A new $32 million Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Karnes County, Texas, is the first designed specifically to hold what the agency calls low-risk detainees, according to an ICE announcement last week.
The facility, with recreational facilities such as a gym and soccer field, allows the detainees more freedom of movement than the prisons that house most detainees, said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.
Karnes County paid the upfront cost and partnered with a construction company to build the facility in exchange for a contract with ICE to house about 600 detainees.
It’s a model ICE hopes to replicate: The agency is already looking to build more of the facilities in central Florida, Chicago and New Jersey, according to Christensen.
Currently the agency houses about 33,000 people on any given day in about 250 facilities across the country, mostly federal, state or local prisons. About 10 percent are private facilities, according to the agency.
Those who have been arrested for serious crimes will still be detained in traditional prisons, she said.
While it costs ICE about $422,000 a year to house a detainee at a private facility, it would cost about $50,000 or less a year at the Karnes facility, according to ICE.
ICE had come under criticism in recent years from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union over what they saw as the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants.