Two years after ending a contract in 2018 to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office was criticized Tuesday for posting the names of jail prisoners scheduled for imminent release online.
That public notice, critics said, has allowed ICE officials to apprehend some people outside the Richmond jail upon their release, if they are undocumented or have other immigration issues.
Some critics Tuesday told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors they see even this level of communication between the Sheriff and ICE as too much, and called for eliminating the practice of putting those names where ICE officials can see them. Megan Watson of Antioch asked the supervisors why there is any level of "collaboration" between Contra Costa County and ICE.
Sheriff David Livingston told the supervisors the names of people leaving jail are posted largely to alert people connected with those inmates' crimes -- serious felony crimes -- of their impending release. That practice, Livingston said, began after the ICE contracts ended, and he said he believed he was legally required to provide that information.
Livingston said his department is working on a more targeted system that doesn't include ICE on such notifications. That system could take up to two years to start up. In the interim, he said, the Internet postings could go away, replaced by emails sent to people who have a direct interest in someone's release from prison.
Tuesday's discussion by supervisors of ICE-related matters came as part of a periodic public "TRUTH Forum," called for under the state's 2016 Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act, applying to law enforcement agencies that have any of several types of contact with ICE.
Livingston said his department does respond to some ICE requests for referrals about jail prisoners serving time for serious felonies, including crimes from carjacking to murder. In 2019, Livingston's department got 495 requests for such referrals; it granted 129 of them (33 of them regarding one inmate).
The Sheriff defended such referrals of undocumented felons.
"The notion that they should not be referred ... defeats basic notions of public safety, and I won't go along with that," Livingston said.
Melanie Kim, an attorney with the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance, told the supervisors Tuesday that even the diminished relationship between the Sheriff and ICE is "alarming," and called for an end to online publishing of inmate release dates, and to any working relationship with ICE.
"Any collaboration with ICE is purely voluntary," Kim said.
Tuesday's forum included several commenters who implored the supervisors to "defund" the Sheriff's Department and to close the county's Juvenile Hall in Martinez. On Monday, protesters at Juvenile Hall blasted that facility as a "youth prison." Those protesters, and several commenters Tuesday morning, encouraged the county to instead fund the Oren Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility near Byron in far eastern Contra Costa. Also known as Byron Boys Ranch, youths live, attend classes and get counseling at the facility.