May 10, 2007

Packed Into Prisons, With No Relief in Sight

Crowded jails from the Mexican border to North Carolina have prisoners packed into cells, sleeping in day rooms and struggling with overflowing sewers and waste water.

There’s plenty of money in Arizona for boosted border patrols, which capture more illegal immigrants who are then charged with felonies.

But the Christian Science Monitor reports that funding is in short supply for overwhelmed courts and jails along the border.

The federal caseload in Arizona increased 94 percent between 1996 and 2006 — so many new cases that attorneys are forced to spend less time on each suspect.

In the Navajo Nation, most lawbreakers never do time in local jails, which are overcrowded and plagued by sewage overflows.

Inmates are sometimes sent to state prisons in Arizona and New Mexico, which are also too full to take them long-term.

Tribal officials say federal funding is scarce and only covers staffing, not construction or repair costs.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, where jails are over capacity and in decline, county officials are trying to build a new facility, but don’t know how to pay for it.

Some favor asking voters for a bond measure, while others believe funding should go to services that would divert the mentally ill from prison and put some inmates under house arrest.

In the meantime, prisoners are crowded into cells, and frequently turn to beatings and fights to resolve disputes.

Sources:

“U.S. border crackdown jams federal courts”
Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 2007

“Navajo Nation struggles to house inmates”
Associated Press, May 6, 2007

“Bursting at the seams”
News-Record (NC), May 6, 2007

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