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City and County Contracts With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Local Governments Must Improve Oversight to Address Health and Safety Concerns and Cost Overruns

Report Number: 2018-117

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Cities Have Not Ensured That Their Private Operators Are Providing for the Health and Safety of Detainees

Key Points:

Cities Have Not Exercised Appropriate Contract Oversight of Private Operators

The cities of Adelanto, McFarland, and Holtville entered into contracts with ICE to house detainees (ICE contracts). Specifically, these cities agreed to provide detainees with housing, safekeeping, subsistence, and medical and other services on behalf of ICE. Each of these three cities subcontracted with private operators that manage and operate private detention facilities to fulfill nearly all of the cities’ obligations under the ICE contracts (detention subcontracts). However, Adelanto, McFarland, and Holtville perform little or no oversight of their private operators’ efforts to fulfill those obligations to ICE. Essentially, the cities act as pass‑through entities between ICE and the private operators by paying the same amount to the private operators as the cities receive from ICE, as we depict in Figure 3. This lack of oversight is of concern given the serious health and safety issues reported in federal inspections, which we discuss later.

Figure 3
Cities Do Not Adequately Oversee Their Private Operators Housing ICE Detainees

Figure 3 is a a flow chart showing that cities do not adequately oversee their private operators housing ICE detainees.

Source: Cities’ ICE contracts, detention subcontracts, national detention standards, and federal inspection reports.

* ICE may also pay cities for related services such as detainee transportation, guard services, and a work program.

The ICE contracts require that the three private detention facilities are used exclusively to house ICE detainees. Adelanto and McFarland subcontract with the GEO Group, Inc. (GEO), which manages and operates both the Adelanto Detention Facility and the Mesa Verde Detention Facility.4 However, in December 2018, the McFarland city manager notified both ICE and GEO that the city intended to terminate its contract with ICE and its detention subcontract with GEO in 90 days. The city of Holtville has subcontracted with Imperial Valley Gateway Center, LLC (IVGC), which constructed the Imperial Regional Detention Facility and subcontracted with another private entity—Management & Training Corporation (MTC)—to manage and operate that detention facility.

The three cities’ ICE contracts are intergovernmental service agreements, or contracts between government entities. Federal law allows ICE to enter into these types of agreements with states, counties, or cities for the provision of detention services without competitive bidding. However, if ICE contracted directly with the private operators, ICE would have to comply with federal procurement rules that generally require full and open competition unless a statutory exception to the competitive process applies. ICE has asserted that federal law does not require it or the government entity that has entered into an intergovernmental service agreement with ICE to competitively award any related subcontracts. This would include the cities’ detention subcontracts with private operators.

City council documents show how the private operators worked with two of the cities to secure or amend the intergovernmental service agreements with ICE. For example, in a January 2015 memo to the city council, McFarland’s city manager explained how GEO sought out the city to enter into the contract with ICE. The memo states:

“GEO would like to enter into an Intergovernmental Service Agreement contract with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the detention and care of aliens at its Mesa Verde facility in Bakersfield. GEO cannot enter into an [intergovernmental service agreement] with a federal government on its own. An [intergovernmental service agreement] can only be entered into with another government authority. Mesa Verde is located on South Union, in the City of Bakersfield. Since the prison is in the City of Bakersfield, GEO first approached the City of Bakersfield to partner with them on [the intergovernmental service agreement]. The City of Bakersfield declined to be a partner. GEO then asked the City of McFarland to partner with them.”

A similar situation occurred in Adelanto. In a May 2014 memo to the city council, the Adelanto city manager at the time explained that GEO negotiated with ICE to amend Adelanto’s ICE contract to house additional detainees at the Adelanto Detention Facility.

Under the terms of the detention subcontracts, each of the cities passed millions of dollars of federal payments through to the private operators, as we show in Table 1. The ICE contracts establish a fixed bed‑day rate—a per‑diem payment rate that is based on the costs associated with the ICE contracts. The ICE contracts state that ICE will only make payments to the cities and that ICE will not accept invoices from, or make payments to, a subcontractor such as the private operators. According to the detention subcontracts, each city agreed to pay the private operator the same per‑diem payment rate that the city is paid under the terms of the ICE contract—essentially passing through all of the payments to the private operators, as we illustrate in Figure 3.

