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America Hits Unfortunate Imprisonment Landmark

Discussion in 'U.S. Politics' started by vyo476, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    Here's a distinction we didn't need: more than 1 out of 100 Americans is currently in jail or prison. What I want to know is, out of the 2.3 million Americans in jail, what is the most prevalent crime they're all being imprisoned for?

    Record-high ratio of Americans in prison

    By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer 23 minutes ago

    NEW YORK - For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population and urging states to rein in corrections costs with alternative sentencing programs.

    The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

    Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.

    The steadily growing inmate population "is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime," said the report.

    Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are prompting officials in many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft in crime.

    "We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime, they want to be a law-and-order state — but they also want to save money, and they want to be effective."

    The report cited Kansas and Texas as states which have acted decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. Their actions include greater use of community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than reimprisonment for ex-offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation rules.

    "The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens," the report said.

    While many state governments have shown bipartisan interest in curbing prison growth, there also are persistent calls to proceed cautiously.

    "We need to be smarter," said David Muhlhausen, a criminal justice expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "We're not incarcerating all the people who commit serious crimes — but we're also probably incarcerating people who don't need to be."

    According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states and the federal prison system.

    The largest percentage increase — 12 percent — was in Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget speech last month. He noted that the state's crime rate had increased only about 3 percent in the past 30 years, while the state's inmate population has increased by 600 percent.

    The Pew report was compiled by the Center on the State's Public Safety Performance Project, which is working directly with 13 states on developing programs to divert offenders from prison without jeopardizing public safety.

    "For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn't been a clear and convincing return for public safety," said the project's director, Adam Gelb. "More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on taxpayers."

    The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws, that result in longer prison stays.

    "For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."

    The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails — a total 2,319,258 out of almost 230 million American adults.

    The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080228/ap_on_re_us/prison_population
     
  2. ilikeboobs

    ilikeboobs Member

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    Up your butt, Jobu.

    Guess we could save money and make the country better if we (A) kill the worst of the worst and/or (B) Americans stop breaking the law.
     
  3. TruthAboveAll

    TruthAboveAll Active Member

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    Your comment is not without merit. The subject, and the numbers reflected in the article, are indicative of a subject that begs attention.

    Our prison system as a whole is broken. The attempts of different states to get tough on crime, as the example of Kentucky cited in the article, has created a mess for the most part. Along with getting tough on crime, a review of existing laws currently on the books would have been helpful. Many laws are draconian, and should be commuted to obsolescence.

    For the states where the death penalty exists, the appeal system is atrocious. I have my own reservations about it's use, but there are cases where the evidence is totally irrefutable. But this is a drop in the bucket to the total cost of incarcerating prisoners.

    Since the part about not breaking the law is not going to happen, I'd love to see some reforms proposed. For example, that for the most part non-violent crimes be penalized by other types of accountability (fines, public service, counseling, etc.).

    Those convicted of violent crimes, again for the most part, deserve harsh sentencing. There are people in prisons today living a better lifestyle than some in our general population. For some, it becomes a preferred way-of-life. Not saying it's a big number.

    True story: a man in Michigan confessed recently (for the 3rd time) to a murder of a 17-year-old girl nearly 25 years ago. From an article in the Ann Arbor News:

    Local investigators said his confession could be a ploy for more prison time because he complained he was having trouble adjusting to society on parole and wanted to return to prison....

    Saxton said Schmid took two polygraph tests, gave statements inconsistent with what investigators knew about the slaying and later admitted he made the claims to get more prison time.

    "It's unfortunate that the case is still open, and it's unfortunate that he keeps claiming to be responsible for it when he's admitted to us that he said it to stay in prison," Sexton said.

    California represents a huge chunk of the national prison costs. Yet in California, they are trailing other states in moving towards prison reform. It's something they've been talking about there for years, but a damning report in 2003 by the Little Hoover Commission is a point of reference and showing little progress since.
     
  4. heyjude

    heyjude New Member

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    The prisons are big business in this country. And they intend to stay that way. In Oregon there is a bill up for state wide referendum to create more harsh maximum prison sentences.

    The schools, built shortly after WWII, are falling down, but we build more prisons. It is difficult if not impossible to pass a school bond measure, but more taxes go to support prisons. Working people can't afford medical care, but prisoners are given it because the law says they must have it available. No, I don't think that is wrong, I think that it is stupid to put more and more people in prison. Prison is not the answer to every crime, any more than war is the answer to every problem.
     
