Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton submitted an unfunded budget request totaling more than $7.4 million this summer. In response, the Travis County Commissioners Court asked him to put the request in priority order. Those priorities totaled $1.8 million dollars, and included things such as more mental health counselors at the jail, and other staff as well as license plate readers, fingerprint technology, and other upgrades.
Sheriff Hamilton and his top officers testified about the need for this budget increase — for a budget that already totals more than $153 million — on Wednesday August 13, where he was met with more than 30 people protesting his continued compliance with the federal mass deportation program.
Missing from the discussion were the millions of dollars the Travis County Sheriff's Office is spending by detaining immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement through the "Secure Communities" program.
Today we released a report showing that the Travis County Sheriff's Office has spent more than $3.8 million in the last two years holding people in the jail for ICE.
What we found is that individuals in the county jail spend substantially longer time in custody if they have an ICE detainer than those individuals booked into the county jail without ICE detainers on charges of the same classification and degree. Therefore, ICE detainers have resulted in tens of thousands of additional jail days at the Travis County Jail — 78,846 days. That's why voluntary compliance with ICE detainers has cost Travis County taxpayers at least $3.8 and as much as $7.3 million dollars over the last two years.
Our conclusion is that:
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office could easily afford these priority budget items by ending the use of ICE detainers and redirecting the enormous expenses currently incurred by complying with ICE detainers.
For a break down of the cost and extra jail days, read the full report here (PDF).
The Travis County Commissioners Court will finalize their budget next month. And when it comes to the Sheriff's Office, there are still major cuts to be made to the sheriff's budget.