Table 1
ICE Payments the Cities Received and Pass Through to Private Operators in the Past Five Fiscal Years

  2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 TOTALS
City of Adelanto—
Adelanto Detention Facility
$46,188,427 $40,837,353 $60,233,519 $68,247,621 $71,326,750 $286,833,670
City of McFarland—
Mesa Verde Detention Facility
Contract in January 2015
First invoice July 2015
16,257,604 16,496,127 17,035,980 49,789,711
City of Holtville—
Imperial Regional Detention Facility
First invoice September 2014
28,826,395 38,501,062 37,977,654 38,522,801 143,827,912

Source: Review of invoices of private operators to cities, and cities to ICE.

NA = Not applicable.

For administering the ICE contracts, the private operators agreed to pay the cities various fees. Since fiscal year 2016–17, Adelanto has received about $1 million annually from GEO, which includes an administrative fee of $50,000 as well as a fee of $1 per contracted bed per day, regardless of whether the bed is occupied by a detainee or not, and approximately $339,000 annually for additional police officers to handle detention facility‑related issues within the city. According to McFarland’s detention subcontract, GEO pays the city a monthly fee of about $2,900, or about $35,000 annually, for administering the ICE contract and detention subcontract, which can be adjusted if the ICE per‑diem payment rate is adjusted. Similarly, according to Holtville’s detention subcontract, IVGC pays the city 75 cents for each detainee the city houses per day, which can amount to more than $157,000 annually.

Examples of Detention Standards Required by the Cities’ ICE Contracts

Care and Activities

Safety and Security

Justice and Order

Source: Cities’ ICE contracts and ICE’s detention standards.

However, the cities do not ensure that their private operators fulfill the cities’ obligations under the ICE contracts. The ICE contracts require that detainees are housed according to ICE’s detention standards, related to medical care, suicide prevention and intervention; access to law libraries and legal material; and telephone access. We provide examples of those standards in the text box. According to the detention subcontracts, the private operators assumed full responsibility for meeting those standards when they subcontracted with the cities. The cities have only been minimally involved in the ICE contracts. For example, the Adelanto city manager stated that the only involvement the city has with ICE or GEO is to sign monthly invoices from GEO and then to transfer to GEO the federal funds the city receives when ICE pays the invoices.

In fact, the cities do not perform contract management tasks that would help ensure that their private operators are fulfilling the terms of the ICE contracts. As we discuss in the next section, federal inspectors found significant problems at the private operators’ detention facilities, which highlights the importance of the cities improving their contract management. The California State Contracting Manual (state contracting manual) provides policies, procedures, and guidelines that cities can, but are not required to, use as best practices to promote sound business decisions and practices when contracting for services. The state contracting manual states that a contract manager, such as the city in this instance, is responsible for maintaining contract documentation and monitoring the contract to ensure compliance with all contract provisions. Yet Holtville lacked final, signed versions of its ICE contract and its contract with IVGC, and did not have a copy of IVGC’s contract with MTC—the entity actually operating the detention facility on the city’s behalf—making it difficult for the city to monitor compliance with the contracts. Additionally, according to Adelanto city staff, Adelanto generally has not kept the supporting documents that GEO provided with each invoice. Furthermore, when we attempted to gather basic information from the cities, such as the duration of detainees’ detention, demographic information of detainees housed, or information about detainees who have died while in custody, the cities did not have it.

In addition, the state contracting manual states that the contract manager should monitor progress of work to ensure that services are being performed according to the quality, quantity, objectives, time frames, and manner specified in the contract. In line with this best practice, each ICE contract requires the city to establish and maintain a quality control plan, which includes monitoring methods to ensure compliance with the detention standards. Although the private operators took on responsibility for developing this quality control plan on behalf of the cities through the detention subcontracts, the cities have not ensured that the private operators have developed and followed these plans.

None of the cities reviewed the federal inspection reports pertaining to their respective detention facilities or ensured that their subcontractors had prepared quality control plans and other documentation required by the cities’ contracts with ICE, such as complaint notifications and incident reports, which we highlight in Figure 3. These actions would help the cities ensure that their private operators are adequately performing contract responsibilities. The Holtville city manager stated that MTC verbally informs him of serious deficiencies in federal reports and any serious complaints, but he does not confirm this information by reading the reports himself. Further, although all three detention subcontracts include a provision that allows the cities to inspect the detention facilities, neither Adelanto nor McFarland regularly do so. The Holtville city manager stated that he tours the Imperial Regional Detention Facility several times a year.

