Washington County Sheriff announces suspension of 287(g) program

Washington County Detention Center

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has ended its participation in the federal 287(g) immigration program.

The office has participated in 287(g) since 2007, and is due for a contract renewal on April 30, but Sheriff Tim Helder said Thursday that concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak have led to a suspension of the program.

“I continue to believe it is a good program for the citizens of Washington County, but because of these unprecedented times, and the amount of time and energy we currently have dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have decided to suspend, indefinitely, our participation in the program,” said Helder in a statement. “Once everything settles down, and our community returns to some sort of normalcy, my staff and I will re-evaluate.”

The office is one of three agencies in Arkansas that participate in the voluntary program, which creates partnerships between federal and local law enforcement agencies to identify and potentially deport detainees who are undocumented immigrants.

Helder also listed a series of virus-related changes the office has made:

  • The office’s community service program was suspended
  • Out-of-custody arraignments were suspended
  • Out-of-state extraditions were suspended
  • Out-of-custody felony citations were authorized
  • On-site visitations were suspended
  • Ankle monitors were utilized for approximately 75 detainees
  • In-person contact between attorneys and detainee was restricted to video technology
  • In-custody court hearings are also utilizing video technology
  • Isolation housing was established for new detainee intakes
  • Ingress/egress from the facility was restricted
  • All personnel, including employees, vendors, visitors, etc. must now follow CDC/ADH screening guidelines when accessing the facility
  • All employees must now wear cotton masks while working in the detention facility and when around detainees, as well as when social distancing around other employees is not possible