As it currently stands, any prisoner identified as a foreign national who is sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 12 months or more is subject to automatic deportation unless they can meet the criteria for exemption as set out by immigration legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The consequences of becoming a FNP is at first glance subjective. However as I shall point out, the consequences go beyond the prisoner themselves, impacting both close to them and society itself.
Foreign National Prisoners serve a term of imprisonment unsure of whether they will be released at the end of their sentence. This becomes a battle of continuous anxiety of an uncertain future that, for some inevitably puts a strain on close relationships. There is a battle through complex immigration and legal system which is often asymmetric given the lack of resources, education, support and funding, on the part of the FNP. Being a Foreign National Prisoner could mean for some being returned to a country they barely remember, have lost connections or do not have any family in. it could also mean the potential of being deported to countries in crisis or that they fear to return to.
Some arguments for deportation could argue why a society should continue to harbour and be a place of refuge for those that are not citizens and have disregarded the law. Surely, it could be said, for these people whom the courts have judged as worthy of a custodial sentence should be removed for the protection of the rest? It should be asked, what about the victims? What about those that have been wronged? Is deportation not for them justice?
When we delve deeper into the consequences of being a Foreign National Prisoner, whether you argue for or against deportation. What becomes clear is a complex and emotive subject that divides opinion. Moreover the subject of deportation and the consequences Foreign National Prisoners incur asks yet greater questions about the prison and justice system itself. Is the pursuit of deportation for Foreign National Prisoners and admission of a wider failing on the part of the prison system as a whole?
If the purpose of the prison system is to rehabilitate or to punish, why then is deportation pursued beyond the sentence imposed if the prison system has fulfilled its purpose? Unless of course by default it is an admission of failure and if so it is a failure on the whole of society.
What becomes apparent when we ask these questions is that by viewing this subject in isolation the wider narratives become obscure. Like so many of today’s societal issues, when they become fragmented we are unable to see the interlining components which often lead to discussions on inequality, poverty, education or economics for example.
The true consequences of being a Foreign National Prisoner is being a symbol of societies wound. A symbol of society’s diversion. Of those that see it is as just and those that do not. There are no victors. For the families of the deported it leaves many questions of their value and role in society. For society itself it seems self-defeating particularly when faced not only with a rising FNP population but a rising prison population in general.