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Prison Economy: Your Entitlement To Time In A Cell

by Crowings (writer), , January 24, 2008

What not to do about no-account lay-about freeloading foreigners luxuriating in OUR Prisons and much better ideas

Hard to disagree with a statement like "The Government Is Not Your Daddy," but there are a few things worth mentioning in reference to "Land of Opportunity or Land of Entitlement?" by whoever that is writing under that title. (Since no name is given I'll call the author 'Not'.) In this piece 'Not' discusses 'not' letting no-account lay-about illegal aliens fill up our prisons and take a free ride. Well, it certainly inspired me.

First of all, it's worth noting that the particular four year period covered by the GAO report 'Not' references includes 9/11 and the days and years immediately following in which a massive round-up of aliens and foreign-born occurred, and that within those following years all sorts of "crime sweeps" were enacted, in keeping with the Bush Administration's general advancement toward a deeply entrenched police state. In fact that GAO report was published in the middle of the very week during which the "largest criminal-sweep in the nation's history," Operation FALCON, occurred, in April 2005. A look at the lovely 'Death and Taxes Map' provides a graphic education in the proportion of allocations devoted to both domestic and foreign aspects of what might possibly fit under that broad cloak of 'Crime and Punishment' in terms of cost and the federal budget. But I'll start with the bit about alien crime.

As examples of the pernicious alien infiltrator problem, 'Not' chooses two figures; "27% of inmates in federal prisons were aliens", and "the number of aliens incarcerated rose 15% over the four year period, the majority of them from Mexico" . . . out of the 2005 GAO report he references; "Information on Criminal Aliens Incarcerated in Federal and State Prisons and Local Jails".

That did not sit right with me.

Those are rather misleading figures to pull out of the hat alone. They're on p.19 of the GAO report, which displays a graph depicting the rising number of inmates incarcerated in federal prisons and correspondingly, the portion of those who are criminal aliens. To clarify; a criminal alien is defined as a non-citizen in the U.S. either legally or illegally, who is convicted of a crime.

So, why does that '27% of inmates' seem like an awfully high number? Well, these figures only take the Federal Prison System into account. Of the 4,722+ correctional facilities represented in the GAO report, about 122 of them are Federal Prisons. The type of crime and circumstance that land one in Federal Prison must be significant variables, because including figures for state and local corrections facilities makes a big difference.

According to a 2006 Justice Department bulletin, 6.4% of all state and federal prisoners at midyear 2005 were non-U.S. citizens. A New York State DOC document about the impact of foreign-born inmates on the NYS Department of Corrections Services in 2006 reports that 36% of foreign-born inmates in New York State DOC were illegal alien and 54% of foreign-born inmates were from countries where Spanish is the dominant language.”

So, roughly translating and estimating, it looks like approximately 1% of all U.S. prisoners, not all of whom are criminal or convicts, are undocumented latino aliens.

That '15% rise' in incarcerated aliens represents approximately 6,284 inmates in Federal Prisons over a four year time span. As indicated in the same chart, in the same time frame the number of U.S. citizens in Federal Prisons increased at a slightly higher percentage rate, represented by nearly 18,000 inmates. The estimated cost of perhaps $2 billion annually for dealing with criminal aliens is a drop in the $200 billion dollar bucket poured annually into law enforcement and corrections in the U.S; "a fourfold increase (in constant dollars) over the past quarter century" as Glenn Loury put it in his article "Why Are So Many Americans In Prison?" in the Boston Review last August. The U.S., home to about 5% of the world's population and jailing between a fifth and a fourth of the world's prisoners, holds the highest incarceration rate in the world, coming in almost 40 percent higher than the country holding second place. Is that Necessary? Migod. The imposition of incarcerating a puny few criminal or illegal aliens is a marvelous diversion from the big picture here.

Disregarding the relentlessly increasing U.S. population that ticks like a time bomb and the charming "Incarceration Clock" (on the very admirably comprehensive site 'Prisonsucks') that seems only to echo like the heart below the floorboards, there are a few more upbeat prospects to consider in terms of the towering cost of this prison system. All in keeping with the pernicious alien infiltrator theme.

For example, according to the U.S. Census 2000, on 'Immigration Border Patrol and Investigation Activities', the Border Patrol's seizures in 1997 valued at $1,094,600,000 (this is not counting the $1,046,300,000 value of narcotics seized that year). In 1995 the value of Border Patrol seizures was about $2 billion (not counting narcotics). According to the figures available here, the value of seizures increased steadily between 1980 and 1997 and following the trajectory shown would put the annual value of 'pernicious alien related' seizures 11 years further down the road at as much as $4 billion. Not to nitpick, but that's a lot of revenue.

Add to this the implications of a special report by Texas State Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn, "Undocumented Immigrants in Texas: A Financial Analysis of the Impact to the State Budget and Economy," completed in December 2006 and the first of it's kind; a comprehensive state-level financial analysis of "the impact of undocumented immigrants on a state’s budget and economy, looking at gross state product, revenues generated, taxes paid and the cost of state services." By it's assessment "undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 billion in state services they received."

In terms of cutting costs, another study out of New York does a little financial analysis of the possibility of "Dropping the Rock" -that is, the potential savings of drug law repeal. In terms of criminal aliens, as the Correctional Association of New York puts it in a Women in Prison Project fact sheet on Immigration and the Criminal Justice System, "the increase in the overall number of non-U.S. citizens in the criminal justice system has been primarily driven by an increase in the number of non-U.S. citizens charged with drug offenses." Among those who persist in examining the prison problem, the fact that there is a gross disproportion in imprisonment for latinos, like blacks, is common knowledge, yet for some, as reflected in the mission statement of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the problem of institutionalized racism may pale in comparison to the broader reasons many advocate dismantling the draconian drug laws.

New York, like Texas, is one of the five states that carry the brunt of the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens, the five states whose prison system data the GAO report heavily relied on in assessing the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens; the other three are Arizona, California, and Florida. According to the GAO report these 5 state prison systems incarcerated 80% of criminal aliens who were in the state prison system in 2003. In February 2007 The Correctional Association of New York made a 'thoughtful attempt' at realistic financial analysis of the Potential Annual Savings from Rockefeller Drug Law Repeal and came up with an amount over $210 million that could be saved in the 2007-08 New York State Budget.

On a lighter note, the New York Times Lede blogger Mike Nizza informs us that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency has taken the time to do another financial analysis that might give the pernicious alien infiltrator a good laugh: "Estimate for Deporting Illegal Immigrants: $94 Billion".



About the Writer

Crowings is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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