Cities Must Improve Contract Management to Help Address Serious Health and Safety Issues at Their Contracted Detention Facilities

The cities have failed to ensure that their private operators are housing detainees in accordance with the detention standards required by the ICE contracts. By increasing their contract management efforts, the cities could have helped ensure that the private operators were complying with those detention standards and possibly helped to prevent, minimize, or resolve significant health and safety issues that federal inspectors identified at Adelanto Detention Facility, Mesa Verde Detention Facility, and Imperial Regional Detention Facility. For example, in May 2018, the Inspector General performed an unannounced inspection at the Adelanto Detention Facility and found a number of serious issues that violated detention standards and that represented significant threats to the safety, rights, and health of detainees.

In particular, the Inspector General said that ICE did not take seriously the recurring problem of detainees hanging bedsheets at the Adelanto Detention Facility, which is in violation of detention standards and detainees could use them to attempt suicide. The Inspector General concluded that ICE’s failure to address this matter at the Adelanto facility showed a disregard for detainee health and safety. The Inspector General also noted that in 2017 a detainee at Adelanto died at an area hospital after detention facility staff found him hanging from his bedsheets. In addition, the Inspector General stated that ICE reports documented at least three additional attempts of suicide by hanging at Adelanto Detention Facility, two of which used bedsheets.

Additionally, the Inspector General found other significant issues at the Adelanto Detention Facility. For example, also in violation of detention standards, some detainees were segregated from the general population for disciplinary reasons before they were found guilty of a prohibited act or rule violation. The Inspector General stated that violations such as this pose a significant threat to maintaining detainee rights and ensuring their mental and physical well‑being. The Inspector General also found that Adelanto Detention Facility medical providers conducted cursory walk‑throughs of detainees in segregation instead of face‑to‑face medical assessments, and the facility did not provide appropriate interpretation services for detainees, in violation of detention standards. The Inspector General noted that ICE previously identified similar problems in March 2017, but the issues still persist. Additionally, the Inspector General noted that inadequate dental care was provided to detainees, stating that no detainees had received fillings over the prior four years.

Despite the problems identified above, the Adelanto Detention Facility passed its annual compliance inspection. Specifically, in October 2018, just five months after the Inspector General’s inspection, ICE’s private inspection contractor, Nakamoto, performed an annual inspection of the Adelanto Detention Facility and reported that the facility was complying with detention standards. Furthermore, Nakamoto’s inspection report noted that ICE and facility staff had expressed concerns over the Inspector General’s characterizations of certain information, particularly the hanging bedsheets. Specifically, the Nakamoto inspectors suggested that the sheets were being used as privacy curtains or clotheslines and that there was no evidence to suggest that any privacy screen or curtain was being used for the purpose of suicide. According to Adelanto, the city was not aware of any of these inspection reports.

We also noted that federal inspections found several health and safety deficiencies at Holtville’s and McFarland’s contracted detention facilities. In particular, ICE’s Detention Oversight found that both Imperial Regional Detention Facility and Mesa Verde Detention Facility were deficient in multiple detention standards. For example, Detention Oversight stated in a December 2015 report that Imperial Regional Detention Facility did not submit to ICE all detainee grievances alleging staff misconduct, and it did not check food service line temperatures for all menu items. The Holtville city manager stated that he feels the detention facility is well run, and he is confident in MTC’s management of it. However, he did not review the inspection report.

Furthermore, according to a Detention Oversight report in January 2016, the Mesa Verde Detention Facility had multiple deficiencies. For example, its facility handbook did not include notification of all available services and programs, its process for segregating detainees was not well documented, and its staff were not properly trained in the Sexual Abuse or Assault Prevention and Intervention Program. The McFarland city manager stated that the city was not aware of this inspection report. In addition, as the Attorney General conducts his reviews of detention facilities, he might identify additional issues that the cities, through improved contract management efforts, could help ensure their private operators address.

