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October 14, 2011

"Second Chances After Prison"

The title of this post is the headline of this new New York Times editorial, which includes these important points:

With state prison costs driven mainly by recidivism, the federal government must do all it can to support programs like the Second Chance Act, which guides newly released prisoners to drug treatment, mental health care, housing and jobs to keep them from going right back to jail.  The House, which supports continued funding, must hold fast against a Senate appropriations bill that would zero out this important program.

Of about 700,000 people released from prisons this year, more than two-thirds will be re-arrested and more than half returned to prison within three years. Even modest reductions in recidivism could yield huge savings.  For example, a study released earlier this year by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that Texas could save $33.6 million, New York $42 million and California $233 million in the first year alone if they cut recidivism by even 10 percent. The Second Chance Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2008, supports re-entry services for newly released prisoners, who typically land on the street without money, skills or a place to live.  The program was initially authorized at $165 million. But Congress funded it at only $25 million for fiscal 2009, $100 million for 2010 and $83 million this year.  Even so, a recent analysis by the Council of State Governments Justice Center shows promising re-entry projects financed by this law springing up all over the country....

Representative Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, has promised to fight in the conference committee for the House bill that would invest $70 million into the Second Chance Act. The Senate, by contrast, has set aside no money for the program while earmarking more than $300 million in new aid for federal prisons.  The Senate has its priorities backward.

The phrase "penny-wise and pound-foolish" comes to mind a lot when I think about how Congress deals with a variety of modern crime and punishment issues.  And, sadly, many recent sentencing and punishment choices by Congress and the Obama Administration are not even penny-wise.

October 14, 2011 at 09:27 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Typical incoherence. For the record, I have absolutely no problem with such a program IF it is proven to work with a decent ROI. We have enough programs like Head Start which are untouchable but proven to do virtually nothing well but waste money.

The incoherence comes from the Progressive Messaging Machine which on Monday will tell us that we are wasting money incarcerating all of these individuals because they are no real threat.

On Tuesday, they tell us to spend more money because these same people, who are supposedly no threat, will recidivize at a rate of 2/3 in a 3 year period if we do not.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 14, 2011 10:02:03 AM

No program will "keep them from going right back to jail."

The small percentage who are open to reform often do not have the requisite ability to delay gratification to benefit from a job training program that promises an entry level job somewhere down the road.

The larger percentage, who self-identify as criminals or "players", have no interest in going straight and view those who work 9-5 jobs as chumps.

Recidivist rates simply reflect this reality.

Posted by: mjs | Oct 14, 2011 11:10:33 AM

The message from mjs is not one that will be especially welcome. Coming from a man who knows whereof he speaks, it is, unfortunately, true.

It's so easy for people to think that if the government would just spend money on this program or that, things would be so much better. The fact of the matter is that a person's heart and will tell much more of the tale than anything else.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 14, 2011 1:18:17 PM

Bill, coming from a person that doesnot have a heart, (thats you Bill), how would you know...Your Pre-Booker Guideline Chip is kicking in again Bill.

Just push in that little yellow button behind your left ear....

Its a true story for some people, they just will never get it or be able to stay out of trouble. But, there is a good percentage that can.....Therefore programs should be in place, for those that pick them up and work them on their own efforts.. Not mandated (drug rehab is an exception), so if they want to improve themselves with their own efforts, they can...

Some of you peole on this site all but bury these poor souls.....No wonder they fail, I think some of you should look in the mirror and see if your all that you could be as well... (But if your perfect just carry on)

What does the government and their employees know, look at the economy... Its all induced by government employees, that aren't doing their job...Right now Congress is a mess...Really Congress is always a mess, it just shows outwardly,
as something is expected from them, like qualified decisions..

Posted by: Josh2 | Oct 14, 2011 1:45:43 PM

josh 2 stated: "Its a true story for some people, they just will never get it or be able to stay out of trouble. But, there is a good percentage that can....."

Unfortunately, the percentage is not that high. When I worked as a teacher in a state prison, I probably averaged 3-5 students out of about 22 that were willing to put in anything beyond the bare minimum amount of work (less than that could result in disciplinary sanctions). As an example, in over 10 years I can remember only 2 or 3 students who were willing to do schoolwork outside of the classroom. In an environment where they have 18 free hours per day, that is absurd.

You stated: "Therefore programs should be in place, for those that pick them up and work them on their own efforts.."

Agreed, as long as they are proven to work.

You stated: "Not mandated (drug rehab is an exception), so if they want to improve themselves with their own efforts, they can..."

This is where it gets tricky. Mandatory drug rehab (or sex offender rehab, etc.) is just as useless as any other program if the the inmate does not buy into it. They learn to say the "right" thing and try to skate by in order to qualify for early release or other incentives. No one is helped.

If programs are not mandated, most inmates will gladly do nothing and all we will hear from certain types of people is that prisons are mere human warehouses.

The biggest factor determining if an inmate will succeed at rehabilitation is the one thing we have the least control of, the inmate's desire to improve.

You stated: "Some of you peole on this site all but bury these poor souls.....No wonder they fail,..."

If they are indeed "poor souls," it is their own decisions that resulted in the poverty. No one helped bury them other than possibly their parents. They buried themselves. Out of compassion, I agree that we should give those willing the opportunity to improve their lives but please spare us the guilt trip for their depraved behavior.

You stated: "I think some of you should look in the mirror and see if your all that you could be as well... (But if your perfect just carry on)"

Puhleeze (Grits, I misspelled that on purpose).

There is a big difference between:

A) I try to be the best father I can to my child but occasionally lose my temper and get short with him/her, and

B) I try to be the best father I can to my child but I decided to cook and sell meth, rob a liquor store, or be a diaper sniper.

