September 24, 2020

Media Contact:

Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

Updated policy defines that only ICE detainees convicted of a crime of violence will be accepted at the Howard County Detention Center

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Effective today, the Howard County Department of Corrections will be applying an updated policy to only hold ICE detainees at the Howard County Detention Center who have been convicted of a crime of violence as defined in Md. Criminal Law Code Annotated section 14-101. Under the previous policy, the Department of Corrections can house ICE detainees who have been charged with or convicted of jailable offenses. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep the jail population low, the detainees in the Detention Center under the contract with ICE generally have been convicted of or charged with serious crimes. The Howard County Department of Corrections is adopting this policy that was implemented during the pandemic.

“I believe these revised criteria address some concerns raised by members of the community, while still addressing public safety issues caused by violent offenders,” said Jack Kavanagh, Department of Correction Director. “I thank County Executive Ball for his on-going involvement as well as those who helped move this forward.”

Under the new policy, the Howard County Department of Corrections will still accept ICE detainees who have been convicted of a crime of violence as defined in Md. Criminal Law Code Annotated section 14-101. The list of violent crimes included in the statute has been defined by the Maryland General Assembly and examples of such crimes include murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and more serious assaults and sexual offenses. This revision significantly differs from Council Bill 51, which was introduced on September 8th. If enacted, CB-51 would effectively prohibit the County from housing any person who is in federal custody in the Detention Center under the contract with ICE.

To address community concerns and misinformation, the Office of County Executive began meeting with CASA and other advocacy groups in November of last year. As a result of those meetings and Howard County's commitment to ongoing transparency, Director Kavanaugh led a tour of the detention center with the Office of Law, CASA, interfaith leaders, advocates and local immigration attorneys. Howard County continuously reviews its policies to address any community concerns and issues, including the contract with ICE and Detention Center Policy & Procedure C-205.

“We claim victory for everyone who banded together to fight for immigrant families in Howard County: now, this county, which has long been recognized as a place where diversity is embraced and celebrated, can truly live up to its reputation,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA. “These policy changes mean that people won’t be detained just for being immigrants. Howard County is in line with other counties that welcome immigrants.”

“County Executive Calvin Ball has demonstrated that he is on the right side of history,” said Zainab Chaudry, Director of CAIR’s office in Maryland. “This policy will establish and preserve trust in policing, demonstrate local government’s commitment to public safety for all its county’s residents, and reassure immigrant communities that they too are welcome here. We thank him for his leadership and encourage other counties across the state to also adopt similar policies.”

Howard County does not currently participate and has never participated in the 287(g) program like in Cecil, Frederick, and Harford counties during over 25 years of this contract, we agree that the way immigration has been weaponized at the federal level in recent years is troubling and unacceptable. Moreover, the Howard County Detention Center does not and never has housed women or children. Additionally, Howard County Police are not involved in any way with transporting ICE detainees in custody or to the Detention Center. ICE agents make the arrests, process all intakes at their Baltimore field office, and then use a private contractor to transport detainees to the Howard County Detention Center. 

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