The cities could also be subject to litigation for problems that arise at the private operators’ detention facilities. The private operators agreed to perform the cities’ contractual duties of housing detainees in accordance with detention standards when they subcontracted with the cities. In those subcontracts, the private operators agreed to indemnify and hold the cities harmless for claims arising out of the detention subcontracts by agreeing to be responsible for costs arising from litigation related to the management and operation of the facilities. Nevertheless, the cities may still be held liable for issues pertaining to the ICE contracts and detention subcontracts. In fact, the city of Adelanto has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by detainees who allege they were subjected to inhumane conditions and that they were violently attacked by GEO staff while detained at Adelanto Detention Facility. The lawsuit claims that the city is liable for the actions of its subcontractor, GEO. According to the city’s answer to the lawsuit complaint, it is not liable for any alleged acts by GEO employees. Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, it is in the best interest of each of the cities to ensure that they adequately manage their subcontractors to ensure that they house detainees in accordance with the terms of the ICE contract, including compliance with detention standards.

Finally, added scrutiny from the cities when managing these contracts is important because a separate report by the Inspector General found that ICE’s inspections—those performed by Detention Oversight and Nakamoto—and ICE’s monitoring of detention facilities do not lead to sustained compliance or systematic improvements. Specifically, according to an Inspector General report from June 2018 regarding these inspections, Nakamoto’s inspection practices are not consistently thorough and Detention Oversight’s inspections are too infrequent to ensure that the facilities implement all deficiency corrections. The Inspector General’s report also stated that ICE does not adequately follow up on identified deficiencies nor does it consistently hold facilities accountable for correcting them. The report stated that the usefulness of ICE inspections is diminished by ICE’s failure to ensure that identified deficiencies are consistently corrected. Thus, additional scrutiny from cities could help ensure that their private operators promptly correct deficiencies.



To ensure that significant health and safety problems are avoided, minimized, or at the very least addressed promptly, the Legislature should consider urgency legislation amending state law to require the cities that contract with ICE to house detainees implement oversight policies and practices that include the following:


To ensure that significant health and safety problems are avoided, minimized, or at the very least addressed promptly, by May 1,2019, the cities that contract with ICE to house detainees should implement oversight policies and practices for their private operators that include the following:

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Counties Incurred Costs for Housing Detainees or Unaccompanied Children That Exceeded Federal Payments

Key Points:

Some Counties Have Not Adequately Monitored the Financial Impact of Their ICE Contracts

Not all counties that contract with ICE consistently monitored their detainee costs during our audit period. Further, none of the counties ensured that ICE fully paid for the cost of housing detainees every year during that period, as shown in Figure 4. As described previously, three California cities agreed to provide ICE with detention services and subcontracted with private operators to provide those detention services on the cities’ behalf. Unlike these cities, the four California counties that agreed to provide ICE with detention services during the audit period—Yuba, Sacramento, Contra Costa, and Orange counties—have done so directly by making beds in their local detention facilities available for detainees. Each county’s contract establishes a per‑diem payment rate for each detainee the county houses.5

Figure 4
None of the Counties Ensured That ICE Fully Paid the Costs of Housing Detainees Each Year

Figure 4 is a small map of California highlighting four counties’ management of their ICE contracts, specifically Orange County because it has not taken appropriate action to address the financial impact of its ICE contract.

Source: County contracts with ICE, county boards of supervisors’ memos, and detainee cost analyses provided by County Sheriffs’ departments.

* ICE did not fully pay for detainee costs in fiscal year 2017–18.
In fiscal years 2016–17 and 2017–18, ICE did not fully pay for detainee costs.
The cost analysis provided by Contra Costa County did not include medical costs for detainees, which could have been significant. Therefore, we
could not determine whether ICE was fully paying for detainee costs.

Table 2 shows the annual ICE payments the counties received in exchange for housing detainees during the past five fiscal years. To establish the payment rates, the counties submitted a proposed per‑diem rate for the detention services to the federal government, a rate usually based on a statement of county costs. These cost statements have generally included direct costs such as food, clothing, and salaries for deputies who are directly involved in jail operations as well as indirect costs such as administrative support. The contracts allow counties to adjust the rates through a similar process. Therefore, to avoid spending county funds to pay for some of these costs, we expected the counties to monitor whether their actual detainee costs exceeded the per‑diem rate.

Table 2
ICE Payments the Counties Received in the Past Five Fiscal Years

  2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 TOTALS
Contra Costa County—West County Detention Facility $6,534,088 $4,208,240 $5,509,744 $6,170,828 $6,213,058 $28,635,958
Orange County—Theo Lacy Facility 29,496,343 22,830,591 31,255,980 34,550,661 37,433,648 155,567,223
James A. Musick Facility
Sacramento County—Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center 7,025,400 5,235,700 4,972,000 4,783,300 5,029,200 27,045,600
Yuba County—Yuba County Jail  5,665,116 5,329,205 5,254,003 4,675,310 5,565,940 26,489,574

Source: Review of invoices billed to ICE and revenue summaries provided by the counties.

