When Louisiana enacted criminal justice reform, fewer people filled the state’s prisons and rural economies dependent on those prisons began to falter.
But in stepped Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help fill the void, according to The Associated Press, providing thousands of migrants for Louisiana’s prisons.
Sheriff Cranford Jordan told the AP that schools, lumber and the prisons supply the areas three biggest job engines, and ICE’s contracts with eight facilities in the state have been a “blessing” of jobs and funding.
According to ICE, about 8,000 migrants are currently detained in Louisiana out of the 51,000 in detention across the country. The migrants are held in facilities, which include old state prisons and local jails, far away from major cities like New Orleans.
Immigration advocates say this makes it exceedingly difficult for migrants to obtain legal assistance to plead their cases in court — but locals are thankful for the economic boost.
“Local officials have signed contracts that guarantee millions in payments to the local government, the state, and a private prison company based in Louisiana, while still allowing ICE to detain people at a daily cost well below its national average,” the AP reported.
At the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, run by private prison company LaSalle Corrections, employee wages have risen from $10 per hour to $18.50 since ICE came to town.
Rather than the medium-security inmates from the past, Winn now holds about 1,500 migrants.
Jordan told the AP that a decline in the prison population would likely lead to the prison shutting down — and devastation for the local community.
“It would be devastating,” he said. “You’d see people moving, bankruptcy. It would be like an automobile plant closing.”
Considering that migrant detention is up under President Donald Trump, the people of Winnfield will likely rest easy for at least the next few years.
ICE signed a five-year contract with LaSalle Corrections in May to use Winn for detaining migrants, with the option to extend the contract another five years.