Foreign inmates around the world.

Author:Hill, Gary

It does not cost any more to house foreign inmates in the U.S. than it does to house U.S. citizens. However, the daily cost to house foreign inmates--both citizens and noncitizens--in the U.S. is high. Costs range from $38.47 per day in Louisiana to $159 in Vermont. (1) In 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that 2,239,800 individuals were incarcerated in the U.S.--735,601 in jails and 1,504,150 in prisons. (2) The International Centre for Prison Studies indicates that 5.9 percent of those incarcerated in the U.S. are foreign inmates. (3) That comes to 132,148 individuals at an average cost of $8.2 million per day, $62 per inmate. (4) Add the estimated $5.4 million per day (5) for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house illegal immigrants, and the cost to house foreign inmates is about $13.6 million per day. Foreign inmates are inmates in U.S. prisons who are foreign born, not U.S. citizens and have committed crimes in the U.S. Illegal immigrants are those held in detention in the U.S. for being in the nation illegally--not necessarily guilty of anything other than being in the country without proper visas or permission.

Since 1977, the U.S. has signed or ratified a series of treaties to permit the transfer of inmates to serve their sentences in their home countries. Known as "Transfer of Sanction Treaties," these international agreements between nations allow the U.S. and the nations with which the U.S. has signed the treaties to transfer convicted inmates back to their home nation to serve their sentences. According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice, between 2005 and 2010, 77,660 foreign national inmates requested transfers back to their home nations. Ninety-six percent were deemed ineligible by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the International Prisoner Transfer Unit. However, the OIG report found enough errors, delays in processing foreign inmates, and lack of use of the treaty to have saved the BOP more than $50 million annually. (6)

Treatment of Foreign Inmates

Money is not the only reason for utilizing the transfer treaties to the fullest. Being incarcerated far from home brings additional hardships to foreign inmates and arguably adds to the difficulties of rehabilitation. For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Justice International Prisoner Transfer Unit has been attending meetings of several correctional agencies and associations to explain the transfer treaties and to increase usage. In 1984, the United Nations Committee on Crime Prevention and Control adopted a set of recommendations on the treatment of foreign prisoners. Those recommendations include: (7)

* The allocation of a foreign inmate to a prison should not be effected on the grounds of his or her nationality alone;

* A foreign inmate should have the same access as national inmates to education, work and vocational training;

* A foreign inmate should be eligible for measures alternative to imprisonment, as well as for prison leave and other authorized exits from prison according to the same principles as nationals;

* A foreign inmate should be informed promptly after reception into a prison, in a language which he or she understands and generally in writing, of the main features of the prison, including relevant rules and regulations;

* The religious precepts and customs of foreign inmates should be respected;

* A foreign inmate should be informed...

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