Updated: The Essex County Board of Freeholders voted 7-0 to approve the resolution. Leonard Luciano abstained and Robert Mercado was absent.
The Essex County Board of Freeholders will again consider a resolution on Wednesday asking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release non-violent detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility.
Freeholder Vice President Wayne Richardson is also proposing a resolution to abolish private prisons in New Jersey, a move that could signal an intent by some county officials to close the Delaney Hall Detention Facility in Newark that currently houses ICE detainees.
Delaney Hall is owned by The Geo Group, a publicly-traded company that invests in prisons and mental health facilities. More than half their income comes from public contracts.
Essex currently has about 400 ICE detainees, some of whom have already tested positive for COVID-19.
“The release of the ICE detainees being held will certainly reduce the risk of the virus spreading between inmates and guards, and will reduce the risk of ECCF staff members spreading it to our communities outside of the jail when they leave the facility,” Gill’s resolution states. “Alternatives to incarceration can be employed to monitor non-violent offenders while they await trial for civil offenses and those alternatives, such as electronic bracelet monitors, are not only cheaper but they will help save lives.”
The move to release ICE detainees was initiated last month by Freeholder President Brendan Gill, along with Freeholder Rufus Johnson and Richardson.
The board voted on May 27 to table the resolution, added to the agenda the night before, o allow for further review.
Since then, Freeholders Patricia Sebold and Carlos Pomares have signed on as sponsors.
While the resolution is non-binding and simply calls on ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to release the detainees, it stops short of seeking to terminate Essex County’s contract with ICE.
Essex had 53,373 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning, and 1,719 deaths.
The Essex correctional facility hold about 1,500 inmates.