  5. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    There are a few related issues here.

    CRIME IS NOT BAD
    As much as Americans complain about crime, we as a whole, really do not see crime is bad. We don't see criminals as people who deserve punishment. If we did, then movies like Pitch Black, Chronicles of Riddick, Gone in 60 Seconds, Office Space, Absolute Power, and millions more in which the 'hero' is a criminal, would not have play in America. But they do. The glorification of criminal and evil acts is wide spread and accepted.

    I worked one place where a guy went to the bank during lunch to deposit his check. While there, the guy in front of him robbed the bank. Despite being the only one who had a good look at the guy, he refused to help the police saying he saw nothing, then remarked to us that 'he' (the robber) was so smooth about robbing the place, he wished he could have gotten in on it.

    We even have people in this very forum thinking we should reward people who break our laws with citizenship. The point being that until we change our view of crime, back to it being an evil thing deserving of punishment, our nation will be filled with criminal.

    MURDERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO MURDER
    Of course no one says that openly... but by virtue of murders being allowed to stay alive, they are automatically given the chance to murder again. Escape from prison is so glorified, we have a TV series that is name Prison Break, that's wildly popular.

    How many of those on Death Row have multiple murder and rape convictions? I do not know the currently number, but I wager that it is a high percentage than last time I checked, back in the '90s. It was outrageous back then, but we never learn from the past. As far as I am concerned, the blood of the innocent people murdered by those we allowed to live after the first conviction, is on the hands of the public.

    SOLUTIONS
    Deport illegal aliens. If they are not citizens of the US, they should not be in our prisons. Drop them in the middle of the desert for all I care, but if they are not here legally, and commit a bad enough crime for prison, get rid of them.

    Non-violent crimes could be punish with other means. Physical punishment for example. Public humiliation. Lashes, branding, perhaps water boarding? In some countries, if you can't keep your hands off what is not yours, then you lose your hands. I would be for this in situations where a criminal has been convicted of the same theft 3 or more times. Isn't it clear by then that he has no intention of stopping? So let him lose his hands if he can't use them right.

    Make prison less bearable. If people are actually confessing to things they didn't do, just so they can go back to prison, then clearly prison isn't bad enough they don't want to go. Reinstitute prison heavy labor. Have them work coal mines or steel mills or something. By selling the labor we can recoup the cost of imprisoning them. That also would provide incentive to not come back because no one likes to work really hard for free.
     
  6. ilikeboobs

    ilikeboobs Member

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    Up your butt, Jobu.
    I've wondered many times why criminals can't be forced to do hard labor like they used to. Then I heard from an attorney friend of mine that it's considered cruel and unusal punishment now. Are you F-ing kidding me? Same thing with welfare - some liberal puke judge said you can't force someone on welfare (getting paid by "the man") to do any kind of work for that money because it's "not nice".

    Reinstituting chain gangs could solve 1, maybe 2 problems alone:
    1. By making prisoners work in the fields picking cabbage and strawberries or planting trees (if it would make hippies happy), illegals would be out of work, sending a lot of them back from whence they came. Make prisoners do the jobs that "Americans won't do".
    2. Knowing ahead of time that if you go to prison you're going to be worked like a vietnamese sweatshop schoolgirl, maybe potential criminals will see the error of their ways and straighten up. No? I can't prove one way or the other it's success but it's something to ponder nonetheless.

    Bottom line, for me, is this: if you expect me to be happy that i'm paying you (via my tax dollars) to sit in a jail cell, watching cable TV and getting 3 meals a day WITHOUT having to do some sort of work for it, you're sadly mistaken.
     
  7. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Generally I would support this, but it isn't going to happen unless our world view of criminals changes.

    This will be a very bad idea under the current America. See, in the past, we would have guards all over with shotguns and night sticks, ready beat or shoot those criminals on the chain gang, the moment they did something wrong.

    Today, criminals can assault people, riot in prison, and even engage in mortal combat with officers, yet never get much more than sprayed with mace. Go to youtube, and watch the videos of inmates attacking female guards, and have nothing happen to them but be placed in solitary confinement for a time. OOooooOOooo.... the 'time out box' for assaulting an officer while in prison? How very deterring.

    Why does this happen? Because we place heavy penalties on people who stand up to criminals. There was one video where an officer was attacked and mauled by a criminal. During the struggle, the officer drew his pistol and shot him. The officer lost his job and was taken to court. I don't know the outcome of the court battle, but the fact there was a battle shows we have issues in the US.

