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CDCR to Discharge Deported Criminal Aliens to Federal Authorities
Published: 03/01/2009

Change in Parole Policy Encourages Federal Government to Seek Stronger Penalties for Those Reentering California after Deportation

SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is adjusting its parole policy to discharge criminal aliens from state parole after they have been deported by federal authorities. The new discharge policy, being implemented immediately by CDCR's Division of Adult Parole Operations, is expected to reduce the number of parolees returned to state prison for the federal violation of illegally entering the United States.

"California's previous policy of reincarcerating deported criminal aliens in state prison for brief stints on a parole violation has contributed to a revolving door effect that has increased overcrowding and costs to state taxpayers, without improving public safety. The federal government can and should seek significant federal prison sentences for those criminal aliens that return to California, "said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate.

On Friday, February 27, Secretary Cate sent a letter to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security in which he said:

"We hope that the federal government will partner with us in the implementation of our new policy by prosecuting those criminal aliens who continue to illegally reenter our country to commit crimes. Federal law provides penalties up to ten years in prison for such criminals. Such punishment, not short parole violation terms, is appropriate for these offenders."

In 2007, CDCR turned over approximately 12,000 paroled criminal aliens, who committed a crime in our state while here illegally, to the federal government for deportation upon completion of their state prison sentence. Of those 12,000, nearly 1,600 deported parolees illegally returned to California. California's only recourse was to further clog our prisons by imposing short revocation terms - usually four to eight months - for a parole violation on these repeat offenders.

California has absorbed the cost - up to $10 million annually - of keeping these deported aliens on our parole caseloads and housing them for short stints in state prisons when they are arrested for violating immigration laws, not including the costs to county jails. In contrast, 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.

"Our new policy is simply identifying proper roles and responsibilities of the various law enforcement agencies that oversee public safety in California," said CDCR's undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan. "Clearly, the federal government has a significant responsibility to seek prosecution of these individuals, which ultimately may discourage these criminal aliens from even attempting to return to California or the United States. Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, and federal prosecutors, not state parole agents and local law enforcement, should be enforcing federal law."

"Those found guilty of a federal violation would then be incarcerated in federal institutions, not state prisons. The policy promotes longer terms for repeat offenders and better public safety. It also serves as a deterrent to those criminal aliens, while reducing the churning of deported criminal aliens in and out of local jails and state prisons," continued Kernan.

Under prior CDCR policy, once a criminal alien had served their time for violating California law, and been deported back to their country of origin, CDCR would verify that they were out of the country and the Parole Division would place them on an agent's caseload, with no active supervision. Under the new policy, those criminal aliens will be discharged from parole.

This change in policy will not affect law enforcement's ability to search and arrest these individuals due to their undocumented presence in California. There are existing procedures for law enforcement in California to determine if an individual is in this country illegally. CDCR is committed to working with local law enforcement in turning these cases over to the federal government for proper adjudication.

The policy is expected to reduce California's average daily prison population by up to 1,000 inmates annually, resulting in up to $10 million savings per year from the state's prison and parole budgets. CDCR expects to spend approximately $970.1 million in total in 2008-09 for the incarceration of undocumented persons. The state expects to receive $110.9 million in federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funding for 2008-09.

"This logical and sound policy change will save California taxpayers money while improving public safety," said Secretary Cate. "Given that the Federal Government typically reimburses California at a rate of 11 cents on the dollar for the state's costs of incarcerating criminal aliens, and that our prison system remains overcrowded, this policy must be adjusted."

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