How Does Illegal Immigration Affect the US Prison System?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in an Apr. 7, 2005 report to Congress entitled "Information on Criminal Aliens Incarcerated in Federal and State Prisons and Local Jails," informed:
the United States incarcerates criminal aliens--noncitizens convicted
of crimes while in this country legally or illegally--in federal and
state prisons and local jails, the federal government bears much of the
costs. It pays to incarcerate criminal aliens in federal prisons and
reimburses state and local governments for a portion of their costs of
incarcerating some, but not all, criminal aliens illegally in the
country through the Department of Justice's State Criminal Alien
Assistance Program (SCAAP) managed by the Bureau of Justice Assistance
(BJA). Some state and local governments have expressed concerns about
the impact that criminal aliens have on already overcrowded prisons and
jails and that the federal government reimburses them for only a
portion of their costs of incarcerating criminal aliens.
At the federal level, the number of criminal aliens incarcerated
increased from about 42,000 at the end of calendar year 2001 to about
49,000 at the end of calendar year 2004--a 15 percent increase. The
percentage of all federal prisoners who are criminal aliens has
remained the same over the last 3 years--about 27 percent. The
majority of criminal aliens incarcerated at the end of calendar year
2004 were identified as citizens of Mexico. We estimate the federal
cost of incarcerating criminal aliens--Bureau of Prisons (BOP)'s cost
to incarcerate criminals and reimbursements to state and local
governments under SCAAP--totaled approximately $5.8 billion for
calendar years 2001 through 2004."
The Western Governors' Association, in a 2006 policy resolution entitled "U.S-Mexico Border Security and Illegal Immigration," stated:
"As a result of the shared border
and proximity to Mexico, Western states of the continental United States
suffer a disproportionate financial burden on... criminal justice
systems because of unauthorized migration from Mexico. Illegal
immigration, however, is not solely a Western issue. It impacts the
economy of the entire nation... Because border control measures have
increased in recent years, so has the use of human trafficking networks,
resulting in more violent crimes along the border, a dramatic uptick in
assaults on law enforcement, and overwhelmed state and local criminal
justice and correctional systems."
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in an article entitled "Criminal Aliens" on its website (accessed July 10, 2007), offered the following:
"The criminal alien problem is
growing. Criminal aliens--non-citizens who commit crimes--are a growing
threat to public safety and national security, as well as a drain on our
scarce criminal justice resources. In 1980, our federal and state
prisons housed fewer than 9,000 criminal aliens. By the end of 1999,
these same prisons housed over 68,000 criminal aliens. Today, criminal
aliens account for over 29 percent of prisoners in Federal Bureau of
Prisons facilities and a higher share of all federal prison inmates.
These prisoners represent the fastest growing segment of the federal
Over the past five years, an average of more
than 72,000 aliens have been arrested annually on drug charges alone.
New issue paper... Among the alien federal prisoners, over half (55
percent) were illegally in the United States at the time of their
conviction. Administering justice to criminal aliens costs the taxpayer
dearly. Incarceration of criminal aliens cost an estimated $624 million
to state prisons (1999) and $891 million to federal prisons (2002),
according to the most recent available figure from the Bureau of Justice
Meredith Kolodner, MA, reporter at The Chief-Leader, in a July 19, 2006 New York Times article entitled "Immigration Enforcement Benefits Prison Firms," wrote:
the Bush administration gets tougher on illegal immigration and
increases its spending on enforcement, some of the biggest
beneficiaries may be the companies that have been building and running
private prisons around the country.
By the fall of 2007, the administration expects that about 27,500
immigrants will be in detention each night, an increase of 6,700 over
the current number in custody. At the average cost these days of $95 a
night, that adds up to an estimated total annual cost of nearly $1
The Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group (formerly the
Wackenhut Corrections Corporation) - the two biggest prison operators -
now house a total of fewer than 20 percent of the immigrants in
detention. But along with several smaller companies, they are jockeying
for a bigger piece of the growing business.
Corrections Corp. and Geo are already running 8 of the 16 federal
detention centers. With all the federal centers now filled and the
federal government not planning to build more, most of the new money is
expected to go to private companies or to county governments. Even some
of the money paid to counties, which currently hold 57 percent of the
immigrants in detention, will end up in the pockets of the private
companies, since they manage a number of the county jails."
The Minnesota Department of Administration, in a Dec. 8, 2005 Office of Strategic Planning & Results Management report to the Governor of Minnesota entitled "The Impact of Illegal Immigration on Minnesota, Costs and Population Trends," offered the following:
"On the state level, the Minnesota
Department of Corrections estimates that it cost approximately $14
million in FY 2005 to incarcerate illegal immigrants in Minnesota.
Accounting for federal SCAAP payments that reimburse the state for some
of these costs, the net total state cost was approximately $12.8 million
in FY 2005. The costs have increased 22.3% over the FY01-FY05 period.
During this period, the number of incarcerated illegal immigrants
increased from 380 in FY 2001 to 501 in FY 2005. The 501 offenders
constituted 5.9% of the FY 2005 overall average prison population in the
state. In addition, Minnesota received less in federal SCAAP payments in
FY 2005 than it did in FY 2001."
Bill Owens, MA, while Governor of the State of Colorado, in an Aug. 30, 2006 speech in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget, stated:
"As we have learned here in Colorado in recent months, some of the costs can be elusive. But efforts such as this hearing will help all of us identify and understand the fiscal impacts. In many cases, the states and local governments incur significant costs related to illegal immigration, often due to federal mandates... We are able to identify the impact to our state correctional system for housing illegal immigrants who are convicted of crimes. In Colorado prisons, we are housing over 950 illegal immigrants who, upon release, will be detained by the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for likely deportation. At a cost of nearly $27,000 per prisoner, the annual cost to taxpayers to house these offenders is over $25 million."