Transferring foreign inmates out of U.S. facilities.

Author:Hill, Gary

How many foreigners are incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons? The quick and most accurate answer to that question is: No one really knows. The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not check citizenship, it only keeps statistics on the birthplace of inmates, and the various states use differing methods to determine citizenship--so no consistent numbers are available.

Although approximately 28 percent of all BOP inmates are listed as being born in a nation other than the U.S.. what is not recorded is how many of those have become naturalized citizens. The International Centre for Prison Studies in the United Kingdom estimates that just below 6 percent of the 2.4 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S. can be classified as foreign inmates. That percent translates to about 145,000 foreigners that might be eligible for transfer back to their home nations. If estimates used by Sylvia Royce, the former director of the U.S. Department of Justice International Prisoner Transfer Program, are more accurate, then the number of foreign inmates in U.S. custody could exceed 670,000. Either way, the numbers are impressive, especially when U.S. jails are running at about 96 percent capacity, state prisons at 112 percent and BOP facilities at 154 percent. (1) The average annual cost of incarcerating a person ranges from $13,000 in Louisiana to $45,000 in Rhode Island. (2) For federal prisons, the figure per person is about $23,500 annually, state prisons spend S20,000 annually and local jails spend $19,900 annually. (3) Even if part of those numbers is discounted, because much of the costs are fixed and would not go down with the release of individual inmates, the amount of money saved by reducing the number of foreign inmates incarcerated in the U.S. would be considerable.

International Transfer Treaties (4)

The International Prisoner Transfer Program began in 1977 when the U.S. government negotiated the first in a series of treaties to permit the transfer of inmates from countries in which they had been convicted of crimes to their home countries. The program is designed to relieve some of the special hardships that fall upon offenders incarcerated far from home and to facilitate the rehabilitation of these offenders. Inmates may be transferred to and from those countries with which the U.S. has a treaty. Although all inmate transfer treaties are negotiated principally by the U.S. State Department, the program itself is administered by the U.S. Department...

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