Immigrant Criminals in Overcrowded Prisons: Rethinking an Anachronistic Policy
146 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2012 Last revised: 12 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 1, 2013
Under an Immigration and Nationality Act provision dating to 1917, deportable immigrant criminals must serve their entire sentences in the U.S. before being removed from the country. (Exceptions, enacted in 1996, are seldom used). At the same time, federal and state prisons are dangerously overcrowded, with the Supreme Court soon to rule on the constitutionality of overcrowded conditions in the California system. The paper shows that the most common proposals for reducing overcrowding are either politically difficult (e.g., shorter sentences) or numerically insignificant (e.g., decriminalizing drug possession for use). The paper proposes instead, or in addition, to facilitate the earlier removal of deportable criminals and analyzes the legal, policy, and diplomatic changes that would be necessary to implement this approach.
Keywords: immigration, criminal procedure, prisons, international law
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