For Immediate Release
April 4, 2002
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
The Florida Department of Corrections has recently been awarded $22,093,699 from a federal government program created to help offset costs for housing criminal aliens, bringing to $151 million the amount received over the last eight years. The department is awarded this grant because our database, records and reporting procedures for alien inmates are among the best in the country. The department can claim a larger share of available funds for the State of Florida because we can accurately document criminal aliens in our prison system.
"An initial, modest investment of computer programming services and staff time has paid off in more than money from the federal government. We may well have the best corrections database on alien inmates in the nation," said Secretary Michael Moore. "Our ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate this information has helped INS process their alien inmate caseload better, yielding several benefits."
The department's information on alien inmates helps INS and immigration courts get criminal aliens deported soon after release and allows population management staff to place them at facilities appropriately. The database also guides classification officers in managing their housing and job assignments, provides notice to foreign consulates about their citizens in our custody and aids investigations by other law enforcement agencies.
"Aside from maximizing federal dollars returned to Florida, these uses of alien inmate information make the prison system more secure. We could not do it without good quality data," said Moore.
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), established in 1994, requires stringent data reporting and verification procedures from the states that participate. Florida continues to receive funds through SCAAP due to good quality information. In fact, maintaining good information has allowed the state to sustain our share of these funds despite greater competition from other state and local corrections agencies. In 1998, when Congress extended funding eligibility to local jail systems, the State of Florida's funds declined only modestly (from $26.6 to $23.1 million). And as the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) have improved their data verification processes in recent years, the financial benefits of our data became clearer. In 1999, Florida's SCAAP funding increased 46 percent--more than the federal appropriation increase--even though Florida already received one of the largest amounts in the country. And although 100 new jurisdictions applied for payments in 2000, increasing the applicant pool by 25 percent, the state's funds declined only 13 percent, a smaller percentage than other large funding recipients.
Florida prisons hold enough criminal aliens to fill four medium-sized prisons plus two typical work camps. On January 31, 2002, according to department statistics, Florida housed 4,519 confirmed alien inmates, comprising 6.2% of the total inmate population. The department was also responsible for 182 suspected aliens under investigation by the INS. Data is initially recorded as inmates enter through our reception centers, where INS agents interview possible aliens. While in prison, these inmates are processed by INS and the federal immigration courts, so that aliens can be eventually released to INS for prompt deportation after serving their sentences.
Since January 2000, Carrie Adams, the Department of Corrections Immigration Administrator, working as a liaison for the Department with federal authorities, has ensured proper identification of foreign-born inmates admitted to prison which averages 175 per month and obtained information on the citizenship and deportation status of 4,400 alien inmates. She also monitors immigration court proceedings at 57 institution hearing sites (averaging 100 per month), places and removes immigration detainers (averaging 125 per month), and coordinates alien inmates' release to proper authorities (averaging 100 per month).
Alien inmates are distributed among 62 prisons and work camps throughout Florida. Department security, classification, and program staff are well aware of the practical management challenges that can accompany alien inmates due to language, cultural, political, and religious differences. However, keeping good information on these inmates has assisted staff and other agencies in managing this population.
"Without a good database, we would be in poor shape to apply for such funds, and could only do so with costly, inefficient use of staff time," said Glen Holley, a department researcher. "This is an example of how keeping our database complete and accurate - in the normal course of doing our jobs - helps agency and our state. Often, we can not place a dollar value on that aspect of our work, but in this case the amount is roughly $151 million."