Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘reentry

John McWhorter on Prisoner Reentry and Unemployment

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John McWhorter has an interesting piece over at The Root on prisoner reentry and black unemployment. McWhorter spotlights a few promising reentry/employment programs in Newark, N.J. McWhorter suggests that finding an employer willing to hire folks with criminal records is actually not the biggest hurdle for ex-prisoners — rather, it’s all the steps you have to go through before you can even think about going on an interview:

The immediate task at hand for an ex-offender is becoming able to work. Ex-cons often don’t have a Social Security number — and forget about a birth certificate. … Nine in 10 clients need detoxification or rehabilitation.

(BTW: Unlike Obama, Newark mayor Cory Booker has been known to voluntarily bring up the problem of mass incarceration in speeches where he could have gotten away with uplifting pablum. It’s probably no accident that Newark has some promising programs.)

Written by sara

January 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm

“What’s Ahead for California’s Dysfunctional Prisons?”

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The Crime Report has an interview with Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation — worth reading in full for California wonks. Here’s an excerpt:

TCR: What are your two or three major accomplishments?

Cate: Reducing prison overcrowding while seeing crime rates in California continue to decline, is accomplishment number one. Number two is parole reform, where as I’ve mentioned, we’ve developed and used a risk assessment tool to identify and focus our resources on our most dangerous inmates, rather than just cycling our low risk inmates through our prisons over and over again for technical violations. This concept of basing our decisions on the science of who’s risky and who’s not is a major step forward in California.

TCR: What has been your biggest frustration?

Cate: The fact that corrections reform takes so long. It took two-and-a-half years to put in place the basic rudiments of parole reform. It was a highly politicized issue, and there were civil service and bureaucratic rules that had to be dealt with. The red tape is so unbelievable in California that it takes a long time to make anything happen even when everyone agrees it should be done.

Written by sara

January 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

Prison Higher Education Programs: An Unfunded Unmandate

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A letter in today’s New York Times, from Vivian Nixon of the College and Community Fellowship, relates the Georgia prison strike to a broader problem — the dearth of funding for prison higher education programs:

Georgia inmates contend that access to educational opportunities beyond the G.E.D. will better prepare them for re-entry and decrease crime and recidivism. They’re not the only ones who know this to be true.

Reports released by the United States Education Department, the Justice Department and state correction departments all recognize the myriad benefits of educating prisoners. Since 1994, incarcerated students have been barred from receiving Pell grants despite the fact that prisoners received less than 1 percent of all Pell grant dollars awarded and that postsecondary education has proved to be the most successful and cost-effective way to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

It’s worth keeping in mind exactly what happened when President Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which authorized almost $10 billion of federal grants for state prison construction while in the same stroke cutting off the $200 million of annual Pell grants that had been going to prisoners because God forbid we allocate 3/5 of 1 percent of the annual outlays of a relatively modest federal program to prisons! In 1994, there were over 350 higher education programs in prisons around the country, with about 40,000 inmates enrolled. (Note that there were also only about a million prisoners, compared with about 2 million now.) Within a year of the act’s passage, as well as copycat acts at the state level, there were fewer than a dozen. Congress and President Clinton collaborated to all but eliminate higher education programs in American prisons. Few federal statutes have so thoroughly and immediately achieved their aim.

It’s also worth keeping in mind the inanity of the rhetoric that got this measure passed. Senator Pell himself supported the use of his namesake grants by prisoners. But Kay Bailey Hutchison claimed that “Pell Grants are a great scam: rob a store, go to jail, and get your degree.” Let’s take a moment to think this through. Even if it were true, in 1994, that a person contemplating enrolling in college would find committing a robbery an easier way to do that than simply filling out an application to college, wouldn’t that have been a pretty glaring indicator that something had gone terribly awry, not with prison policy, but with the education system? But of course, Hutchison wasn’t really trading in facts and logic but in the general demonization of “criminals” that drove so much policymaking in the early 1990s.

The irony, of course, or maybe this was just the point all along, is that Hutchison was right: Hundreds of thousands of would-be college students have been denied access to higher education because of money spent on prisoners, but not because prisoners have been sucking up all the college grants. In many states prisons now receive far more government funding than colleges and universities do — even though all that government funding mostly goes to keeping prisoners idle. As California struggles to keep not just its once-legendary state university system but also the state itself afloat, it’s worth noting, as UCLA professor Chan Noriega recently calculated, that “California could send every last prisoner to a UC campus, covering all expenses, and still save nearly $2.3 billion per year.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Right-wing Case for Criminal Justice Reform

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The newly launched 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.

Here are some excerpts from the website’s portal on prisons: Read the rest of this entry »

“Desperate Housewives” Tackles the Issue of Prisoner Reentry… (Not Kidding)

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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 »

Written by sara

December 14, 2010 at 8:07 am

Some Holiday Reading on Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs

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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.

Written by sara

December 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

Marion Jones’s Case for Criminal Justice Reform

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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.


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