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Run for the border

By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
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California is changing the way it handles deported parolees who try to re-enter the country. The change should reduce the number of those inmates at local prisons, hopefully easing overcrowding. The move changes a cumbersome policy of keeping deportees on a parole caseload even after they leave the state under federal deportation. Under that policy, a parolee caught illegally re-entering the state was sentenced to another prison term, usually around six months, as punishment for violating parole by breaking federal immigration law. California can no longer afford to pay to incarcerate such offenders, said Seth Unger, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Folsom State Prison has labored under serious crowding of inmates and now incarcerates more than 3,500 people. Lt. Anthony Gentile, spokesman for Folsom State Prison, said he couldn’t estimate with any precision how large a population cut Folsom Prison would see. Unger said the policy change would make an impact on a statewide level. “The policy will put the average daily population statewide at about 1,000 fewer inmates. There are 33 institutions statewide,” said Unger. At Folsom’s maximum-security California State Prison, Sacramento, some 175 current inmates have “holds” from the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service affecting their futures upon release, said spokeswoman Lt. Judy Loer. California wants the federal government to take responsibility for jailing deported re-offenders breaking federal immigration law. Federal reimbursement for such incarcerations has been running at 11 cents on the dollar, CDCR officials said. “Our new policy is simply identifying proper roles and responsibilities of the various law enforcement agencies that oversee public safety in California,” said Scott Kernan, department undersecretary of operations. Research showed that in 2007, the government deported around 12,000 California parolees. Of those, more than 10 percent were caught after illegally re-entering California, and the state spent some $10 million incarcerating them for comparatively short sentences, corrections officials said. “Under federal law, these deported criminal aliens who return illegally could be subject to felony charges that could result in a 10-year federal prison term,” CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate wrote Feb. 27 to Janet Napolitano, U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary.