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A board that oversees vocational training and work programs at California prisons has voted to discontinue allowing undocumented immigrant inmates set for deportation to participate in the California Prisons Industry Authority certification program.

Authority spokesman Tom Collins said the aim of the Prison Industry Board action Thursday is to "ensure that the effective vocational training that CalPIA provides is first applied to inmates who will return to California's communities following their parole, rather than training individuals who will not."

The program, established in its current form in 1982, provides training and jobs in the manufacturing and agricultural industries for inmates in 22 prisons across the state.

Approximately 427 of the 5,700 inmates now participating are under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold and will be deported once their sentence is completed. Fifty-two of the 727 inmate workers enrolled in certification programs are also under an ICE hold, according to a staff report recommending the change.

Collins said he did not know why inmates with ICE holds were not previously deemed ineligible for the program, but that the recommendation for the change came up as the board was exploring options for lowering costs and improving the effectiveness of the program.

Recidivism rates for inmates who participated in the program are significantly lower than inmates who do not -- 12 percent of certification program participants paroled in fiscal year 2007-2008 re-offend, compared to 42 percent of the general prison population paroled during that time, according to the report. The report also estimated that limiting the program to inmates eligible for parole in California could translate to fewer inmates re-offending and a savings of $784,000 a year in corrections costs.

"The Board's action allows CalPIA to focus on what is best for the taxpayers of California" Collins wrote in an e-mail. "CalPIA would welcome funds from any government, foreign or otherwise as allowed by law to pay for vocational training of inmates who will subsequently be deported."

The change takes effect March 1, though undocumented inmate workers now enrolled will be allowed to complete the program.


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