What does ICE contract look like?

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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We now have a bit more detail as to what Prince Edward County’s contract involving the ICE detention center looks like. Financials for the project include both real estate and personal property taxes, along with the specific fees paid per detainee. 

County supervisors voted unanimously in their Tuesday, March 12 meeting to negotiate a new contract with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as a subcontract with Abyon LLC, to operate the detention facility. They agreed to pursue this after the Farmville town council, which had previously held a contract with the group, let it expire this month. 

“The Board realizes this decision will not please everyone, but we are unanimous in our belief that keeping the ICA facility in operation is in the best interests of the County, the community, and the employees and their families who are employed at the facility,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Patti Cooper-Jones in a statement to media. 

So what does the contract actually say? Let’s run through the basics first. Abyon will operate the facility and manage everything from intake to release. They’ll be required to follow the guidelines for all of this set by DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For those who are just joining us, the detention center, located at 508 Waterworks Road in Farmville, was originally run by Immigration Centers of America (ICA). But over the last decade, ICA’s reputation has taken a hit, detailing everything from maggots in the food to abused prisoners and one who died during the pandemic. Well, Abyon is ICA’s “sister” company, created in December 2023 and run by the same ownership group. Now the ownership group enters this contract with a new name and a new partner in Prince Edward. 


So let’s talk about the contract itself. Here’s what Abyon gets out of the deal. The facility operating charge, that is basically what the company tells Homeland Security is the cost of operating, comes to $2.65 million monthly. Abyon charges $14.69 per bed per day, as long as the number of detainees stays at 459 or below. If it climbs from 560 to the maximum of 736, then the Department of Homeland Security gets charged $32.06 per detainee. But DHS doesn’t pay Abyon. Homeland Security pays Prince Edward County, which takes out the county’s own agreed upon fee and gives the rest to Abyon. 

We’ll get to the county’s fee in a minute. But let’s talk about that number of allowed detainees. After the death of 72-year-old Canadian national James Thomas Hill in 2020, the facility was temporarily shut down. When it started back up, it was restricted to 180 detainees. But now, new company, new contract and there’s a new number. Instead of 180, the facility can house up to 736. 

So each day, detainees are counted, the number is reported and Homeland Security each month gives Prince Edward the money, based on what Abyon charges. The county also gets paid in this deal. As part of the subcontract with Abyon, Prince Edward takes a daily payment per detainee out of what they get from Homeland Security. The subcontract anticipates a minimum of 264 detainees per day, again a bump from what has been allowed. If the facility houses up to 459 detainees on a given day, Prince Edward gets paid $2.50 for each. If the number is above 459, the county gets paid $4 per detainee. 

Prince Edward Administrator Doug Stanley pointed out at the high end, that could add up to 5 cents of real estate tax revenue. In a statement released to media, Stanley argued the contract “has the potential to be transformative by helping Prince Edward County achieve capital improvement goals for the schools and other critical community facilities.” 


In addition, the county receives real estate and personal property taxes in the deal. For 2023, for example, that would translate into $182,291.16. 

The contract itself runs from March 30, 2024 to March 29, 2029. At that end point, just like Farmville, the county will have the option to renew, renegotiate or terminate the contract. To be clear, as we’ve highlighted before, even if anything changes during the life of this contract, it does not mean the detainees would be released. Instead, Abyon could operate the facility on its own or look for a new partner, just like with Farmville. And if the facility closed, the detainees would simply be transferred to another Homeland Security property.