The Suffolk County Sheriff's Department is ending its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it announced on Tuesday.
Instead, the department will pivot its focus to an expanded population of women entering the Suffolk County House of Correction, which it says is the largest growing population of incarcerated subjects in the country. This is, in part, due to an agreement Suffolk reached with several neighboring counties, including Plymouth, Essex and Norfolk, to take on their female inmates.
“We are ending our contract with ICE to reallocate our resources towards helping local women to address long-standing issues that have contributed to their involvement in the criminal justice system,” said Sheriff Steven Tompkins. “Our gender-specific programming, which is among the best in the country, allows us to address these issues, which include domestic violence, sexual exploitation and substance use disorders, to name a few.”
Suffolk's Community Re-Entry for Women Program, or CREW Program, enables women who enter the prison to be enrolled into women's services programs.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts issued a statement in response to the move.
"This decision presents an opportunity for ICE to release needlessly-detained people who want nothing more than to return to their families and to their communities. Given the Trump administration's xenophobic, anti-immigrant track record, it is more than understandable that any law enforcement agency would sever its relationship with ICE," Executive Director Carol Rose said in the statement. "However, it would be a disservice to Massachusetts families if this decision resulted in the creation of new detention space or a shuffling of custodial powers that resulted in detained people lacking access to family and legal representation."
ICE has been the subject of much controversy nationwide due to the treatment of immigrants at the US border with Mexico. As recently as July, hundreds of people protested the organization in Boston, leading to the arrests of 18 demonstrators.