California is currently considering a number of possible solutions to its prison overcrowding problems – one of which is an early release of immigration offenders. Last month, a three-judge panel agreed to extend until January 2014 a deadline for lawmakers to come up with solutions to reduce California’s prison population. The judges also suggested that one solution might be an early release of immigration law violators.
The decision was part of a seven-year court case dealing with inmate medical care. According to an article on Fox News Latino, prison overcrowding has forced California to spend billions of dollars to improve inmate medical care.
The judges recommended a review of immigration law offenders, as well as Three Strikes inmates, elderly and infirm prisoners, juveniles, and other inmates who are considered low-risk. The judges have previously indicated that they believe the state could release some of those prisoners before their full sentences have been served without endangering public safety.
The judges said that transferring inmates to private prisons out-of-state is not an option, but that transfers to private prisons within California or available county jail cells could be among the possible solutions. The role of private prisons with respect to illegal immigration is particularly concerning in light of the fact that the expanding federal prison population has meant steady business for the two largest U.S. private prison corporations. With significant profits at stake, some of the private prisons have taken matters into their own hands in an attempt to create a steady stream of inmates. In fact, an Associated Press article indicates that, at the federal level alone, two of the largest private prison corporations, along with their political action committees and their employees, have spent more than $32 million on lobbying and on campaign contributions since 2000.
As we recently reported, undocumented immigrants make up the fastest growing segment of the federal prison population. Of the more than 60,000 people convicted of immigration crimes this year, most have been entered (or re-entered) the country without authorization, and are not part of the segment of the justice system awaiting deportation due to criminal immigration violations.