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The Imperial County jail's Oren R. Fox Medium Detention Facility south of El Centro is shown. | COURTESY PHOTO

Hearings on County Code Changes, Releasing Inmates to Feds Garner Zero Comments

Two public hearings garnered no public comment during the Tuesday, Dec. 15, Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The first of the two hearings centered on changes to Imperial County zoning and building codes.

The county looks at updating ordinances on an annual or as-needed basis, according to Jim Minnick, planning director.

There were several changes proposed and approved at the meeting, including adding the Imperial Center Commercial Zone to the list of zones that allow the cultivation of cannabis as an allowed use and adding distribution and testing under the C-2 zone with a conditional-use permit.

The changes also added tiny homes to the list of allowed uses in all residential zones, changed day cares to be listed as a permitted use and not falling under a conditional-use permit, added battery-storage facility under two zones with a conditional-use permit, and more. 

In total, changes were made to Title 9 Land Use Ordinance Divisions 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 to be consistent with recent changes in state law and to make them internally consistent, Minnick said.

The changes were approved with three 5-0 votes. 

No Input on Releasing Inmates to Federal Custody

A fraction of a percent of Imperial County jail inmates were released to federal officials, according to numbers released Dec. 15.

A total of 24 inmates were released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. That’s of a total of 5,405 inmates booked into jail in 2019.

“For the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, our total release of inmates to ICE or CBP was 24 inmates,” said Correctional Lt. Colby Stewart. “Of these 24 inmates, four were federal releases and 20 of them were county inmates released to CBP or Customs. 

“All inmates released to ICE were approved by one of the correctional lieutenants,” he added. “Anybody that was released either had a federal warrant signed by a judge or they had a prior conviction of a deadly crime.”

The numbers show a noticeable decrease from last year, where 67 inmates were released to federal officials, Stewart said. There are a couple reasons for that decrease.

One reason is that the Imperial County jail no longer houses federal inmates, he said. The other reason is the headcount at the jail went down substantially. 

In 2018, there were 6,821 inmates, he said. In 2019, 5,405 were booked.

Signed into law in 2016, the Truth Act requires law enforcement officials to hold at least one public forum a year. This was the third such hearing for Imperial County.

Truth Act community forums have led to controversy in some communities. In November, more than 100 community members criticized the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office for working with federal immigration officials.

There was no criticism at Imperial County’s forum held Dec. 15. In fact, there was no public comment at all at the 10-minute hearing held during the county board meeting. 

The hearing was not only for the Sheriff’s Office, but also the county’s Probation Department, which reported no releases to ICE or information-sharing with ICE in 2019.

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