Hudson and Union counties enter into agreement for prisoner reentry

The program will offset the cost of Hudson County exiting its contract with ICE

The facility in Kearny is currently home to approximately 40 ICE detainees.
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The facility in Kearny is currently home to approximately 40 ICE detainees.

The Hudson County Board of Commissioners has adopted an agreement with Union County to accept prisoners into its reentry program. The Union County Board of Commissioners approved the same resolution on Sept. 23.

Substance abuse and reentry services

The agreement, which goes into affect on Oct. 1, will provide residential substance abuse treatment and reentry services to inmates from Union County.

“We’re pleased to enter this agreement with Union County,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. “Our Corrections & Rehabilitation Center will provide state-leading, innovative substance abuse treatment and community reintegration services for those entrusted to us by Union County. I want to thank Chairman Mirabella and the Union County Board of Commissioners for their vote of confidence in our facility. This is the future for HCC&R—one focused on offering a progressive treatment and reintegration-based approach to reducing recidivism throughout the region.”

“Union County has been pursuing opportunities to reduce incarceration, prevent recidivism, and help individuals in the criminal justice system find a secure economic and social footing in their community,” said Union County Commissioner Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “The new agreement with Hudson County builds on that commitment by allying our efforts with a top-rated program.”

A $7 million grant from the state covers the cost of the program.

‘Progressive’ future for county jail?

The agreement with Hudson County will involve the transfer of Union County inmates currently housed at the Delaney Hall facility in Essex County.

Union County will pay $104 per day for each inmate for the first two years, $105 for the third and fourth years, and $106 for the fifth year. Union County must pay Hudson County for at least 40 inmates per day, even if there are less than that number at the jail. Hudson County will house approximately 80 inmates per year, which will yield approximately $3 million per year.

The Hudson County Division of Reentry runs the only county-based residential substance abuse treatment program certified by the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addictions Services. The program is designed to address housing and other barriers to reentry along with direct clinical care and includes a pre-release program coordinated with welfare benefits, housing, and followup care with appropriate medication.

Post-ICE, the way forward for the county jail is to function as a “progressive regional drug treatment and community integration center,” according to county spokesperson Jim Kennelly.

ICE contract put on ice

This comes after the announcement that the county would cancel its contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ceasing the housing of ICE detainees as of Nov. 1.

While the facility held upward of 600 ICE detainees a few years ago, the number has dropped. The pandemic sped that up, as more detainees were released to mitigate the spread of the virus. Now only 40 or so ICE detainees are currently housed at the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny.

Under the terms of the contract, the county is paid $120 per detainee per day by ICE. When the contract ends, the revenue formerly generated by the ICE detainees will be offset by the reentry program, as well as other federal and state prisoners.

The ICE detainees housed in Hudson County will go to other ICE-contracted facilities. Staffing at the jail will not be affected by the decision “at this time,” according to Kennelly.

Hot and then cold

The move to end the contract is a huge reversal from just months ago, when the Hudson County Board of Commissioners voted to renew the contract for 10 years.

The county faced pressure from activists and residents at commissioners meetings to cancel the contract due to inhumane conditions at the facility.

After its renewal, the opposition did not cease, culminating in protests outside the homes of county officials. Officials responded with restraining orders against protesters after consecutive nights of demonstrations.

The decision to end the contract comes after Gov. Phil Murphy signed new legislation banning jails in the state from entering into new contracts with ICE. While the bill does not affect current contracts, such as Hudson’s, it was a signal that opposition to ICE contracts extends from the streets to the highest level of the New Jersey state government.

Hudson County was one of the last two counties in the state with ICE contracts, with Bergen County now being the last.

Opposition continues

And while the county is exiting the contract, those who oppose ICE have called for the release, not transfer of the detainees.

“ICE enforcement and detention is racist, unnecessary, and dangerous. It tears families apart, inflicts lifelong trauma, deprives people of basic human rights and needs, and it kills,” said the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project in a joint statement. “The end of this contract represents an important first step, but a true victory will result in ending ICE detention nationwide… We ask that the Hudson County Freeholders, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and other officials join us in our call to demand that immigrants currently detained at Hudson are not transferred to yet another dangerous ICE facility elsewhere in the country, but released to their families and homes to fight their immigration cases.”

On Sept. 23, protesters gathered outside U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s office in Jersey City, demanding that the detainees be released.

“We want people to be released into their communities,” said John Moscow of the Northern New Jersey Sanctuary Coalition. “This has to stop.”

Recently, Menendez joined U.S. Sen. Cory Booker in penning a letter to the Acting Director of ICE, asking to release some ICE detainees and to stop the transfer of people detained in New Jersey to out of the state.

“As ICE begins planning for a potential future without immigration detention facilities located in New Jersey, we encourage you to prioritize the release of detained individuals who do not meet the immigration enforcement and removal priorities,” they wrote.

However, some called for further action, such as the support of legislation currently before Congress that would ban mandatory detention by ICE.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.