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Santa Ana rents more jail beds to US Marshals after ICE cancels contract

The majority of the inmates held at the Santa Ana city jail, which was built in the mid-1990s, are from federal agencies that the city contracts with, including about 180 immigration detainees. May 18, 2016
Erika Aguilar/KPCC
The Santa Ana Jail stopped holding federal immigrant detainees in May 2017, leaving a large budget deficit. The city plans to expand its contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to help close the gap. File photo taken May 18, 2016.

Santa Ana will expand its contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to house inmates, helping the city ease a budget deficit resulting from the cancellation of the city’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The Marshals Service, the enforcement arm of the federal court system, will use an additional 173 beds in the Santa Ana Jail, on top of the 75 or so beds it already uses.

The deal, plus revenue from an unexpected increase in inmates allowed under the current Marshals contract, will reduce the city’s budget deficit this year from $9.3 million to $4 million, according to Interim City Manager Cynthia Kurtz. 

The Marshals’ expanded use of the jail is expected to last at least two years, while L.A.’s Metropolitan Detention Center undergoes renovation. 

Santa Ana's budget took a hit when Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave notice in February that it was ending its 11-year contract with the city. The cancellation came after the city, under pressure from pro-immigrant activists, announced its intention to phase out the contract.

The ICE arrangement brought in $11 million to the city last year, although revenue over the years varied. Federal agencies pay Santa Ana a daily rate of $105 per inmate.  

Earlier this year, the city hired an outside contractor to study options for the jail’s future, including converting it into something other than a detention center, such as a school or mental health center. Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez recently said she’d like to see it used as a data center for local government and small businesses. 

Interim City Manager Kurtz said the Marshals contract would buy the city time to do a thorough study of options.  

"We thought we were going to be operating at such a big deficit when the ICE contract left, and so we were eager to move into the next use as quickly as possible,” she said. "We’re delighted to have the possibility of having some more time, and being more thoughtful."

The city still owes about $21 million for the jail’s construction.