Oregon to Deport Selected Nonviolent Offenders in Exchange for Early Release
The Corvallis Gazette-Times reports that Oregon’s new inmate deportation program is off to a start, albeit a slow one. The program applies only to inmates who are in the U.S. illegally, have less than six months left on their sentences, and have been convicted for certain nonviolent crimes, such as drugs or theft:
The state hopes to save more than $2 million over the current two-year budget cycle by sending the inmates back to their home countries, in Oregon’s case, mostly to Mexico.
The savings from the early deportation program were expected to begin shortly after it was approved by the Legislature last year. But a legal glitch delayed finalizing the agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, until January.
Oregon Department of Corrections officials said the program is now under way, with about a dozen inmates already handed over to ICE for deportation.
Prisoners waive their rights to challenge the deportation in exchange for commutation of their sentence by the governor and early release. They also face tough penalties if they return illegally.
Only a handful of other states have similar programs, but most have saved money.
New York has saved about $152 million since 1995 with its version of the program, while Arizona has saved more than $33 million since 2005, immigration officials said.
Georgia has reported the most successful program so far, removing more than 3,600 illegal immigrant inmates from October 2008 through August 2009 for an estimated savings of $204 million.
However — as the article also notes, and as the Boston Globe reported a few weeks ago, a similar program in Rhode Island has yet to result in a single deportation, because of the program’s strict criteria combined with the small number of illegal immigrants in Rhode Island prisons.