Thinking outside the box, Dennis Richardson proposes sending Oregon prisoners to... China?

Elizabeth Mazzara

In his monthly newsletter Representative Dennis Richardson (R-4) tackles the question of how to navigate the current budget crisis. He encourages his colleagues to "think outside the box". Of particular interest is his recommendation for how to deal with prison overcrowding.

He applauds recent efforts at the ballot box to get 'tough on crime' but notes that these folks failed to consider the budgetary requirements of some of these initiatives.

One way to deal with this? Ship our illegal aliens currently residing in our prisons to China.

That's right: outsourcing prisons.

He notes that certain states contract out some services to other states - and, for pennies on the dollar we can export our undocumented prison population, save some money and open up beds for American criminals.

A quote:

Illegals could be incarcerated for less than $10,000 per year—a fraction of current costs in Oregon. Plus, it would free up bed space and thereby avoid having to build or expand Oregon prisons. California contracts with Tennessee prisons, so how about Oregon contracting with its number one export partner, China.

I take my leave and open the door for discussion.

But first, I guess one question: what is it here that doesn't sit right? Is it the idea of sending prisoners to a nation with one of the worst human rights records in our era? Or is it that only "illegals" would be subject to this cost saving measure?

Comments

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    Oof

    I can't imagine that's cost effective.

    Not to mention filling a bunch of ships with prisoners and sending them across the ocean. Just, oof.

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    Now, I don't think that our criminal justice policy ought to be driven by considerations of jobs for prison workers, but the idea of shipping prisoners to China - and creating jobs for Chinese prison guards instead of Oregon prison guards, well, that's just absurd.

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      OR prison guards are unionized, right? ie, communists... wait. hold it.

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      What if it means $20 million more per year for schools and health care?

      Using figures from here and Richardson's $10,000 per year cost per prisoner in China (how did he get that?), I calculate savings of $20 million per year.

      In 2009 it cost $28,389 per year per prisoner. 1,136 "illegal alien" prisoners (who probably will be deported upon serving their sentences) times a saving of $18,389 each per year is $20,890,699.

      I'd welcome a more current or better data source.

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        How about we just quit locking up "illegal aliens"? Imagine what that would save!

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          Carla, I do not think that the 1,136 figure includes any persons whose only crime is that they are in the US illegally. I think they have all committed other crimes while here. The source lists assault, burglary, drugs, driving offenses, homicide, kidnapping, rape, robbery, sexual abuse, sodomy, theft, and vehicle theft.

          Does it make sense to lock them up at our expense and then deport them? Maybe not. Could we just deport them (after due process)? Yes, but wouldn't they just be able to come back?

          I'd like to legalize many of those currently in our country illegally. I think we need them here. But the true criminals among them, no.

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            It doesn't make sense to lock up a lot of the people we do, David. Why stop at people who are here illegally? How about we export all those serving time for a violent crime conviction? How about those in for minor drug offenses?

            If the problem is that we need to save money and open up more prison beds--then perhaps there's an actual non-crazy response to this. Something like..oh I dunno...reasonable drug laws and sentencing?

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              Carla, I agree with you on the need for more reasonable drug laws (I'd legalize marijuana, for example) and more reasonable sentences in general. And I share the concerns Elizabeth raises. I was reacting to Kari's point about Chinese vs. Oregon prison guards. $20 million per year (if that is the right figure) is a big premium to pay for keeping those jobs in Oregon. We could take the savings and spend them on other programs in Oregon.

              I think we are at a point with our state government budget squeeze that we need to look fully at all possible cost saving ideas.

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                As far as good ideas go, this one ranks up there with the eugenic sterilization legislation laws that were passed by Oregon's legislature in 1920.

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                  Or Bruce Starr's bill that would mandate that all recipients of state assistance, food stamps and welfare,take drug tests that they must pay for themselves. That's approximately $50 millions to drug labs for each testing cycle, which would actually be paid for by the taxpayers since aid recipients have no other income. Nice little boondoggle.

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              If you want reasonable laws, we must first remember not to vote for anything with Kevin Mannix's name on it. Remember that it was his Measure 11 that has jammed our Prison system with new offenders that might have been treated differently if the judges had and autonomy in sentencing.

              There are too many right wing-nuts getting elected to represent us (or the Tea Party.) Until that changes, don't expect things to get any better in our State.

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    When I saw a reference to Richardson's plan posted elsewhere, I posted that the logical extension of this idea would be to ship our kids to China for K-12 education, since it would be cheaper and the Chinese do it better anyway...

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      While no one would suggest sending all our K-12 students abroad, a year of high school abroad for some of them would be good for them, for our state's future economy, and for world peace. And yes, for some study abroad programs the cost of a high school year abroad (including room and board and transportation) is less than the cost of a year in a local high school. See here.

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    We could do this cheaper. The ideal GOP plan would be to set up heavy hard labor chain-gang camps in Eastern Oregon, providing free agricultural labor to agri-business, and house the convicts in tents year round. However, the first GOP politician that gets sent there will become a prison reformer and howl about the inhumanity of it all.

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    Great idea Bill. I say let 'em howl right along with the coyotes just outside their tent flap.

