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May 18, 2009

Are there broader lessons to be drawn from Michael Vick's up-coming prisoner reentry story?

I cannot listen to sport radio without being reminded of an interesting criminal justice story unfolding this week: Michael Vick is scheduled to be released from the federal prison in Leavenworth after serving about 19 months of his 23-month federal sentence.  This local article provides some of the high-profile re-entry details for Vick:

When Michael Vick gets out of prison later this week, he'll join about 120,000 other federal ex-cons under court-ordered supervision.  Statistics show that about a third will end up back in prison.

Vick is scheduled to leave the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan., either Wednesday or Thursday.  He'll arrive in Hampton [Virginia] and be immediately placed in home confinement.  A federal community corrections officer will be able to monitor his every move, with the help of an electronic tracking device.

Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said Vick will have to follow a strict set of rules. Some of the rules will be standard, such as a curfew, and some tailored for him. "They look at the individual's security needs, and they develop a plan to help them integrate back into the community," she said.

Being on home confinement isn't the "peaches and cream that people think it is," said local defense attorney Andrew Protogyrou. "You're not allowed to go out to dinner. You're not allowed to go to a friend's house. The probation officer drops by unexpectedly. There is no freedom other than what the probation officer says you can do."...

Vick will live, at least initially, at 21 Haywagon Trail, Hampton, with his fiancee, Kijafa Frink, and their children.  He'll be allowed to travel to his job with the construction firm W.M. Jordan Co. and to his probation appointments and court appearances.

His attorneys say he plans to perform volunteer community service, even though the court has not obligated that.  He wanted to work for Habitat for Humanity, but the nonprofit denied his request. "We evaluated the request but have determined that we will not have a suitable work site available at the time of his release from prison," said Janet V. Green, executive director of Habitat's Peninsula office....

While he is free, Vick must remain on his best behavior.  When his two months of confinement are up, he'll be free, but on three years of supervised release, or probation, which comes with new rules and restrictions.

Standard conditions include not being able to travel outside of eastern Virginia without approval, maintaining employment, staying away from known criminals, and meeting with his probation officer regularly.   The judge who sentenced Vick also ordered additional conditions prohibiting him from incurring debt and mandating participation in a substance abuse treatment program. In addition, the judge ordered Vick not to "engage in the purchase, possession or sale of any canine."  If Vick violates the terms of his supervision, he could be sent back to prison for the remainder of the three years he's on probation. 

Not discussed in this article, but the topic of lots of other media attention, is whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will lift Vick's indefinite suspension and also which NFL team will give Vick a second chance on his football career.  Notably, according to this blog post, ESPN has wall-to-wall coverage planned for Vick's prison release.

As hinted in the title to this post, I think there are a lot of interesting (and blog-worthy) reentry stories related to this high-profile case.  But, because Vick is a unique person who committed a unique set of federal crimes, these stories may not have much broader relevance.  So, dear readers, I ask you to help me figure out whether I ought to join ESPN in doing wall-to-wall coverage or should instead just leave this story to the sports pages.

May 18, 2009 at 08:09 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Vick IS unique. Many, perhaps most, citizens who emerge from the eye of a Justice Department storm are all but unemployable...which probably helps explain why so many of them end up back in prison.

Nobody loves dogs more than I do. But I'm satisfied Mr. Vick has paid a good deal more than a just price for his wrongdoing.

I hope he gets a good gig with a good team...and carnivorous fans and PETA zealots eager to taunt him will let him be.

Posted by: John K | May 19, 2009 11:12:28 AM

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