However, the counties that we reviewed do not account for detainee‑related costs separately from inmate costs, such as by using an account designated for detainee‑related costs. While the counties did conduct some analyses to identify detainee costs, Orange County, for example, did not take appropriate action when its cost analysis showed that detainee costs per day exceeded the per‑diem payment rate it was receiving from ICE. Orange County also did not consistently monitor detainee costs since entering its contract. Orange County has conducted only two detainee cost studies, one for fiscal year 2010–11 and the other for fiscal year 2017–18. These studies identified detainee costs at its Theo Lacy Facility and James A. Musick Facility, the two facilities that house detainees in Orange County. The county did not conduct any detainee‑specific cost analyses for fiscal years 2011–12 through 2016–17, despite renewing its contract with ICE in 2015.

The analyses it did conduct suggested that it might not be receiving all the revenue from ICE that it could, and therefore the county might be paying for some ICE detainee costs with county funds. According to the fiscal year 2010–11 cost study, the identified detainee cost per day was $118, which is the per‑diem rate that Orange County agreed to with ICE in 2010. However, for fiscal year 2017–18, Orange County found that the detainee cost per day increased to $123.75—almost $6 more than the $118 per‑diem rate that Orange County was still receiving per detainee in 2018. As shown in Figure 5, this means that Orange County’s identified costs for detainees exceeded ICE payments by approximately $1.7 million based on the average number of detainees billed to ICE per day in fiscal year 2017–18. While we are not questioning whether the contract is cost‑beneficial, Orange County could be receiving more revenue from ICE. Although Orange County’s identified costs for housing detainees have exceeded the payments from ICE, Orange County has not taken any action to formally renegotiate the contract’s per‑diem rate with ICE.

Figure 5
Orange County’s Identified Detainee Costs Exceeded ICE Payments in Fiscal Year 2017–18

Figure 5 is a graphic that shows that Orange County’s detainee costs exceeded ICE payments in fiscal year 2017–18.

Source: Average detainee cost study, Orange County’s contract with ICE, and invoices billed to ICE in fiscal year 2017–18.

When presented with this finding, the Executive Director of the Administrative Services Command for the Orange County Sheriff, the entity responsible for providing all support services for the Orange County Sheriff, including financial and administrative services, indicated that the $123.75 rate calculated for fiscal year 2017–18 considered both direct and indirect costs. He explained that the per‑diem rate agreed upon in 2010 still paid for the direct costs of detainees in 2018, but it no longer pays for all allowable indirect costs, which he asserted would be incurred regardless of whether ICE detainees are housed in Orange County.

We question this explanation because ICE allows counties to charge for both direct and indirect costs associated with housing detainees. In fact, the initial cost study for fiscal year 2010–11 that Orange County conducted for the purpose of negotiating the original per‑diem rate with ICE took into account all associated indirect costs, such as administrative support and training costs of its Custody Operations Command, which operates the county’s jail system. ICE agreed to the resulting per‑diem rate from that cost study. We question why Orange County would not request that ICE continue to pay for all of these allowable costs. If ICE no longer pays all allowable costs associated with housing ICE detainees, the county will likely have to pay for those costs with county funds.

Similar to Orange County, Yuba County and Sacramento County did not ensure that ICE paid for all allowable detainee costs each year during our audit period. However, as shown in Figure 4, both counties maintained annual data on detainee costs. Specifically, although in Yuba County over the five-year period ICE payments have exceeded costs in total, annual costs began to exceed payments in fiscal year 2017–18 by more than $780,000. In January 2018, Yuba County renegotiated the per-diem rate with ICE to reflect cost increases so that the per-diem rate would pay for current detainee expenses. In Sacramento County, total detainee costs over the five year period exceeded total ICE payments by approximately $60,000. Initially, ICE payments more than covered costs, but that trend shifted in fiscal year 2016–17 when the annual costs began to exceed ICE payments by approximately $260,000 and in fiscal year 2017–18 the difference was approximately $740,000, which eliminated any surplus from earlier years. Sacramento County did not renew its contract with ICE after it expired in 2018.

