Kankakee County is bringing its budget closer to balance with a lot of help from federal inmate revenue.
Much of this money comes from the jailing of immigrants accused of crossing the border illegally.
The federal inmate money more than covers the costs of housing federal detainees, meaning the county has millions of extra dollars to pay for other county functions.
At Tuesday’s county board meeting, two residents spoke out against the use of county jails for jailing immigrants.
“I’m here to say no to the for-profit jail,” Kankakee resident Alex Quezada said. “For-profit jails are not to restore human beings to society. They are here to make money. Right now, they are using the immigrant community to make this profit. When they are done taking all the undocumented people, they’ll be after your children and grandchildren.”
Quezada belongs to Kankakee CONNECT, which opposes the county’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Another resident, Jim Duggan, said people are crossing the border out of desperation.
“We label refugees as criminals,” he said, adding the county wants the federal business to balance its budget.
He wondered whether county board members had met with refugees in the jail and asked why they decided to come to the U.S.
Sheriff Mike Downey, who runs the jails, said at a recent meeting that he met with Connect members some time ago and offered to give them a jail tour, but they have not accepted yet.
The sheriff takes issue with labeling the jails’ revenue as profits, noting the county, as a government entity, is a nonprofit organization.
In July, the county received $972,000 in inmate revenue, the most in nine years of county records.