    So Chain Gangs can not happen. The prisoners would riot in the face of officers unable to use the force needed to keep them in line. But that should not stop us from moving material into prisons for them to work on, and ship the finished, or simi-finished goods out of the prison.

    Another idea is send them to work mines. With guards at the exits, there really isn't a place they can escape too. And hey, if the mine collapses, saves us a lot of money.
     
  8. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    This social trend relates to the idea that "laws" are not absolute and can be unjust, which appeals both on a personal and societal level, especially to people living in a country that gained independence through a violent revolution. The Founding Fathers, after all, were criminals for what they did, until they won.

    If we really believed that "murderers should be allowed to murder again" why would we bother sticking them in prisons? True, it isn't a one hundred percent effective solution, but it's counter-intuitive to your theory.

    That sounds rather like common sense. The real debate is whether we should just deport the ones who are here illegally but aren't committing crimes.

    First of all, that's cruel and unusual punishment. Somehow I doubt you care.

    Second of all, if someone is convicted of stealing three times, he/she probably suffers from a psychological condition. Chop off his hands? What happens to him then? You haven't solved anything.

    People are confessing to things they didn't do so they can go to prison? Hadn't heard that.

    One of the biggest problems with making imprisonment profitable is that it gives the government incentive to imprison people. It'd be almost as bad as legalizing slavery again, only it'd be handing the power over such institution to the United States government. Do you really like that prospect?
     
  9. Libsmasher

    Libsmasher New Member

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    There is nothing good, bad, or even noteworthy about this statistic, unless someone wants to assert something based on it and prove it. Otherwise, this is a meaningless thread.
     
  10. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Precisely. As you have correctly stated, this trend has followed it's natural course to where we are now, with high crime rates and lax punishments that do not deter, nor stop criminals. Until this changes, all attempts to correct these issue will fail.

    Of course. No doubt most people justify their beliefs with the false theory that if they are in jail, they will not hurt anyone again. But as we have seen time and time again, that is not the case. The very fact that more than half the people in jail for murder, have been convicted of murder more than once, makes clear we are ok with this. Since we have not changed our thinking to reflect that our prior beliefs are not true, clearly we are alright with murders able to murder again.

    Actions speak louder than words. If we really wanted to stop murders, we would take actions that stop them, not say we want to stop them and take actions that clearly do not.

    Side note: Is not coming here illegally a crime? (hence the name?)
    Common sense isn't common anymore. If it were, they would have been deported in '86 prior to the first amnesty... but they were not, and are not, are they?

    Cruel and unusual punishment has become a relative thing, has it not? In the early days of our country, murders were hanged publicly. Some criminals were stuck in stocks for public humiliation.

    Today a 20 year old who refuses to leave a college building when ordered to do so, can't get tazed without crying out cruel and unusual punishment.

    Point is everything, even prison itself, can be considered cruel and unusual punishment from a certain perspective. Bottom line, we have to either accept the way things are, or do something that someone will consider cruel and unusual. Clearly when people commit crimes specifically to go back to prison, the punishment is not enough.

    As far as not caring... I'll tell you what I think is cruel and unusual. It's the millions of raped women whose lives are shattered. It's the thousands of people whose stuff is vandalized and stolen. It's the people constantly looking over their should when they walk down the street because they were mugged before. It's the people who have to join gangs just for protection. It's my sister who had to move twice, and change her phone number twice to get away from a ex-boy friend who just got out of prison and was stalking her. The mother that weeps over the grave of a slain child, only to find out that the killer escaped and killed again.

    That, my friend, is cruel and unusual punishment.

    Read TruthAboveAll's post. Near the bottom under Ann Arbor News. And I know this is true because I have heard other similar stories.

    In this case yes. Even as a Capitalist who believes in small government, enforcing the rule of law is a duty of the government. Plus, under all rights are reserved to the states, the States should have that right. I am not supporting the Federal government doing this.

    Finely, since this would be a form of socialism, I have no doubt that prisons will never ever be profitable. I was never supporting that idea either. I only suggested that forced labor would offset, not cover, the cost of running the prisons, and would also give additional motive to not go to prison. Something clearly lacking given the prior example.
     
  11. wm009

    wm009 New Member

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    God Bless America for keeping America safe by locking up all the criminals that are destroying the fabric of society. If only the government would round up all the gays and atheists, and America could get back to the War on Terrorism.
     
