Posts Tagged ‘reentry’
The newly launched RightonCrime.com touts itself as “the one-stop source for conservative ideas about criminal justice.” A project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation in collaboration with Pat Nolan’s Prison Fellowship, the site calls for greater accountability, transparency, and cost-effectiveness in the criminal justice system and a reduced reliance on incarceration. Among the signers of the site’s “Statement of Principles” are Newt Gingrich, former Attorney General Ed Meese, former “Drug Czar” Asa Hutchinson, and Bush’s former faith-based programs czar John DiIulio.
So, I think I may be the only person who still watches “Desperate Housewives,” the hot debut of 2004 that has more recently made an art form of jumping approximately three sharks per episode. In fairness, I actually had stopped watching it for a few years after college, but have returned to it since coming back to school. Spending all day reading books about slavery, prisons, rape, murder, etc. as I tend to do for my day job as a history grad student can really drive you to mindless television on your off time. Also, I actually kind of think it’s a good show, but that’s probably why I’m not a television critic for my day job.
Anyway, improbably enough, this whole season “Desperate Housewives” has been running a prisoner reentry subplot. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are two magazine features to keep you occupied in airports and train stations through the new year:
- The American Prospect has published online this special report on mass incarceration, which will also appear in its January/February 2011 print issue. The report features contributions from criminal justice policy scholars Mark Kleiman and Michelle Alexander, plus reporting on a wide range of policy issues (indigent defense, prisoner reentry, education funding, etc.) and state and local experiments with alternatives to incarceration.
I don’t watch fake news, so I missed this, but apparently Marion Jones talked prison reform in her recent interview with Jon Stewart:
It’s interesting, cause you never know where life is going to take you. Ten years ago, I would have never thought that I’d be an advocate for prison reform… If you don’t equip the people who are in prison with the resources to get an education, so that when they get out they can be successful–they’re gonna wind up right back in prison, or wind up being your neighbor. Or worse, maybe marrying your daughter or your son.
Funny that the Tea Party movement, in the name of restraining government power and/or protesting TARP, unseated the rare senator who occasionally voted to restrain government power and, you know, opposed TARP. OK, you say, but this isn’t a political blog, and anyway the election was actually more about the health care bill. OK, I say, fine. In any event, here’s the prison connection: it turns out that Wisconsin’s newest senator will head to Washington with some firsthand knowledge of prison labor:
Public records show that Pacur Inc. and Dynamic Drinkware LLC, two companies run by [Ron] Johnson, employ up to nine inmates at a time through a state Corrections Department jobs program.
Johnson’s companies offer private health insurance to the regular employees at the Oshkosh factories. But Melissa Roberts, an executive assistant with the Corrections Department, said the companies don’t have to cover the inmate workers. “The benefit is that they don’t have to pay health benefits,” she said.
The Johnson campaign said the candidate was not available to comment Friday because he was preparing for his debate later that evening with Feingold. But campaign spokeswoman Sara Sendek said his companies hire inmates as a public service.
Saving money “was not a factor by any means,” she said. “The factor was, this is a way to help put these people on the path back to recovery so they could contribute and work their way back into society.”
No Surprise: California Journalists Go with Fearmongering Instead of Contextualizing Recent Parole Reforms
As I’ve noted before, California’s parole system is widely misunderstood by citizens throughout the state and too often the California press only exacerbates the confusion. Here’s the latest in the long line of fearmongering articles about released prisoners who go on to do bad things. In this case, the ex-prisoner in question is Alexander Diaz, a 36-year-old Cuban national released from Delano State Prison earlier this year who went on to steal a delivery van and drive it into a police officer on a motorcycle. Pursuant to recent reforms, Diaz had been among the recently released prisoners put on “non-revocable parole” (translation: no parole officer, no parole conditions, but still no Fourth Amendment rights), rather than full parole supervision:
On Tuesday, Diaz appeared in Alameda Superior Court for a preliminary hearing on charges of attempted murder and auto theft. If he is convicted, Diaz could return to prison for a long time.
