Pubdate: Thu, 06 Jul 2000
Date: 07/06/2000
Source: Santa Barbara News-Press (CA)
Author: Barbie Deutsch

Although I suspected that many of those in custody in our prisons were
there because of drug- and alcohol-related offenses, I admit I found
the 75 percent figure reported in a recent News-Press to be staggering.

If the majority of inmates are repeat offenders, we can only be left
to conclude that incarceration doesn't seem to be working.

However, it was another quote that really got my attention. "Also, at
any one time, illegal immigrants who have committed a crime are
estimated to be about 20 percent of the jail population. They are kept
to serve their entire sentence and ... then are deported."

What is wrong with this picture?

If we are so concerned about having to release prisoners early to make
room for the most recently convicted, why are we housing, clothing and
feeding -- with tax dollars -- people we are ultimately going to deport?

I have heard it is because these people will return as soon as they
can make their ways across the border. What makes anyone think that
serving a 2-year jail sentence and then being deported will serve as a
deterrent to returning illegally?

It seems that if someone is deported for being a criminal, he or she
will always be unwelcome in our country. Let's use our computers to
ensure that all law enforcement agencies know who these unwanted folks
are. If they show up in another community, they can be deported again
since they were told they could not enter the country due to their
criminal status.

This seems to be a win-win situation. We lower the prison population
by 20 percent and the number of people being released early will be
reduced. Perhaps then we will use our collective wisdom to develop a
better system for working with drug and alcohol abusers so real
rehabilitation can be done with the remaining prisoners.

Barbie Deutsch,
Santa Barbara