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Schwarzenegger: Send prisoners to Mexico

Schwarzenegger Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger floated a different approach to trimming down California’s bloated prison budget on Monday: pay Mexico to build new prisons and ship off California’s incarcerated illegal immigrants south of the border.

The Republican governor has pushed to house California inmates out-of-state before -- but never in a different country.

“We can do so much better in the prison system alone if we can go and take inmates, for instance the 20,000 inmates that are illegal immigrants that are here, and get them to Mexico,” Schwarzenegger said during a question-and answer session at the Sacramento Press Club. “Think about it.”

It’s cheaper to build prisons in Mexico, Schwarzenegger reasoned, and it’s cheaper to staff them there to boot.

“We pay them to build the prison down in Mexico,” the governor said. “...Half the costs to build the prisons and half the costs to run the prisons. That is money -- $1 billion right there -- that could go into higher education.”

The idea is not a new one. Jim Nielsen, a former head of the state’s parole board and now a state assemblyman, promoted the idea in the mid-1990s. It never happened.

The governor’s office said no specific prisoners-in-Mexico plan is in the works -- just yet. “There’s no proposal,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. “He was mentioning a creative solution we should talk about.”

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010.Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

 
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