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Most inmates evacuated to Hernando returned to South Florida

BROOKSVILLE — About 100 of the 125 inmates from two Miami jails who migrated to Hernando County this week to escape a growing brush fire in the Everglades National Park went back to South Florida on Thursday.

Each of them, however, left some money behind.

The Hernando County Jail collected a $55.96 per day from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That money is split between Hernando County, which takes in 15 percent, and the jail's operator, Corrections Corporation of America, said Hernando County Jail contract monitor Barbara Fisher.

That's not bad, Fisher said, considering the county typically has to fork over to CCA $54.98 per day for each of its in-county inmates. Jail officials have tried to cut back on the inmate population from Hernando County in order to make room for higher-paying out-of-county detainees.

Krome Detention Center and the Everglades Correctional Institution were forced to evacuate Monday as smoke and flames from the fire moved closer to the facilities. More than 2,000 inmates were moved from the two jails, according to the Associated Press.

Such a move can present logistical problems, Fisher said, one of which is the cost it takes to house prisoners at multiple locations. Because of this, Fisher did not expect to house the inmates for long.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 100 inmates from the Hernando County Jail on Thursday — all of whom came from the two South Florida centers. ICE had 159 inmates left in the Hernando jail, but Fisher said it was difficult to determine how many of those remaining were from the two evacuated jails.

Typically, Hernando County Jail holds about 130 detainees from ICE. Hernando County has a contract to house ICE inmates and Krome, which evacuated its 600 inmates, is a jail for immigration prisoners.

Language concerns were not a problem during the temporary stay here as many officers on staff at the Hernando County Jail can speak Spanish, Fisher said.

This was not the first time Hernando has provided temporary housing for inmates from regional jails. When a tornado damaged the Pasco County jail in December 2007, its female inmates were taken to Hernando.

Fisher is not sure when the rest of the inmates from the Everglades evacuation will head back to the Miami area, but she said it shouldn't present any overcrowding problems at the local jail heading into the Memorial Day weekend.

"There's enough room now," she said, especially after ICE moved 100 of its inmates. "I certainly hope 100 Hernando County residents don't get arrested over the weekend."

Michael Sanserino can be reached at msanserino@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430.

Most inmates evacuated to Hernando returned to South Florida 05/22/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 23, 2008 9:16am]

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