By John Ramos

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — The Contra Costa County Sheriff is drawing heat for releasing information about jail prisoners that critics say is helping ICE deport people. 

Posted on the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department website, for all the world to see, is a list of prisoners in the county jail and the date they’re scheduled to be released. But immigrant rights advocates say that information allows ICE to detain people for deportation as they’re walking out the doors of the jail.

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“ICE has no respect for human life.  They are an agency that cages children and families and people die in ICE custody…that happened even before the pandemic,” said Melanie Kim, a staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus.

She appeared at a county meeting Tuesday to protest the jail release information, saying it violates SB 54, a state law that restricts local police from collaborating with ICE.  Sheriff David Livingston said the posting is required to alert crime victims and social service agencies that help prisoners with re-entry. But Supervisor John Gioia said he thinks there’s an ulterior motive.

“Shortly after the new state law went into effect in 2018, many sheriff departments around the state instituted this new practice of posting release dates publicly in advance,” Gioia said.  “And so many of us believe that was an intentional act to get around this new state law prohibiting most contacts between law enforcement and ICE.”

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 The sheriff said they are converting to a new jail information system that could eliminate the public posting, but that could take up to 2 years to complete.  And not everyone on the Board of supervisors, or on the streets, thinks letting ICE pick up released prisoners is such a bad thing.

 “For those individuals who are committing crimes in our community and continue to commit crimes in our community I have no sympathy or tolerance,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

And Mohsen Salehi, who was walking past the Martinez Jail, said, “They don’t have the same rights as a law-abiding citizen because they’re not legally here in the first place,”

But state law says local police can’t be too chummy with ICE, so the sheriff agreed to look into the idea of directly emailing people with an interest in someone’s release from prison, rather than posting it online for everyone — including ICE — to see. 

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 Tuesday’s discussion was a public hearing called a “TRUTH Forum,” required by state law, to periodically address concerns about local law enforcement’s contacts with ICE.