Another Horrible Effect of Sequestration: Letting 'Noncriminals' Out of Jail

CCACCATo dramatize the crippling impact that the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect this Friday will have on the federal government's ability to perform its most basic functions, the Obama administration has "released hundreds of detainees from [immigration] detention centers around the country in recent days," The New York Times reports. In response to complaints from Republicans such as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, who worries that "the administration is needlessly endangering American lives," a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) emphasizes that the people who are being released pose no threat to public safety because they are "noncriminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories." Which raises the question: Why were they locked up to begin with?

In addition to the needless loss of liberty and all the attendant burdens on detainees and their families, there are taxpayer costs to consider. According to the National Immigration Forum, keeping someone facing deportation proceedings behind bars costs $122 to $164 a day, compared to anywhere from 30 cents to $14 a day for supervised release. According to a private contractor that helps monitor detainees on supervised release, "96 percent of immigrants enrolled in ICE’s alternatives-to-detention program attended their final hearing in 2011." Immigration activist Carolina Canizales observes that "it shouldn't take a manufactured crisis in Washington to prompt our immigration agencies to actually take steps towards using government resources wisely or keeping families together."

Will sequestration force the government to free even more people who are locked up only because they dared to live and work in the United States without official permission? Surely that outcome is too horrible to contemplate. What's next? Will the government's financial desperation result in the release of federal prisoners serving long sentences for engaging in other consensual transactions that violate no one's rights? That would really be awful.

Jesse James Conto toured our scandalous immigration detention system in the July 2011 issue of Reason.  

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Hopefully this continues into summer. The lawncare service industry could use an infusion of competition to bring prices down.

  • SIV||

    "noncriminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories."

    So what kind of criminals are they letting go?

  • Question of Auban||

    Probably non-violent drug users if I had to guess.

  • Matrix||

    When it comes to the prisons, I'm going to guess they'll release the violent ones first instead of the non-violent drug users. Then when the violent criminals kill people, they will say "this is what happens when you cut our budget! Murderers run loose in the streets!"

  • John||

    Ten percent across the board means ten percent across the board. The means that ten percent of the people in Marion are getting out just like ten percent of the small time tax cheats and petty drug smugglers sitting in minimum security prison camps get out. They just have to do it that way.

  • Hyperion||

    Then when the violent criminals kill people

    Well, mister, would you rather have crazed pot smokers on the playgrounds of our schools, forcing 5 year olds to get addicted to the devils weed?

  • Question of Auban||

    They will release the Washington Monument Criminals.

  • ||

  • Hyperion||

    This is what happens when everyone has guns in a country where there are no career politicians to save everyone from themselves.

  • Question of Auban||

    Did he get Obama to sign off on these targeted killings first? If so it’s fine. If not, he needs to answer for his crimes.

  • Virginian||

    I think it was Ace of Spades that was pointing out that most of the threatened services they're going to stop are the "rightwing" ones.

    they're not cutting the TANF or SNAP or whatever it is they're calling the dole now. They're not cutting student loans or education grants. They're punishing their political opponents, not their supporters.

    These people, I think, don't know what kind of Pandora's box they're opening.

  • John||

    But most of their opponents won't care. And if their low information and low IQ supporters are still getting their welfare checks, they won't bother to get agitated either. I would think you would want to cut off the parasites so that they would then be motivated to come out and punish Republicans.

  • ||

    These people in government are stupid and short-sighted, but I think even they are smart enough to not want riots in the cities and welfare workers getting lynched. Yet.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    The state of Alabama had a vote on a budget issue back in September and those advocating for increased spending used the release of prisoners as a scare-tactic for their cause. I was immediately skeptical, as I obviously assumed that the first to go would be the drug offenders.

  • Proprietist||

    In case you are wondering why Chester the Molestor is being paroled and moving into those apartment down the street from your family, please refer all questions to your Republican Congressman or Senator whose insistence on sequestration cut our prison funding and forced us to release heinous criminals back into your communities. If your child gets poked or prodded inappropriatelyby Chester, just remember - it's a direct result of extremist fiscal austerity.

  • Drake||

    All an effort to make the spending "cuts" hurt as much as possible.

    The Obama Administration is willfully fucking up everything possible. By fucking up the borders, airport security, and every other way they interact with actual taxpaying citizens. In their small minds, they think it will prove that the solution is - MORE GOVERNMENT!

  • ||

    If this is what they call "hurting" , call me a masochist.

  • Drake||

    There will be more. Members of the military will probably miss some paychecks, etc... But Air Force One will be fueled up for vacations and campaign stops.

  • ||

    You see? Their tears get even sweeter the longer you savour them.

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