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Sheriff: County owed money
Federal program allows reimbursement for housing illegal alien criminals

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway says his department is entitled to more than half a million dollars in reimbursement under a federal program that allows jails to recoup officer salary costs associated with housing undocumented criminal aliens.

Under the Criminal Alien Assistance Program, the sheriff's department has filed for $694,839 in officer salary compensation based on 149 undocumented alien inmates incarcerated at the jail from 2006-07 who met certain legal parameters. For the jail to be eligible for the reimbursement, undocumented inmates must have been detained at least four consecutive days with at least one felony or two misdemeanor convictions.

All told, the 149 inmates logged 22,932 days at the Gwinnett County Jail, according to the sheriff's department. The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, allows a $30.30 per diem rate for housing illegal immigrants.

Conway said in a statement his department may not recover the entire amount because of limited program funding, but "will aggressively seek reimbursement in any area that we are entitled to receive it."

Salary information provided by jails must reflect the total salaries and wages paid to full- and part-time correctional officers during the reporting period of July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, according to the program's guidelines.

The number of foreign nationals being booked into the county jail continues to climb, sheriff's department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said, citing that not all foreign-born inmates were in the country illegally. Since January, the jail has booked 3,802 foreign nationals, a year-to-date increase of 9 percent.

Conway applied earlier this year to join the federal 287(g) program administered by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Through the program, Conway has proposed 18 deputies be trained to check the immigration status of all inmates booked into the county jail. The deputies would be allowed to begin deportation paperwork for those in the country illegally. Earlier this month, commissioners approved $2.1 million for the program, which could begin as early as October but hinges on hiring enough deputies to relieve overcrowding in the jail.

Staff Writer Camie Young contributed to this article.