On the other hand, in Contra Costa County, the only analysis of detainee costs that the Contra Costa County Sheriff performed and documented was to estimate the financial impact of ending its agreement to provide ICE with detention services in July 2018. However, even that analysis was flawed. The Contra Costa County Sheriff compared certain budgeted expenditures associated with ICE detainees—staffing, food, clothing, and household items—with budgeted revenue from ICE. This analysis indicated that the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s budgeted revenue from ICE would exceed its estimated expenses by $3.4 million. We question this calculation because it neglected to account for the cost of medical services for detainees, which could be significant for the county. Therefore, Contra Costa County cannot know for certain that ICE paid for all allowable detainee costs. However, in July 2018, Contra Costa County notified ICE that it was terminating its agreement to provide ICE with detention services, effective November 2018.

We also reviewed how Contra Costa County and Orange County used the payments from ICE. We found that both counties deposited the payments from ICE into accounts with other revenue sources for their detention facilities, and they did not distinguish spending of ICE revenue from spending of other revenues. As a result, they did not specifically track whether they used payments from ICE to fund programs that detainees participate in or to fund other facility operations. This explains why the counties did not identify which revenue sources they used for paying any costs in excess of ICE payments. We reviewed the accounts into which these counties deposited their ICE payments (along with other revenues), and found that in fiscal year 2017–18, the counties spent more than 80 percent of the funding from those accounts on employee salaries and benefits.

We did find that Orange County tracks its medical prescription expenses for detainees separately from those for local inmates. Its ICE contract includes a not‑to‑exceed limit of $720,000 per year for medical prescriptions. Our review of Orange County’s spending on this category found it was well within this limit.

Yolo County Unnecessarily Paid Some Costs to House Unaccompanied Children

Because of cost and safety concerns stemming from housing unaccompanied children for Refugee Resettlement at the Yolo Juvenile Facility, Yolo County requested an increase in program funding and staffing. Specifically, in a May 2018 proposal to Refugee Resettlement, Yolo County indicated that the county previously had been subsidizing program costs. Yolo County’s agreement with Refugee Resettlement requires the county to submit a program budget to Refugee Resettlement for approval. According to the approved Refugee Resettlement program budgets during our audit period, while Yolo County received some funding from Refugee Resettlement for travel, supplies, and other items, the majority of the funding was for employee salaries and benefits. From fiscal years 2013–14 through 2017–18, Yolo County received between $1.2 million and $2.8 million annually. However, as detailed below, Yolo County did not include all allowable costs in its proposed program budgets.

According to the program director of the Refugee Resettlement program at Yolo Juvenile Facility (program director), the Refugee Resettlement program is meant to be entirely federally funded. Yolo County’s May 2018 proposal to Refugee Resettlement indicated that its past budgets for the program did not include all of the costs of running it and that it had substantially subsidized segments of the program. According to Yolo County, it expended county funds for services that it was unaware could have been paid for with federal funds, such as certain contractual and indirect costs, including education, medical and behavioral health services, programming, and administrative costs. For example, the Yolo County Office of Education (Office of Education) provides education services for the unaccompanied children at the Yolo Juvenile Facility. However, according to the program director, other county departments (such as the Office of Education) include those costs in their own budgets, so county personnel had previously not included them in the program budgets it submitted to Refugee Resettlement. Based on its proposal, we estimate that during fiscal year 2017–18, Yolo County might have spent approximately $700,000 just to pay for contractual and indirect costs that it previously did not include in its budget and that could have been funded by Refugee Resettlement.

Additionally, Yolo County indicated it had increasing and ongoing concerns about the danger of assaults on staff and the mental health needs of the unaccompanied children. Although Yolo Juvenile Facility had housed children within the physical capacity of the facility, Yolo County proposed to increase staffing to decrease the number of violent incidents, to facilitate a rapid and effective response by staff when issues arise, and to provide adequate staff to supervise the unaccompanied children. According to Yolo County, unaccompanied children who meet the criteria for placement at its juvenile facility have mental illnesses, have been exposed to significant trauma and violence, and exhibit anti‑social traits that may lead to criminal behavior.