  12. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    Good luck convincing people that thinking like the founding fathers, who in some quarters are practically worshipped, isn't a good idea. The glorification of "revolutionary spirit" is so pervasive in today's culture that changing it would be a Herculean task, and I'd bet Hercules wasn't very good at social engineering.

    Either that or we have reelvuated our position and find imperfect imprisonment morally preferable to capital punishment. I was for the death penalty for a lot of years - in every practical way it makes sense. However, don't make the mistake of thinking that people who are against the death penalty are in any way simple-minded about the issue. Just because they advocate imprisonment doesn't mean they haven't thought the whole thing through.

    Sorry, I should have said "other" crimes, things like theft, murder, etc. Basically, the things that anyone who is already here can do.

    Common sense would seem to dictate that the best way to deter illegal immigration is to make the insecure border secure. There a number of other alternatives - the harsh ones, from deportation to just plain shooting anyone who crosses the border illegally, and the soft ones, which mostly center around trying to improve conditions in Mexico and Latin America so they stop wanting to leave their own homes for ours. Whether to deal harshly or softly with issues like this is not a matter of common sense, but of opinion.

    More to the point, "cruel and unusual punishment" has always been a relative thing. Still, I think the founding fathers would have frowned on waterboarding. They went in for humiliation-based punishments, sure, but things like waterboarding are tortures of the kind they were most likely trying to avoid by putting down "cruel and unusual punishment" in the laws.

    I think the punishment ought to be much higher for people who commit crimes simply to go back to prison. Of course, that's a can of worms; actually proving that sort of thing would be exceptionally difficult in most cases.

    Unquestionably.

    Ah. I don't always read every post in a thread, more to my discredit. Wacky stuff.

    What about federal crimes?

    Firstly, profitable prisons, or at least prisons that make loads of cash, aren't too hard to imagine. If you've never seen it, The Shawshank Redemption is an excellent film that is (in part) about something of that kind happening.

    Secondly, there will always be people who do things for unforseable motives. You can make prison pretty harsh and I'd bet there will still be people who would want in - even if they're being worked half to death they're still being taken care of, and that's appealing to some people. In essence, there are multiple reasons someone might want to go to prison - it's unfair to assume that the only reason is that it's too soft on people.

    If you really want to deter people from wanting to go to prison, the only thing I can think of is to eliminate prison's one principle draw - the fact that inside one is not responsible for oneself. No matter how hard the work is or how poor the food is or any of that sort of thing, people in prison are still being taken care of. If we can make people believe that in prison they still have to fend for themselves the same way they do out here, we'd just about solve the problem.
     
  13. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    I hate to tell you, but it's our society too.
     
  14. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Actually I was supporting the reverse. Getting back to thinking like the founding fathers would solve many problems, including this one.

    Who's morals? The morals of our founding fathers which instituted capital punishment? Or the morals of feel good relativism? Because capital punishment doesn't feel good and I totally understand that. However, that is not morally viable.

    Further, I never suggested simple-mindedness. Most people do not have time to think through every issue of life. I understand this too. We're all busy running our lives as we should be. But I do hope they have not thought through the whole thing. I give them credit that they have not, because if they have, then they are knowingly choosing to cause more innocent people to die.

    Which goes back to morals. Is a crime a crime when it violates our laws, or is there an exception to those crimes which can't be done by those already here? See here is a dangerous stance to take. The moment we make laws selectively enforceable, we open the door for government to do great injustice.

    I disagree. Your use of the word "alternatives" imply they are mutually exclusive, yet I suggest not only are they not exclusive, but both must be done. Numinus, despite dozens of ignorant and incoherent posts, made one single great statement. He pointed out that illegal immigration will always exist. No matter how secure we make the boarder, there will always be some amount of illegals getting in. So, there are two issues here. One is the open boarder. The other is illegals who make it in. Each issue must be dealt with.

    After making the boarder as secured as possible, we have to have some way of dealing with illegals who make it in.

    I suggest the solution can be found by answering this question: Why do immigrants try to come here illegally, rather than legally? Answer: Because it works. Amnesty proves that it works. So the only solutions is to make it not work, as in, deportation.

