its largest contributing county, Waldo – is considering other options to fill space. Among them is working with the federal government to accept Immigration and Customs Enforcement inmates already adjudicated and waiting for deportation.
Authority Chair Peter Lepari said the jail is willing to talk to ICE about holding inmates pending deportation, but the authority has decided against accepting “detainers." A detainer is an immigration hold document, a written request that a jail or other law enforcement agency detain someone for another 48 hours after his or her release date to provide ICE agents extra time to decide whether or not to take the person into federal custody for deportation. ICE also refers to the people incarcerated under such a hold as “detainers."
The problem with the request, as far as the authority is concerned, is that people could be held without due process who shouldn’t be held – people with a similar name to a suspected immigration violator, for instance. According to Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry’s 2017 open letter to the state on behalf of the Maine Sheriffs Association, in places that accept detainers, the 48 hour-limit has stretched into weeks as ICE officials are also stretched thin; that can leave local jails and law enforcement liable for damages, since federal courts found in 2017 that municipalities do not have to honor ICE requests for immigration holds under the Fourth and Tenth Amendments If they choose to, they are responsible for any fallout from that decision. For example, a jail in California that held a detainer for six weeks after the immigration hold expired was found liable for $145,000 in damages.
Merry’s letter was in response to then-Gov. Paul LePage ordering sheriffs to cooperate with ICE.
TBRJ decided it would accept ICE inmates only if the person had already been before a judge and was scheduled for deportation. Other Maine jails, including Cumberland County Jail, said they would hold a detainer only if a warrant was issued.
ICE does not have its own detention facility in Maine.
Col. James Bailey confirmed, Enzo Recovery is already working in the jail and the Medication Assisted Treatment pilot program will begin Aug. 1 with 16 inmates. Bailey said he met with the Governor’s Opioid Response chief, Gordon Smith, who spoke favorably about TBRJ's space set aside as a MAT unit. He is not certain what Smith will report to Gov. Janet Mills, but he said he hopes to hear from Smith or Mills soon.
Besides potential revenue from MAT and ICE, TBRJ will likely keep inmates from Penobscot and Oxford counties for at least the next couple of years. Other counties may also join in, Bailey said. Commissioner Hamilton Meserve said the counties must take another look at funding streams. Merry said Sagadahoc was required to spend more for the jail. Lincoln County was not required to spend more.
Bailey said a hydraulic oil leak due to a recycling truck mishap has been cleaned up; and the parking lot needs repair due to a sink hole.