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To save money, state deporting some prison inmates early

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington has begun to deport some prison inmates before their sentences are up. The new program is expected to save $2 million a year. But the deportations have immigrant rights advocates concerned.

The early deportation program is restricted to non-violent, non-sex offenders who already have a final deportation order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. That means they would be deported anyway at the end of their sentence.

Some are in the country illegally, others are here on green cards but face deportation because of a felony conviction. The Washington prison system expects to send about 144 inmates a year back to their countries or origin.

So what's to keep them from coming back? The agency's Scott Blonien says as soon as the offender is handed over to ICE, a national arrest warrant is issued.

"So if law enforcement anywhere in the United States has contact with that offender after they've been deported, they're coming back to us to serve the balance of the sentence," Blonien said.

Although, he admits some will likely return to the U.S.

Immigrant rights advocates say some inmates with final deportation orders actually have avenues of appeal, but without a lawyer may unwittingly waive their legal rights.

On the Web:

ICE Criminal Alien Program

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.