Howard County, Maryland, will now only hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees convicted of violent crimes at its detention center in Jessup.
Under a revised policy, the Howard County Department of Corrections will “still accept ICE detainees who have been convicted of a crime of violence as defined in Md. Criminal Law Code Annotated section 14-101,” according to a county news release.
The move comes following an effort to lower the prisoner population during the coronavirus pandemic, as detainees in Jessup under the contract with ICE generally were convicted of or charged with serious crimes.
Under the previous policy, the county’s department of corrections could house ICE detainees who have been charged with or convicted of offenses for which they could be jailed.
The county said the list of violent crimes includes murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and “more serious assaults and sexual offenses.”
“I believe these revised criteria address some concerns raised by members of the community, while still addressing public safety issues caused by violent offenders,” said Jack Kavanagh, director of Howard County’s Department of Corrections.
“I thank County Executive (Calvin) Ball for his ongoing involvement as well as those who helped move this forward,” Kavanagh said.
Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA of Maryland, applauded the move.
“We claim victory for everyone who banded together to fight for immigrant families in Howard County: now, this county, which has long been recognized as a place where diversity is embraced and celebrated, can truly live up to its reputation,” Torres said.
“These policy changes mean that people won’t be detained just for being immigrants. Howard County is in line with other counties that welcome immigrants,” said Torres.
The county said it “continuously reviews its policies to address any community concerns and issues, including the contract with ICE and Detention Center Policy & Procedure C-205.”
Zainab Chaudry, director of CAIR’s Maryland office, was pleased with the policy update.
“This policy will establish and preserve trust in policing, demonstrate local government’s commitment to public safety for all its county’s residents, and reassure immigrant communities that they too are welcome here,” Chaudry said.
WTOP has reached out to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Baltimore field office for comment.
In a separate development, Howard County Council member Liz Walsh prefiled legislation earlier this month to end the county’s 25-year contract with ICE.