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    Until today (1/28/11), a U.S. state through the federal gov't likely could've negotiated with Mubarak about taking prisoners, although Mubarak's got plenty of people locked up, already.

    Joe Biden interview with Jim Lehrer, 1/27/11: "I would not refer to him (Mubarak) as a dictator."

    Yes, I know why the subject of Egypt will not be broached on BlueOregon: Because the leadership of the Dem Party is completely laughable on the topic!

    Screw you, Joe Biden!

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      Uh what?! Egypt won't likely be discussed here because it's Egypt. And this is Oregon.

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        Kari Chisolm- Oregonians' tax dollars have been wasted for decades propping up the brutal Mubarak dictatorship. It's a USA/Oregon issue, more than any other country outside of Egypt's immediate area.

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          Joe Biden should get himself a striped-silk shirt and learn how to play piano, so's he could work every room in the house!

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          Uh, OK. But that same hook could be used to discus any federal issue. And here at BlueOregon, we mostly talk about state issues - or federal issues where Oregonians are particularly involved.

          In any case, the "submit a guest column" link is right there. And you're welcome to it.

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    How about we take illegal aliens who have been convicted of a felony and send them back to their country of origin w/a suspended sentence? Then if they show back up we warehouse them in prison?

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      Why don't we just deport them from Oregon. Do we really care what they do in other states?

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        The state doesn't have the authority to deport, because it doesn't have the authority to determine legal status in the first place. To Oregon, a criminal should simply be a criminal--meaning they've committed some kind of criminal offense, which being here illegally is not.

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        Well, why don't we just announce we won't extradite ANYONE who flees Oregon to avoid serving time? Commit a crime in Oregon, leave the state before or after conviction, and we won't bring you back. Save us the money of locking you up, and you go free. Win win.

        Oh, wait. If we did that, every other state in the union would announce they won't extradite any of their felons who flee to Oregon.

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    The problem with this proposal is that Mannix would immediately file a ballot initiative proposing to triple minimum sentences.

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    Sounds like a pretty bad idea.

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    I agree we need creative thinking, but how about making incarceration the last resort in dealing with crime? The US incarcerates people at a far higher rate than any other nation (except China and, I think, Iran) and we're certainly not safer than other counties.

    Oregon wants to get creative, why not look at some of those countries that incarcerate their citizens at about 20-25% the rate Oregon does, but are still pretty safe places to live? See what they do and how we can adopt it here. Shoot for a 70% reduction in our corrections budget.

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    Back in the early 1990s, my fellow Lane County Commissioner Jerry Rust--a liberal Democrat--had this idea and actually contacted some of his sources in China. They respectfully responded that the different standards in their corrections systems probably made that unworkable.

    But nearly twenty years have passed so who knows? We already send some of our prisoners to Texas.

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      The unworkable part might be that in this country we believe in human rights (I realize that the GOP does not necessarily agree with that position, but the majority of us do.)

      Privitization of prison systems has been a fiasco. TX is a poster child for prisoner abuse by corporate prisons.

      My suggestion would be that you talk to your buddy Mannix and try to talk some sense into him about his unfunded mandate attitude about dealing with crime.

      With all due respect, please start acting responsibly and represent the best interests of the people you were elected to represent. Corporate tax breaks do not create jobs. That experiment has been running since Reagan and has proven to be a failure.

      I have a Masters Degree in Political Science and you guys on the right make no sense to me at all (actually you do, and that is what frightens me.)

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    There's some sarcasm in these comments, and a few vague discomforts, but assuming human rights, blah-blah-blah are the same, what IS wrong with this idea? I'm not promoting it, I'd just like a clearly articulated ideological answer.

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    Even though I am a registered Democrat, I am hardly a liberal. In fact, I might be more conservative than most Republicans. However, I believe Republicans are starting to hit the "tipping point" with their anti-illegal immigrant animus. It is exactly this kind of idiocy that is starting to make the look like idiots to political independents who dominate the electorate. Outsourcing prisons? First of all, privatization of prisons in this country has had disastrous effects on the professionalism to properly run correctional facilities. Ask anyone who has ever worked for one those Wackenhut prisons! I think the Republican Party is continuing to make a huge political and ideological mistake in their attacks on Hispanics specifically and illegal immigrants in general. You are virtually assuring a second Obama administration.

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      You sound more like a DINO (Dem in name only) from your post.

      I do not disagree with your point, but you are completely wrong if you side with the GOP on pretty much anything.

      We would be in a much better place now if Obama had been able to get anything done in his first two years in office. It is the GOP (the Tea Party to be exact) that has been totally obstructionist in their attempt to make Obama a one-term President at the expense of the American people.

      The GOP in Oregon have done the same thing this last session by obstructing the passage of any constructive bills just to make the Dems look bad.

      If you need to argue that point, don't bother - just go back to your intellectual bubble and watch FOX News and chat with your righty pals about what a lousy president Obama has been while you ignore the real problem in our political system - the hijacking of the Republican party.

      It is not just a National problem, it is at the State and local level too. The Tea Party are a bunch of fascists and the GOP voters are a bunch of sheep - continuing to vote against their own best financial interests over and over.

      So after you are done suggesting that Obama should go, take a look at the alternative - more of the same political decisions from the right that got us into the financial disaster we are currently in.

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