Obviously, Diaz made a deplorable series of decisions that resulted in a terrible accident. (Thankfully, the police officer survived after intensive surgery for a compound leg fracture.) But is parole reform to blame? Here’s what’s not mentioned in the article: Read the rest of this entry »
Filmmaker Goro Toshima has posted a 15-minute preview of his documentary, A Hard Straight, which follows its subjects for two years after getting out of California prisons. More information on the film is available at the PBS Independent Lens site, including a filmmaker Q&A:
… I think the problem has less to do with reentry programs and more to do with incarceration and the lack of rehabilitation that prisoners receive while locked up. I think the film shows that all three people in the film had problems/issues before going into prison. And during the time they were incarcerated, none of these issues were dealt with. The most effective change, I think, would be in focusing on trying to help people from the time they are locked up. Trying to help them once they are out, instead of while they are in, seems a little too late to try to help these people.
(h/t: Volokh Conspiracy)
Here’s an interesting item from across the pond:
Barclays is to become the first major bank to offer basic accounts to prisoners reaching the end of their sentence.
Working with Unlock – the National Association of Reformed Offenders – the bank will give basic financial training and help with application forms for a Barclays account through charity staff in prisons.
Any thoughts, readers? While I like the idea of providing some type of financial literacy outreach to prisoners nearing release — particularly since many prisoners may have missed the transition to online banking, the rise of overdraft fees and easy high-interest credit, the payday loan industry, etc. — I would also be very wary of American banks forming any type of “partnership” with American prisons. Phone companies have already demonstrated how gleefully corporations will take to gouging prisoners and their families if given an entree, and it’s not as though banks have acquitted themselves particularly well in recent years when it comes to serving financially unsophisticated, low-income individuals.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has this interview with the warden of a brand-new private prison. The interview itself is worth reading as a quick look at a warden’s point of view, but I wanted to highlight this line from the introductory material:
Nevada Southern, built by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America for $83.5 million, will look different than traditional prisons in more than just ownership. Prisoners can meet with outsiders, except lawyers, only through closed-circuit video feeds. In-person contact, in a large room or separated by heavy glass, has passed into history.
Between their out-of-the-way locations, security measures, advance paperwork requirements, limited visiting hours, exorbitant phone call fees, etc., prisons can make it very hard for inmates to coordinate and receive visits from family and friends. Yet studies have consistently suggested that prisoners who receive visits and maintain family ties fare better in terms of recidivism and reentry after they return to their community (as 90% of prisoners eventually do). In turn, visits are also important for prisoners’ children; studies suggest “those who visit their parents more often and under better visiting conditions exhibit fewer adjustment problems” (Petersilia, When Prisoners Come Home, p. 44). Although I do not know if it’s been empirically proven, I would be surprised if a closed-circuit video visit has the same meaning to either prisoners or their visitors as a face-to-face conversation. I would assume that if pressed about this policy, CCA would say it’s about keeping out contraband and/or cutting costs. But it sounds to me like a short-sighted, counterproductive measure.
The Atlantic has an interesting article called “Prison Without Walls,”* on supervised release programs like parole and probation, and the rise of GPS tracking and other ways of keeping track of “prisoners on the outside” — what Graeme Wood calls, in the article, “Panopticon justice.” As a California-based observer of prison law and policy, I only have one quibble with the article. Wood describes his subject as follows:
An underappreciated fact of our penitentiary system is that of all Americans “serving time” at any given moment, only a third are actually behind bars. The rest—some 5 million of them—are circulating among the free on conditional supervised release either as parolees, who are freed from prison before their sentences conclude, or as probationers, who walk free in lieu of jail time. These prisoners-on-the-outside have in fact outnumbered the incarcerated for decades.
This traditional definition of parolees — men and women “freed from prison before their sentences conclude” — is not accurate as applied to California, the nation’s largest prison system. While California does have a small population of prisoners sentenced to variable-to-life terms and thus theoretically eligible for parole in the sense of early release, California also uses its parole system to supervise the 95% of its prisoners who serve determinate sentences. From 1979 through this past January, every determinately sentenced offender in California faced a mandatory post-release parole supervision period of up to 3 years; as of January 2010, about 85% do, and even those not on full parole can still be kept on “banked parole,” meaning they can be searched without a warrant at any time. (I summarized California parole, and linked to some helpful overviews of the system, in a post back in January. Another good overview was recently published by the Bay Citizen. In light of the widespread confusion, I’ve also asked a couple of times if California shouldn’t change the name of parole supervision altogether.) Read the rest of this entry »