The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office is looking to spend nearly $2 million next year to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, according to a presentation made to a county budget review committee Monday.
The Sheriff’s Office was one of several departments which presented their 2020 business plans to the citizens budget review committee. There wasn’t much mention of the 287(g) program — the presentation instead focused heavily on the 95 new positions, including 79 sworn deputies, that Sheriff Butch Conway wants in the budget — but a few slides did show it will continue to have a presence in Gwinnett next year.
One of the slides, which outlined the areas of the Sheriff’s Office’s proposed $104.9 million 2020 operating budget showed Conway is planning to spend $1.94 million on participation the 287(g) program next year. After the presentation ended, Chief Deputy Bill Walsh said the money covered the salaries and benefits for about 18 deputies at the jail who deal with 287(g) cases.
“That’s salaries for the deputies and it’s really important to state that they’re deputies assigned to 287(g), that does not preclude them from doing other jobs within the facility, providing security and assisting in admissions,” Walsh said. “Their primary duty is (287(g)) but they’re still a deputy sheriff and if they’re asked to, they can perform other duties.”
The fact that the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office participates in the 287(g) program, where inmates who are not U.S. citizens are held for ICE officials, has stirred controversy this year, particularly as protestors and representatives of Hispanic and Asian community groups have gotten up at Board of Commissioners meetings and called on the governing board to put an end to the Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the program.
Commissioners have previously said that while they can set the amount of money allocated to Conway’s office in the county’s annual budget, the fact that the office of sheriff is a constitutional office in Georgia means they do not have the ability to tell him how he can spend the money he receives in the budget.
While the commissioners have, in the past, voted on renewing participation in 287(g) as a formality, Conway opted to forgo that route and renewed it himself earlier this year.
While 287(g) was listed a couple of times in the PowerPoint presentation for the Sheriff’s Office business plan, the discussion on the office’s participation in the program did not really come up until budget review committee member and Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Santiago Marquez asked Walsh about it during a question and answer portion of the presentation.
“How can we demystify 287(g) or educate the public (about it)?” Marquez asked. “I know in our community, I’ll just speak on what I know in the Hispanic community, I take a lot of flack for not being up here protesting.”
Walsh said, “This is something Sheriff Conway, and the Sheriff’s Office sees as being able to make the community safer. No one who is brought to our facility is brought there because they were walking down the street and we checked to see whether they were here legally or not. That’s one thing that’s really important.”
Sheriff also seeking 95 new positionsWhile 287(g) is the hot topic surrounding the Sheriff’s Office these days, there are plenty of big requests that can be found in the Sheriff’s Office budget proposal for 2020.
A big highlight of the business plan presentation was the request for 79 sworn deputies, which make up the bulk of the 95 new sworn and non-sworn positions that the Sheriff’s Office is asking for in its budget decision packages. Walsh said the new positions would be phased in through the year.
One of the reasons for some of the positions is that county is preparing to open an expansion of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which will require the hiring of additional deputies to staff new courtrooms and security screening areas.
“Twenty-nine of them will not be hired until October, which will defer a large amount of that cost from the citizens,” Walsh said. “For us, getting people trained and doing it as cost efficiently as possible and in time for the new courts, it should work out pretty well.”
The business plan presentation showed a request for 35 master deputy positions in the courts. Twenty-two of which would provide courtroom security at GJAC expansion, while another three would be at the courthouse annex in Lawrenceville and four more would be assigned to the older portion of GJAC.
Another six would handle security screening duties at court facilities. There was also a lieutenant, who wouldn’t start until October, requested to go with those deputies.
There are another 28 master deputy positions being sought for the jail facilities, including two for the jail courts, 12 for the housing units, eight to handle blood draws because of changes in Georgia’s DUI laws, five for hospital security and medical transport, one for the GRIP program. A sergeant position was also requested to oversee hospital security and medical transports.
A third request is for 10 master deputies to handle warrants, the sex offender registry and family violence issues. That request also includes two corporals and one sergeant.
There is also a request for a master deputy who would be assigned to the training academy.
Non-sworn — i.e., non-deputy — positions that the Sheriff’s Office is asking for include two sheriff’s processioning associates, two trades technicians, one ASA jail maintenance employee, two building services associates, one ASA civil unit employee, five senior cooks, one ASA GRIP and one warehouse technician.
In all, the Sheriff’s Office is asking for nearly $5.59 million in budget requests for new personnel, according to the business plan presentation.