JEROME, Idaho - Jerome County is exploring new options for leasing excess beds at its jail after nearly a year of waiting on a contract from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Times-News reports the contract, which would allow the federal agency to lease 50 beds at the Jerome jail, has been fiercely criticized by local and civil rights organizations saying the move would create a culture of fear among the area's Hispanic community.

MORE: Jerome County still waiting on ICE contract

County officials say they're considering alternatives to the deal.

Commissioner Charlie Howell wants to see Jerome take more state prisoners that might otherwise be sent out of state due to overcrowding in Idaho prisons.

Sheriff Doug McFall is less keen on the idea, and says he would rather pursue a potential contract with the U.S. Marshal's Office.