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Freedom - at what price to corrections?

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

This inscription on the Statue of Liberty amply sums up the reason millions flock to the United States each year--freedom. It is an open invitation, full of promise for individuals seeking citizenship or asylum in this country. However, welcoming immigrants to the United States also carries with it a great deal of responsibility for properly managing this sincere humanitarian gesture. In this vein, our nation's leaders are faced with the difficult task of trying to control illegal immigration.

Today, as leaders respond to critical issues surrounding illegal immigrants, corrections also must respond. We must make the issue a priority, because the problems surrounding illegal immigration in this country affect us greatly. Legislators are addressing the problem by enacting laws and establishing interdiction programs that do not include adequate funding for corrections.

A great number of illegal immigrants end up in our prisons, jails and detention centers. Many correctional facilities in border states are experiencing the disturbing effects of legislation enacted to cope with this population.

Several facilities throughout these states are burdened with thousands of individuals being detained for illegal immigration. As a result, millions of dollars in operating expenses are being added to state and local budgets that already are fiscally strapped. Another effect has been a reduction in the overall quantity and quality of program services available to inmates. State and local officials and correctional practitioners alike should ask, "Where is the federal funding for these projects?"

Having federal funding set aside for corrections to respond to new immigration legislation is essential if we are to eliminate unexpected and unintended consequences such as increased operational costs, inmate management risks and facility expansions. And this objective must be achieved in a way that ensures we do not sacrifice the safe and humane care of this growing segment of the offender population.

It is evident that the number of people who enter this country illegally will not decrease because of restricted access or toughened borders. Reactive measures such as these will serve as no more of a deterrent than other crime-fighting strategies that do not address the broad impact on the community. Of course, our nation cannot close the door on those in quest of freedom, but we must work to find practical and fiscally sound answers to this problem.

Most of us agree, if we cannot slow down the influx of illegal immigrants, our nation's economic system will suffer further erosion, certain jobs for tax-paying citizens will be devalued, and health and human services problems will continue to worsen throughout our communities. These conditions lead to increased crime, not only among the immigrant population itself, but throughout society.

Corrections practitioners--even in jurisdictions that are not currently being affected--must realize that state and local governments will continue to have greater problems containing their budgets if we don't address the implications of the new legislation for corrections. We must insist that the federal government bear its share of the responsibility in this ever-growing problem.

As committed professionals, our responsibility to speak out and take action when policies or laws are detrimental to our goals will never be absolved. I believe we can take this stand without losing sight of the fact this country was established on a basic premise--that it is a sanctuary where respect for the dignity of the dream to live free still can be found.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:funding for increasing immigrant inmate population
Author:Gondles, James A., Jr.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:592
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