by Lainie Singerman
Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R)’s statement condemning the Sheriff Department’s decision to terminate Fairfax County’s Inter-Governmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with ICE shows embarrassing lack of understanding of our criminal justice system. As he is an elected official, I thought that he would know more about how the court system works: he has apparently forgotten about the bail system. Based the Supervisor’s demonstrated ignorance of our criminal justice system, perhaps the readers of this publication could also benefit from an explanation of why there will be no greater threat of gang violence post-IGSA than there is under the Agreement.
The IGSA allowed the Sheriff’s Office to hold detainees after a judge ordered them released on bail.
However, before judges order a person released, they decide whether that person is a threat to the community. People who are found to pose a risk are not released, regardless of citizenship status. Termination of the IGSA does not affect this.
This process is called a bail determination: the judge decides whether a person charged with a crime should be released without conditions, released after posting bail, or held in jail. To be released, a defendant must show that there is no reason to fear that he or she will commit another crime or flee. The prosecutor can present evidence to convince the judge that the defendant would be a threat, in which case the judge would not allow release. Termination of the IGSA does not affect this.
A bail determination happens regardless of citizenship status and regardless of whether there is an IGSA. Even without an IGSA, the jurisdiction must inform ICE when an undocumented person is scheduled for release and ICE can take custody of that person up to five days before the release date. ICE does this frequently in jurisdictions without IGSA agreements.
ICE can also pick convicted inmates up directly from the Department of Corrections once the inmate has completed his or her sentence.
Under the IGSA, undocumented people who were victims or witnessed crime were afraid to talk to law enforcement because they were afraid that they would be deported. This made our community less safe because it made it more difficult to prosecute dangerous criminals. Termination of the IGSA will have a positive effect by easing fears that the Sheriff’s Office will hold undocumented people for ICE when they pose no threat to the community.
As a citizen who understands how the criminal justice system works, I thank Sheriff Kincaid for terminating the IGSA. She has made Fairfax a safer place by making it easier to combat gang violence.