In October 2018, after negotiations, Yolo County provided Refugee Resettlement with budget documents detailing the supplemental funding it needed to continue the program from June 2018 through January 2019. Specifically, Yolo County requested an additional $2 million for staffing increases and some costs that the county previously absorbed. However, according to Yolo County, Refugee Resettlement requested that Yolo County limit its budget increase to that $2 million. Yolo County asserted that the budget increase does not fully represent costs for the following: certain public safety activities related to a Refugee Resettlement child who is criminally charged while in custody, a portion of medical services funded by the county to serve Refugee Resettlement children, and some indirect costs. Yolo County stated that it would fully assess and include all costs required to fund the program in future proposals to Refugee Resettlement. According to the chief fiscal administrative officer at the Yolo County Probation Department, although Yolo County has not received an official response from Refugee Resettlement, the federal grant system shows that Yolo County’s budget increased by the requested $2 million. As of February 2019, Yolo County continues to house unaccompanied children for Refugee Resettlement.


To ensure that it does not unnecessarily spend county funds to house ICE detainees, Orange County officials should do the following:

To ensure that it receives adequate funding to pay for the costs of housing unaccompanied children for Refugee Resettlement, Yolo County should identify all allowable costs and include them in its future budget requests to Refugee Resettlement.

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Other Areas We Reviewed

To address the audit objectives approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (Audit Committee), we reviewed the State’s monitoring of community care facilities. We also reviewed county programs and housing for detainees or unaccompanied children, detention facility capacity, and whether the facilities were expanded. Below are the results of our work in these areas and any associated recommendations that do not appear in the other sections of the report.

State Monitoring of Community Care Facilities

As we described in the Introduction, Social Services licenses community care facilities, some of which hold contracts with Refugee Resettlement to house unaccompanied children. Social Services is responsible for routinely inspecting community care facilities, including those that have contracts with Refugee Resettlement. Following media reports in Spring 2018 that the federal government had separated immigrant families and placed children in foster care or other shelters, Social Services identified those community care facilities that had contracts with Refugee Resettlement. In June 2018, Social Services initiated a one‑time effort to visit those group homes and foster family homes that it had identified to check on the health and safety of children at those facilities.

At the time of the visits, Social Services found no health or safety concerns at the facilities, and it indicated that the facilities housed a total of 51 unaccompanied children who had been separated from their families. According to Social Services, this number is point‑in‑time information, and it can fluctuate considerably from day to day. Social Services subsequently contacted the facilities that contract with Refugee Resettlement and updated that number to nine unaccompanied children housed at community care facilities who had been separated from their families as of November 2018.


To provide additional transparency regarding the use of community care facilities and juvenile detention facilities that house unaccompanied children in California, the Legislature should consider requiring Social Services to report to it by March 31 of each year the number of community care facilities, including foster family homes, that house unaccompanied children. Social Services should also report the total number of unaccompanied children and the ranges of the duration of their stays at those facilities. Additionally, it should consider requiring Yolo County to report the total number and ranges of the duration of stay of unaccompanied children at the Yolo Juvenile Facility.

County Programs and Housing for Detainees or Unaccompanied Children

We found that both the Orange County Sheriff and Contra Costa County Sheriff notify their detainees of available programs and services through detainee handbooks, which are in multiple languages and generally list the programs and services. The programs and services found in the detainee handbooks of Orange County and Contra Costa County include medical care, barbering services, access to a telephone, religious services, a voluntary work program, a law library, and recreation. The counties’ practice is to obtain the signatures of detainees to verify their receipt of the handbook.

While Orange County’s practice was to separate detainees from inmates consistent with state law, Contra Costa County allowed them to intermingle. The United States Supreme Court holds that immigration‑related removal is a civil, not criminal, matter and that detention is a part of immigration‑related removal proceedings. State law requires that individuals held in a county jail under civil process must be confined separately and distinctly from both individuals convicted of a crime and serving their sentence and individuals committed on criminal process and awaiting trial (collectively, criminal inmates). Since detainees are held for immigration‑related reasons, they are being held under a civil process. Therefore, detainees should be housed separately from criminal inmates. During the time that Contra Costa County had a contract to house detainees, it did so at its West County Detention Facility, which is an open campus facility where detainees and criminal inmates intermingled in areas such as classrooms. By allowing detainees and criminal inmates to intermingle, Contra Costa County did not follow state law. According to the assistant sheriff, Contra Costa County’s understanding at that time was that detainees were going through an administrative process with ICE and were not considered civil detainees.

