Expenditures for public safety services in corrections, parole, probation and rehabilitative services have increased in recent years. Many states, including New York State, have experienced increases in their prisons’ populations and a rise in prison related expenses (CJCJ, 2002, para 5). An increasing prison population is partially attributed to mandatory sentencing laws and stiff penalties for non-violent offenders imposed by state and federal governments. According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (2002):
“62.5% of all the people sent to prison in New York in 1997 were convicted of non-violent offenses. There are 22,670 drug offenders in the New York State prison system, about one-third of the entire inmate population. Over 90% are there because of two mandatory sentencing laws that were passed 25 years ago, in 1973. The Rockefeller Drug Laws require harsh prison terms for minor drug offenses. The Second Offender Law requires a prison term for all repeat felons regardless of the nature of the offense or the background or motivation of the offender. It costs the state over $680 million a year to keep these non-violent drug offenders in prison. By way of comparison, since 1988 the state has reduced its higher education funding by $615 million. (para. 8, 9)”
These figures are devastating. Criminals, more so than victims, monopolize public funds. If current crime trends continue, and if current drug enforcement laws and penalties remain, at what cost are the law-abiding citizens made to feel safe?
Not only does the deliberate criminal strain the budgets of the many state and local governments, but also the mentally ill. With the safety and well-being of society as a whole in mind, the criminal justice system has also the responsibility of protecting citizens from those untreated and undiagnosed mentally-ill populaces; many whom become violent or threatening without proper medical treatment, but in general are simply unable to follow the rules of society. Some law enforcement agencies are forced to detain the mentally ill until one of a decreasing number of viable treatment facilities becomes available. In many instances the primary offense of the mentally ill is being a public nuisance. Regardless of the reason, rising prison populations have led to huge financial burdens for taxpayers.
Even more staggering is the financial impact that illegal immigration has upon the criminal justice system. Many people debate whether illegal aliens should be entitled to services paid for with taxpayer dollars. Currently, illegal aliens, those who owe no allegiance to our country and who have “violated our laws by illegally establishing residence in our country” (Adversity, n.d.), receive many services and benefits from the American government. In some instances, they receive more services than many American citizens do. According to statistics from the Center for Immigration Studies (2004):
“Illegal immigrants cost the Federal Government nearly 10 billion a year and amnesty would nearly triple the costs . . . Illegal alien households are estimated to use $2,700 a year more in services than they pay in taxes, creating a total fiscal burden of nearly $10.4 billion on the federal budget in 2002. Among the largest federal costs: Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).”
The Center for Immigration studies also suggest that legalization would be more costly because most illegal aliens are uneducated and unskilled laborers, and once legalized, they would be eligible for more governmental services, but contribute only a small portion in tax dollars.
Many Americans argue that it is inhumane to send illegal aliens back to their own country where they most likely face death due to intolerable living conditions; and the children of the illegals born in the U.S. are citizens according to the 14th amendment. I will not minimize the complexity of this moral dilemma and the debate is a valid one. However, I will say this; “The original intent of the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law at taxpayer expense” (The American Resistance, n.d.). Furthermore, crime has consequences and any American burglar that is found illegally entering another’s dwelling is dealt with swiftly and promptly regardless of their motive.
My quandary is, if illegal aliens, not to be confused with the undocumented workers who are granted temporary stay in the country by the government to work, are rewarded instead of penalized for breaking our laws by illegally crossing our borders then crime really does pay. What good are the laws in this country if some groups of people are made to follow them and others are not? What good are borders at all? It is an oxymoron to speak of the “criminal” illegal aliens, but that is the only way to distinguish the law breakers from the law breaking law breakers when speaking of illegals in this country. For public safety officials, “the number of illegal aliens incarcerated total 345,680 and the cost of incarceration since 2001 is $1, 454, 110, 881 and rising (Immigration Counters, n.d.).”
Besides that, American taxpayers can scantily afford the 22 million illegal immigrants in this country that have already cost over 398 billion dollars in total services since 1996 (Immigration Counters, n.d.). Publically funding the activities of illegal aliens beyond the costs associated with enforcing the immigration laws already in place, sets an awful precedent to those immigrants, or permanent legal residents, who follow our immigration laws and respect our borders and to those 275 million U.S. citizens, many who are denied the very same services allowed the illegal aliens. God forbid we continue to spend billions in governmental services to illegals, when within our own borders we are already drowning in hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who willfully accept unearned and undeserved entitlements from the government without contributing one single tax dollar, and criminals who drain taxpayer dollars to the tune of one and one half billion dollars per year.
American Resistance, n.d. Anchor Babies. Retrieved on September 9, 2007 from
Center for Immigration Studies (2004). The costs for illegal immigration. Retrieved on
September 8, 2007 from http://www.cis.org/articles/2004/fiscalrelease.html
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (1998). New york state of mind? higher education vs.
prison funding in the empire state, 1988-1998. Retrieved on September 8, 2007 from http://www.cjcj.org/pubs/ny/nysom.html
Definitions: Alien, Immigrant, Illegal Alien, Undocumented Immigrant, n,d,. Illegal Alien.
Retrieved on September 8, 2007 from http://www.adversity.net/Terms_Definitions /TERMS/Illegal-Undocumented.htm
Immigration Counters (n.d.). Real-time data. Retrieved on September 8, 2007 from
Pollock-Byrne, J. (2004). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice, (5th ed.).
Belmont, CA. Thompson\Wadsworth