    Consider this: Thousands are spent every year to get illegals across our boarder. Why not spend those thousands to apply for legal citizenship? Because doing it the illegal way, works. Why take the time, and the the extra cash to do it legally, when doing it illegally is faster and cheaper and more importantly, works with a higher success rate? Now on the other hand, if they were deported, and all the money spent was lost... you'd see a quick shift toward legal immigration. Again, not 100%, there will always be some amount, but that is the only way to minimize illegal immigration.

    I have no problem with this. Scratch waterboarding. How about 100 lashes? Stocks? I only suggested water boarding because it leaves far less long term effects that other forms of punishment, yet will clearly cause enough discomfort to deter future criminal activity. Of course, I'm still in favor of thieves losing their hands. If you can't use your hands without violating law, you lose them, one at a time. Just like if you can't use your life without taking innocent life, you lose it.

    Difficult, yes, nearly impossible. Serving longer time merely rewards them with what they wanted to begin with, and leads to the over crowed, blooming cost issues we have already. I'm afraid you lost my vote on that one. Which of course leads me to the main suggestion of my original post, that being we need to make prisons worse, either by forced labor or physical punishment.

    Honestly, I don't know. I didn't think about it till you brought it up. Seem to me that federal prisons are already far worse than state ones. Perhaps no change is needed. I could be wrong. Had not really researched that.

    I'd be surprised if it could be profitable. Shawshank was fictional and I never take a movie for basis nor reference. I couldn't find any information on money collected during the chain gang era.

    I understand your view... I doubt it though. I think if prison was harsh enough, repeat offenders would drop. Eliminate? No, likely not. But drop? yes. There was a prison interview with an inmate, who indicated when he did his crime, he had assumed that he was going to a different prison. The one he ended up at was much worse, and much more dangerous. He said if he had known, he would not have done it.

    Otherwise, you have a great point about making them take care of themselves. There is that prison where the inmates have to sleep in tents, no A/C in the heat of the day, fix and eat their own meals, all canned food. It has one of the lowest rate of return inmates in the US if I remember right. I need to find that article again.
     
  15. vyo476

    vyo476 Active Member

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    The moral argument is basically that taking a life, any life, is wrong, even as punishment for the crime of taking a life. Basically, the argument is that capital punishment is hypocritical. "Killing is wrong, and if you kill someone, we'll kill you." It's a rather simplistic argument, and can be taken apart using more complex reasoning, however that reasoning enters a few different topics, including the nature of political association and how its actions differ from individual actions in a moral sense.

    I've known people who have believed just that, that in order to maintain our innocence the innocents must continue to be the victims, instead of making the transgressors the victims and ruining our innocence.

    I toyed with the idea myself once upon a time (even on this board somewhere, I think) but in the end I've come out more or less on the side of capital punishment - only for the worst crimes, comitted by those beyond rehabilitation, and only when it is proven beyond a doubt that the punishee in question is guilty.

    Even now I do have qualms about the whole thing, especially since the "proven beyond a doubt" thing can be misused horribly. Still, better to punish those who misuse the justice system than to cripple the justice system to prevent its misuse, right?

    Selective enforcability is a tough one. For instance, it is illegal for a US citizen to kill another, but it is legal for a US citizen to kill another in self defense. The action is the same, the justification is different. Still, I'm not sure selective enforcability is pertinent here, since, unless I'm much mistaken, the act of entering the US illegally and the act of remaining in the US illegally are two seperate crimes, both of which are committed by illegal immigrants. Is it possible, then, for a person who is in this country illegally to commit a legal act? If the answer is "no" then there's no further point in discussing illegal immigrants who steal since stealing is as much a crime for them as walking down the sidewalk.

    This is where I would suggest trying to help Mexico sort out its issues. There are three things they need: more abundant jobs, more helpful labor laws, and better healthcare. The first and the last we could help with fairly easily (tax breaks for corporations that expand into Mexico - for some reason that looks illegal now that I've typed it, but I'm not sure), but the one in the middle is more or less up to them. Better education would be good too - it'd get their birthrate down, making it easier for individuals to provide for themselves and their families in Mexico rather than having to come here to find a job with high enough wages to keep the kids clothed and fed.

    Still, yes, illegal immigration will never be completely solved. I'm sure we probably have a few Canadians enter this country illegally every year for one reason or another. No one gives a **** about them getting deported, though, since there are only a few. If we could get the numbers down on the southern border the same indifference to deportation would set in. I'm all right with that scenario - the few that would still be entering illegally would be doing so for entirely personal reasons, not reasons caused by a massive social problem (like is happening now).
     
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