Pubdate: Sun, 16 Dec 2007
Source: Daily Nation (Barbados)
Copyright: 2007, Nation Publishing Co. Limited
Author: Tony Best
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


BARBADOS MAY soon be forced to absorb more criminal  deportees from 
the United States.

The criminal aliens who are soon to be released were  originally sent 
to prison for drug dealing and it is  expected that about 3 500 
inmates, some of them from  the Caribbean, Bajans included, could 
have their terms  shortened within the next few months.

That's going to happen because of a decision by the  United States 
Sentencing Commission to lighten  punishment retroactively for some 
drug crimes. It's a  move that could eventually free as many as 20 
000 inmates who were sent to federal prison for drug  dealing.

Some of them could be freed as early as the middle of  next year, if 
not sooner, but the bulk of them would  have to wait while judges 
review their sentences.

Criminals who are not American citizens are  automatically deported.

In a 7-0 decision, the Commission, which sets  sentencing guidelines 
for the nation's federal courts,  stated that it was wrong for the 
courts to impose  longer sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine 
than for offences involving chemically identical  powdered white cocaine.

Drug of choice

While crack is favoured by Blacks in poor  neighbourhoods where many 
West Indians live, the white  stuff is the drug of choice of whites, 
especially  suburban dwellers. The upshot: Blacks, including 
thousands of West Indians, were given stiffer prison  terms for 
crack, some as long as 22 years, while  whites, who used white 
cocaine, served much shorter  times behind bars.

That explains why 85 per cent of the federal prison  inmates 
convicted of drug offences are Black.

The Commission has ordered that beginning on March 3,  2008, those 
behind bars for crack cocaine offences  could petition trial judges 
to have their sentences  reviewed, and that process was expected to 
spring  thousands of convicted criminals in 2008. Bajans,  Jamaicans, 
Trinidadians and others in the region are  expected to be among them.

Michael King, Barbados' Ambassador in Washington, said  while he was 
unable to say how the Commission's action  would affect Bajans in 
federal prisons, some of them  could benefit from the ruling.

Not aware

"I can't predict the impact because I am not aware as  to the number 
of persons whom the US would be preparing  to send back home as 
criminal deportees," he said.

"I don't know their thinking in terms of who or how  many. But I can 
assure you that if this is the case,  almost every country in the 
Caribbean is likely to be  receiving some criminal deportees as they 
are released.

"It will be another challenge that they will have to  face up to. But 
I really can't predict what will happen  and what the numbers are in 
the United States."

Not available

Although exact figures aren't available for Barbados,  several 
hundred Bajans, at least 600, have been  deported from the US after 
serving time in federal and  state prisons for drug and other 
criminal offences  since 1996. At least 20 000 criminal aliens were 
sent  back to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, 
Haiti,  Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Suriname and other  countries in 
the region during the past 11 years.

Many law enforcement officials and researchers in the  Caribbean have 
blamed criminal aliens for contributing  to the mushrooming incidence 
of crime in the region,  especially in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago 
and the  Dominican Republic.

While Barbados is among a few Caribbean nations which  didn't link 
the rise in crime to the deportees,  officials in Jamaica, Trinidad 
and Tobago, St Lucia,  Guyana, St Kitts-Nevis and the Bahamas have 
said the  deportees were definitely involved in criminal  activity.

The nations asked the Bush Administration and Congress  to change the 
law to reduce the flow of deportees. In  June, when Caricom leaders 
met with US President George  Bush at the State Department in 
Washington, he rejected  pleas to amend the laws to allow some 
convicted  criminals, especially those who came to the US as 
children, but never became naturalised citizens, to  remain in the US 
after they had served prison terms.

However, the US is working with a few Caribbean states  to help 
finance a criminal alien re-integration  programme there in those states.

"The United States has been working with three Caricom  countries 
looking at projects for the re-integration of  criminal aliens and 
they are Bahamas, Guyana and  Jamaica," said the Barbados envoy.

Being considered

"I am not sure of the state of play with regard to  those 
initiatives, but it is my understanding that the  broader issue of 
the deportees is being considered at  the regional level."

In a stunning move, the US Supreme Court gave federal  judges more 
discretion when they impose sentences for  drug offences. Previously, 
they were forced to hand  down sentences based on overarching 
guidelines that  imposed stiffer sentences for drug dealers in poor 
neighbourhoods than whites in the suburbs.

Opponents of the mandatory sentences had contended for  years that 
the disparity gave Whites an easier passage  than Blacks who were 
often given lengthy sentences for  small amounts of crack cocaine 
while Whites were often  spared after being convicted of possessing 
larger quantities of white cocaine.

"At its core, this question is one of fairness," said  Judge William 
Sessions 111 of the US District Court in  Vermont who also sits on 
the Commission. "This is an  historic day. This system of justice is, 
and must  always be colour bind."
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