Yolo County’s quarterly progress reports to Refugee Resettlement indicate that it offers the required services to unaccompanied children, including medical and dental care, mental health services, educational services, and religious services. Yolo Juvenile Facility has policies and procedures that match the two Refugee Resettlement requirements to house unaccompanied children according to an assessment of the unaccompanied child’s gender identity, housing preference, and health and safety needs; and to assess each unaccompanied child for the risk of being a victim or a perpetrator of sexual abuse. According to the program director, Yolo Juvenile Facility staff classify children placed at the facility because of immigration status as noncriminal offenders and therefore keeps them separate from children with criminal charges. State law requires, to the extent practically feasible, that children without criminal charges be housed separately from children with criminal charges.

Multiple federal entities inspected Contra Costa County’s and Orange County’s detention facilities and reported on their compliance with detention standards. Although the facilities were generally rated as acceptable in their annual Nakamoto inspections, some inspection and monitoring reports identified concerns about certain conditions at the facilities. These concerns included Contra Costa County’s West County Detention Facility not issuing detainee handbooks to detainees upon admission; Orange County’s Theo Lacy Facility not appropriately separating detainees of different risk levels, improper food handling, and moldy and mildewed shower stalls. Also, Refugee Resettlement monitors and reports on Yolo County’s compliance with its policies and procedures. Refugee Resettlement found that, among other things, the legal services documentation in Yolo Juvenile Facility’s case files of some unaccompanied children was missing or not the most recent version. While Contra Costa has ended its agreement with ICE, Orange and Yolo counties have responded to the concerns and documented corrective actions. Nevertheless, the Attorney General’s reviews of these detention facilities until 2027 may provide additional transparency into the conditions of confinement, standard of care, and due process provided to detainees and unaccompanied children.

We reviewed Community Corrections’ inspections of some local detention facilities, which state law requires it to conduct biennially. According to Community Corrections, if a local detention facility has a wholly separate area for federal detainees, it would not consider those portions local detention facilities and thus would not include them in its inspection. Community Corrections stated that it excludes these areas because they are holding federal detainees, not local detainees. However, while state law does exempt certain facilities from the inspection requirement, such as facilities operated by or under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, state law does not otherwise exempt areas of local detention facilities that house ICE detainees from Community Corrections’ inspection requirement. Furthermore, Community Corrections was not able to identify any law or regulation that would prohibit it from inspecting and reporting on these facilities as state law requires.


Community Corrections should inspect all areas of local detention facilities, including areas that are used to house ICE detainees and report any instances of noncompliance in those areas.

Detention Facility Capacity and Expansion

Yolo Juvenile Facility’s highest average daily population during the audit period was approximately 48 unaccompanied children and Yolo County youth, in total, which was well below the facility’s maximum capacity of 90 beds.

State law allows a sheriff or other person responsible for a local detention facility to apply to the presiding judge of the superior court to receive general authorization to release inmates whenever the actual inmate count exceeds the actual bed capacity of the jail. Both Contra Costa County’s West County Detention Facility and Orange County’s Theo Lacy Facility housed populations that were below capacity during the audit period, so neither facility released inmates early due to lack of space. Further, Contra Costa County has ended its ICE agreement, and state law now prohibits counties from expanding the number of beds allowed under their respective ICE contracts, thereby mitigating the risk that housing additional detainees will lead to releasing inmates early in the future.

Only Yolo County expanded its detention facility during the audit period, although the expansion did not increase bed capacity. Specifically, Yolo County used a construction grant award of $4.7 million from Community Corrections to build a multi‑purpose facility at Yolo Juvenile Facility, which Yolo County opened in 2017, that would add space for indoor recreation, treatment, programs, and visiting services. Community Corrections has also conditionally awarded state funding for detention facility construction to Orange County and Yuba County. Nevertheless, as we noted above, state law now prohibits those counties from expanding the number of beds in their ICE or Refugee Resettlement contracts.

We conducted this audit under the authority vested in the California State Auditor by Government Code section 8543 et seq. and according to generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives specified in the Scope and Methodology section of the report. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor

February 26, 2019


4 The Adelanto Detention Facility is also called the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, and the Mesa Verde Detention Facility is also called the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center. Go back to text

5 Contra Costa County originally contracted with the U.S. Marshals Service. A contract modification added ICE as a user agency so that the county could also hold detainees from ICE. Go back to text

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