Last year California lawmakers passed legislation that limits communication between local law enforcement agencies and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials. Recently, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department made national headlines by attempting to bypass that law by publicly posting the release date of inmates online. It’s a practice that Fresno County has been using for years.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office made the information public to help ICE agents know when undocumented immigrants would be released from jail. It’s a workaround to Senate Bill 54, sometimes called the “sanctuary state” law.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims runs the Fresno County Jail and also posts inmate release information on the web for anyone to use, including ICE agents.
“They know when a person's release date comes up,” says Mims. “They start releasing people between seven and eight o'clock in the morning so that's when they show up to take someone into custody.”
The sheriff’s website includes information both on expected release dates for prisoners and actual releases. Mims says posting the data online is actually a big help to her staff.
“All of that is public information, so we ended up with a whole lot of calls of people wanting to know if someone was in custody, what their release date was, what their charges were, what their bail was,” says Mims. “So this allows us to give that information where somebody can search without calling. And it really frees up a lot of our staff time.”
Mims says she supports the move by Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to implement a similar program.
“I think we have to keep figuring out ways to do our jobs. Our job is to keep our community safe,” says Mims.