CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Al Cannon Detention Center needs to fill about 85 detention officer positions to be fully staffed, according to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Al Cannon said his goal is to reduce the jail population by 25% to cut down on the overtime burden those vacancies create, and part of that reduction will come from ICE detainees.
While nothing has been finalized just yet, Cannon said the detention center will stop taking in ICE detainees that are not arrested in South Carolina.
“They are distributing detainees all over the country, and we’ve been one of the ones that said we would accept some of them,” Cannon said. “We are going to tell ICE that, for the time being, we are going to not take those extra. We are going to take the ones here locally and maybe the ones from around the state.”
This update follows what US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox called a surge in border arrivals last year. The Al Cannon Detention Center became a staging center in 2018 for ICE to temporarily hold people awaiting initial hearings. However, the sheriff’s office has been working with ICE to hold detainees arrested in our state since 2009.
“A lot of them entered in California or Texas. They have no idea what the process is. They just know they came to this country seeking asylum, seeking help, and now they are in jail,” said Atenus Burrola, the co-founder of Mi Maletin.
The non-profit organization has been offering legal support to ICE detainees at Al Cannon Detention Center since early January.
“As long as folks are allowed to come that way, you can’t make heads or tells,” Cannon said. “You can’t adequately devote the time to consider asylum claims when you’ve got those kinds of pressures on you.”
Cannon said the change will take some pressure off the detention center officers who have been required to work mandatory overtime to compensate for the officer vacancies.
In 2016, Al Cannon Detention Center found itself in a similar situation when hundreds of Haitian immigrants were transferred to the Charleston County jail to be temporarily held before they were deported.
As of March 5th, 2019, the detention center was holding 274 ICE detainees from various countries.