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Send Virginia foreign prison inmates home


virginia-newBy Douglas E Morris

I’m fairly certain that it’s not news that Virginia prisons are seriously overcrowded and continue to face severe budget shortages. What most people probably do not know, however, is that while our prisons suffer under these conditions, they also continue to pay for the incarceration of foreign, non-U.S. citizen prisoners.

Maybe I missed a memo somewhere indicating that Virginia had started a financial aid program helping prisons in foreign countries by housing their inmates for them. Which then begs the question: What the heck are we doing paying for these foreigners to be housed in Virginia prisons? Call me cuckoo, but what we should be doing instead is sending these foreign law-breakers back to serve their time in prisons in their own countries. This would save Virginia quite a bit of money, and it would ease Virginia’s prison overcrowding as well. A win-win situation if ever there was one.

There are no exact numbers as to how many non-citizen prisoners are being held in the Virginia Department of Corrections, but according to the US Department of Justice, nationwide, a reported 95,977 non-citizens were held in state custody in 2010. Being one of fifty states, let’s assume that Virginia has one fiftieth of that number, which would mean that there are around 2,000 non-citizen inmates in Virginia prisons.

Now let’s see how much it costs to house those prisoners. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the average annual cost per inmate is $25,498. Which means that each year, Virginia spends around $50,000,000 to incarcerate non-Americans. That is $50 million for people who are not even U.S. citizens.

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but this makes no sense. Why should we foot the bill for their crimes? Why don’t we send them back to their home countries and save the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) a ton of money – to the tune of $50 million – while opening desperately needed space in our overcrowded prisons.

Certainly, the process of returning these prisoners may not be that straightforward. There may be rules that need to be amended. The VADOC will have to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) to get these prisoners deported. Then the USDOJ will need to coordinate with each home country to have them repatriated. But hey, that’s why we pay the employees working in both the VADOC and USDOJ, so they can do things like this.

However bureaucratically complicated it might be – beware of paper cuts please – once all the forms are filled out and all the institutional hurdles overcome, these foreign national prisoners will all be deported, transferred to prisons in their home countries, and barred from ever returning to the US. They will continue to be punished for their crimes. But Virginia will not foot the bill. Sounds like a plan to me!

For those of you out there who think this is a soft on crime sleight of hand, it’s not. These prisoners are not being set free. They would be sent to prisons in their home countries. Which, in most cases, are tougher than those in the U.S. Though it may be difficult to imagine, some of our prisons are like five-star hotels compared to the dungeons they have in other countries. That movie Midnight Express about Turkish prisons still sends chills down my spine. By sending foreign prisoners back to serve their sentences in the rat holes they call prisons in their home countries, we are actually being tough on crime. Really tough.

This initiative would also be smart on crime. Very smart. To the tune of $50,000,000 a year smart. We would be pro-actively dealing with a current and on-going problem, and finding an intelligent long-term solution. Best of all, the money we save by not having to incarcerate non-citizen prisoners could then be used to better serve citizens all across the state.

Unless there is some super-secret clandestine program forcing Virginia to subsidize foreign prisoners or face the wrath of UN black helicopter riding overlords, I am calling on Governor McAuliffe to wake up, smell the coffee, and send Virginia’s non-citizen prisoners back to their home countries. ASAP.

To help make that happen, I think we should all visit Governor McAuliffe’s webpage (https://governor.virginia.gov/Constituent-services/Communicating-with-the-governors-office) and send him a message that is both tough and smart on crime. Tell him to “Send Virginia’s Non-Citizen Prisoners Home. Today.”



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