Etowah County Detention Center

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The Etowah County Detention Center is a county jail operated by the Etowah County Sheriff's Office at 827 Forrest Avenue in Gadsden. The jail has come under criticism for inadequate facilities and operations, and for the county's practice of housing long-term immigration detainees.

The 432-bed facility opened in 1994 following a 1989 ruling by Judge U. W. Clemon in Rogers v. Etowah County that the existing county jail inside the Etowah County Courthouse was unsafe and overcrowded.

In 2001 the Etowah County Commission approved a bond issue to fund a $12.3 million expansion of the jail, nearly doubling its capacity to 852 beds. Sheriff James Hayes had arranged for a 324-bed section of the expanded facility to be used by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to house detainees through 2014. The contract was expected to provide $8.4 million to offset the cost of the expansion.

In 2010 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified Sheriff Todd Entrekin that it would end the contract early in order to consolidate detention facilities. U.S. Representative Robert Alderholt, chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee in the House Appropriations Committee, opposed the move on the basis that it would cost the county 49 jobs. The plan was delayed and eventually set aside. The Oakland, California-based nonprofit Freedom for Immigrants sponsors the "Etowah Visitation Project" in which volunteers communicate with detainees.

In 2019 conditions inside the Etowah County Detention Center were documented by "volunteer inmates" placed undercover by the producers of "60 Days In", a reality show broadcast on A&E.

In March 2022 ICE announced its intent to no longer use the facility, citing its, "long history of serious deficiencies," and its, "limited operational significance to the agency." Several detainees were transferred to the LaSalle Correctional Center in Jena, Louisiana.


  • Powell, Andy (December 22, 2001) "Etowah Commission approves bond issue for courthouse renovation." The Gadsden Times
  • Moses, Paul (June 8, 2018) "‘The Worst Place Ever’ Is ICE’s Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama" Daily Beast
  • Thornton, Donna (January 4, 2020) "It’s reality TV, but not the reality now at the Etowah Co. Jail." The Gadsden Times
  • Whites-Koditschek, Sarah (September 3, 2020) "Group sues after blocked from visiting immigration detainees in Alabama." The Birmingham News
  • Robinson, Carol (March 25, 2022) "ICE ending Etowah County immigration detention after ‘long history of serious deficiencies’." The Birmingham News
  • Mamone, Davide (April 5, 2022) "Asylum seekers moved from closed Etowah immigration detention center to Louisiana." The Advocate/Tribune Media Services

External links