As leaders around the state grapple with the early release of thousands of non-violent prisoners to reduce the cost and crowding of state prisons, the governor offered another option in Sacramento Tuesday – send them to Mexico.
During a question-and-answer session at the Sacramento Press Club, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested paying Mexico to build new prisons to house illegal immigrants currently incarcerated in California.
"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.
It costs half as much to build and operate prisons in Mexico compared to California, he said.
"That is money -- $1 billion right there -- that could go into higher education," Schwarzenegger said.
Schwarzenegger's idea had not been vetted, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Governor's Office was unable to answer, for instance, whether he would like to send all illegal immigrant prisoners to Mexico or just those who have Mexican citizenship.
The idea was first proposed by Jim Nielsen, a former head of the state's parole board and now an assemblyman, in the 1990s, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Prisoners will be released over the span of two years. Authorities say the prisoners slated for release will be low-risk felons who earned the right to be released after educational and rehabilitation programs.