By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The City Council unanimously approved to amend and extend the contract with Calhoun County to house and transport Dearborn misdemeanor prisoners only, and end the city’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees.
Councilman Robert Abraham was absent from the Oct. 8 meeting.
The contract is valid through June 30, 2022, and has a limit of $778,000.
“Dearborn will no longer be taking prisoners in as an exchange program as has been done in the past,” Council President Susan Dabaja said. “Calhoun County has been proving services since 1999. Again these are for housing misdemeanor prisoners who have been sentenced by our 19th District Court.”
During the Aug. 20 council meeting, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. withdrew the resolution to extend the contract with Calhoun County for sentenced prisoner housing and transportation. The agreement would’ve been for the 2020 fiscal year and for an amount not to exceed $250,000.
“The mayor withdrew the recommendation for the renewal of the contract with Calhoun County to house the city of Dearborn’s misdemeanor prisoners for extended sentences in light of concerns about the portion of the contract that called for Dearborn to continue to house Calhoun County’s ICE prisoners for very short-term stays,” Dearborn Public Information Director Mary Laundroche said in an August statement.
Protests against the contract renewal that included the ICE exchange program were held Aug. 13 and 20 outside the Police Department and Henry Ford Centennial Library.
At the same Aug. 20 council meeting, a contract extension with the Wayne County Jail in an amount not to exceed $250,000 for fiscal year 2020 to house misdemeanor prisoners was approved.
For the 2020 fiscal year, the rate per prisoner, per day paid by Dearborn will remain unchanged as it has been for several years at $49.66 with an increase in 2021 to $51.65 and to $53.20 in 2022.
Councilman Michael Sareini was concerned about the 9 percent increase in price over the last two years of the contract.
Purchasing Manager Travis Grubb said the increase in price is a result of dropping the ICE prisoners from the agreement.
“Calhoun County was able to offset some of its costs with their agreement with ICE which helped offset our costs,” he said.
Sareini said he understood the new contract agreement as Dearborn would get a credit for letting Calhoun County house its prisoners at the Dearborn jail while the same prisoners are going to the local courts.
“Calhoun County was able to bill ICE for the transportation costs when they picked up and dropped off inmates in Dearborn,” Grubb said. “Secondly, the fee structure with ICE is more than the per diem rate fee with the city of Dearborn so when we house their detainees they netted additional revenue based on that. Now that is no longer part of this agreement. That isn’t an option anymore.”
In response Sareini said, “It’s an increase because of the loss of revenue that they were going to receive that we thought we were getting a credit for. Is that correct?”
Grubb said that was correct.
As the discussion continued, Sareini said the information on the city losing not only $80,000 in revenue but also increasing its expense should’ve been provided when the contract was brought forward at the Committee of the Whole meeting earlier.
He also asked why the contract was a three-year deal.
“The idea was to establish fixed pricing for the three-year term,” Grubb said. “The pricing, even with the increase after the couple years, is still competitive in this market — we did a market analysis.”
When speaking about housing prisoners at Calhoun County or Wayne County Jail, Sareini said someone told him it was the court’s discretion, while the court said it was a police issue where the prisoners stay.
“If one of our judges has someone breaking into a home and says, ‘I’m sentencing you to 90 days in jail,’ and they go to Wayne County, they have the ability to release early based on overcrowding,” he said. “So, some of the judges can indicate they want them to go to Calhoun County so they’ll serve every single day. I see a benefit for our residents there, but that is only if the judge says it on the record.”
Councilman David Bazzy said that when the mayor pulled the resolution in August there wasn’t a vote or council discussion and now they had to decide on the current contract presented to them.
Bazzy said the contact is a deal with Calhoun County, where repeat offenders get sentenced to and serve long-term sentences compared to Wayne County Jail where offenders are back on the streets in 48 hours because of overcrowding.
“They’re not worried about the guys that are breaking into homes or cars here because those offenders are minor in comparison to everything that’s filling the county jail right now,” Bazzy said. “Calhoun County is the best destination for the safety of the Dearborn residents, so the guy that does the breaking and entering doesn’t show up 48 hours later next door or back to finish what he started.”
Dabaja said when the council discussed the new contract there was an understanding there was going to be an increase and at the Committee of the Whole meeting they knew there was an incremental increase.
She added that she understood Sareini’s frustration about getting an email indicating why the increase was there, but that council members have full-time jobs and cannot always read every email the day of a meeting. She said the information should’ve been sent earlier.
“I would be in favor with moving forward with this tonight because I’m going to take your word on it, Travis, and you’re going to give us the market study,” Dabaja said. “This is competitive rates compared to other counties and if Wayne County is cheaper I still think it’s worth paying a little bit more to make sure those sentences are served if the judges themselves deem them more appropriate.”
Dearborn resident Ken Paris said he researched 10 years, starting in 2010 through information and city council meeting minutes available to him as a taxpayer.
“Go back over the past 10 years we have saved at least $544,000 by the agreement with ICE, and that is on average the last 10 years back to 2010 anyways, that we housed approximately 1,000 ICE prisoners — detainees for a day or two in the Dearborn city lockup,” he said.
Paris also cited the city charter when speaking about public safety in Dearborn.
“Duties and responsibilities of this city council or the mayor and administration is public safety,” he said. “This contract is part of public safety, you know releasing or having other arrangements elsewhere. Also, your responsibility is to budget and you’re losing out on a lot of money as a result of this but there are a lot of other factors that are involved.”
To watch the city council meetings go to www.cityofdearborn.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])