A proposed plan would expand Clay County’s jail to house both inmates and immigrant detainees

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A Guard with the GEO Group, Inc., uses an electronic device to log his visual inspections of cells in a special housing unit during a media tour of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in Tacoma, Wash. The GEO Group is the private company that operates the center for the U.S. Government. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

CLAY CO, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A possible expansion to the Clay County Jail is in the works as officials say they need more space to house both detainees and inmates. But, the plan comes to the displeasure of some advocates.

On Thursday, members of Mariposa Legal and Cosecha Indiana gathered outside of Clay County’s courthouse in protest of President Joe Biden’s policy on immigrant detention centers.

Ultimately, protestors said they want Immigrations Customs Enforcement, or ICE, out of Indiana. Currently, the county is under contract with the federal agency.

A proposed plan would expand Clay County’s Justice Center by a pod that will contain 250-275 beds. It would house both inmates and detainees. Commissioner Marty Heffner said this is needed due to overcrowding.

“It makes our jail, our county jail a financial asset instead of a financial liability,” Heffner said. “We are very fortunate our jail brings in money. With a new building, we will have 30-35 new jobs.”

He added that by state standards, the jail is nearing capacity.

“By not complying and extending our jail we risk losing that ICE contract,” Heffner stated. “We are very fortunate to have that here.”

If the pod were to be built, those occupying the jail would be moved immediately so renovations could begin on the old structure.

Opposing the proposal is Hannah Cartwright, Co-Founder of Mariposa. Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly, is a advocate immigrant legal team from Indiana. Cartwright said the proposal is financially motivated and could lead to expansion of ICE enforcement.

“Which effectively means we’re making profit off of bodies,” she said. “If Clay County wants to be in the business of making profits off of bodies, maybe that’s a choice they want to make. I think the community in Brazil and communities in other states should have a say in what happens.”

Commissioner Heffner described the jail as a short stay facility with detainees stays ranging from 30-60 days.

“What I think people don’t know is who is at the jail,” he said. “It’s not just people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, these are hardened criminals that are awaiting a court date.”

However, Romelia Salano, Co-Founder of Mariposa, said she disagrees with Heffner’s statements. She continued by saying more attention needs to be given to the conditions of detention centers.

“It doesn’t matter necessarily what individuals are being held for,” Solano said. “What we know and what we’ve seen at the borders is that the patterns of abuse happening there are happening at detention facilities, like Clay County.”

A vote on the jail’s expansion is expected to be in October.

Original story:

BRAZIL, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Over 20 town halls will be held across the country Thursday as a part of the Detention Watch Network’s call to “#FreeThemAll,” including one meeting at 7 p.m. at the Clay County Courthouse in Brazil, Ind.

This advocacy effort, according to a Facebook post, is a recognition of President Joe Biden’s actions regarding ICE detention centers and immigration in the US. The groups participating in the town halls, including the one in Brazil, are allegedly calling on Biden to immediately take action to shut down all detention centers.

Another concern for the group, according to the post, is the alleged contract the State of Indiana has with ICE.

In addition to holding the town hall, leaders from the group also organized a rapid series of Tweets, or a tweetstorm, directed towards legal representatives. Volunteers also participated in phone banking for the Detention Watch Center.

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