We all crash and burn in trying to be all we can but everyone should at least be able to taxi to the runway.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 14, 2011 2:54:56 PM

Some of you self-righteous scholarly individuals on this site are so mis-guided about the federal crminal justice system that you lend yourselves to be intellectually ignorant. Do you not realize that the majority of the federal prison system consists of non-violent offenders? For example, offenders of copyright laws, tax evasion, fraud (wire, bank, mail, etc.). Further, recidivism encompasses persons who not only committed another crime but technical supervise release violations. Such as, traffic citations, failure or inability to pay restitution, drug addictions or as someone I personally know experienced--communicating with a felon who was his BROTHER and not associated with his prior offense! The federal docket is filled with absurd cases where American citizens are unnecessarily incarcerated for non-violent crimes on the taxpayers tab. We are creating an entirely new caste of citizenry and foolishly believe it comes with no consequences socially. Contrary to your belief, America can not "lock-up" every individual who commits a transgression. Prison was designed to protect society from the most dangerous of our citizenry...not to legislate morality or create jobs for rural communities. For example, I. recently read a Wall Street Journal article that documented that there are over 4500 federal laws and regulations that one can violate to commit a federal criminal act. Which one have you violated? Surely none of you who criticize are perfect or know every federal law. Congress created this mess with the Sentencing Reform Act nearly 30 years ago. That has exponentially increased fiscal appropriations that dwarf the funding sought by the Second Chance Act.

Posted by: malcolm | Oct 14, 2011 3:23:22 PM

hmm interesting tarls!

"When I worked as a teacher in a state prison, I probably averaged 3-5 students out of about 22 that were willing to put in anything beyond the bare minimum amount of work (less than that could result in disciplinary sanctions). As an example, in over 10 years I can remember only 2 or 3 students who were willing to do schoolwork outside of the classroom. In an environment where they have 18 free hours per day"

Of course if that 95% or so knew they were not going to be KICKED IN THE TEETH by society the sec'd they walked out maybe JUST maybe they might bother to improve. but if as far as society is concred...they are slime...they will always be slime .....WHY BOTHER!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 14, 2011 3:35:35 PM

The beatings will continue, until the morale improves...

Posted by: Josh2 | Oct 14, 2011 4:26:41 PM

Josh2 --

"Just push in that little yellow button behind your left ear...."

I did, but all that happened was that a recorded voice came on, saying, "Josh2 loves criminals, Josh2 loves criminals...."

So I took my finger off the button, knowing that couldn't be right.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 14, 2011 4:45:44 PM

malcolm --

"The federal docket is filled with absurd cases where American citizens are unnecessarily incarcerated for non-violent crimes on the taxpayers tab."

Take it up with Eric Holder. He was appointed by a person I voted against, so I take no responsibility for his decisions. But I will say in his defense that his prosecution practices ROUGHLY approximate the bi-partisan consensus for many years.

"Surely none of you who criticize are perfect or know every federal law."

I don't recall anyone on this site claiming to be perfect or to know every federal law. Could you quote the person who said that?

P.S. Do you really think people who commit tax evasion and wire fraud should never go to prison? Really?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 14, 2011 4:57:15 PM

Rodsmith stated: "Of course if that 95% or so knew they were not going to be KICKED IN THE TEETH by society the sec'd they walked out maybe JUST maybe they might bother to improve. but if as far as society is concred...they are slime...they will always be slime .....WHY BOTHER!"

Blaming others for my ability to succeed at something did not work with my father when I was 7, so I am not sure why it should work at 27.

And keep in mind that these people were failing at life BEFORE society had the opportunity to kick them in the teeth after release. They committed the crime prior to going to prison.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 14, 2011 5:06:04 PM

TarlsQtr -

It's really crass of you to point out that the inmates committed crime BEFORE they got to prison. But at least you weren't crass enough to point out that it's THE REASON they got there.

I, however, will be.

It's astonishing how so many people automatically blame "the system," while the fellow who cracked granny over the head with a tire iron to get the dough for his next hit gets a free pass. "Urban survival syndrome," dontcha know.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 14, 2011 5:18:28 PM

PS to Rodsmith,

In my 10 years I had ample opportunity to get to know many of my students. During that time, I do not recall ever having a student claim that he did not want to do his schoolwork because he would just get out and society would treat him like "slime."

In no particular order, the excuses usually consisted of the following:

A) I am going to work construction/be a hip hop star/sell drugs and do not need this $h!t.

B) It is boring.

C) I am too tired (6 hours of programming is too much work, even though they do not have to do laundry, play with their kid, cook dinner, or generally, be a husband or dad).

D) I'd rather be working out.

E) I already know this $h!t.

F) Etc.

In a nutshell, these are broken people long before prison gets them. Your reasoning, in my opinion, is pure fantasy.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 14, 2011 5:21:15 PM

Bill you heartless jerk.

Don't you know that they are all innocent and/or are in for "victimless" crimes like spitting on the sidewalk?

It really is a mentality about life. I remember one of my teacher's aides (inmates with at least a GED who would help tutor, grade papers, etc.)in my first year. During tests, he would often sit at my desk and we would have conversations. Although I never asked an inmate's crime, they often shared and he was one.

He was amenable person, always helpful and compliant. One day he got into a "the system" rants and shared his story regarding why he was innocent. Essentially, his wife's brother stood outside his doorway and started swearing at his wife through the locked door. In his mind, he had no other recourse but to open the door and shoot the brother-in-law in the chest. His next statement always stuck with me, saying, "He disrespected my wife and anyone would have done the same." I asked if he had ANY other options (calling the police came to mind) but no, he said there was no other option because she was "disrespected."

Unfortunately, that mentality imprisons the majority of inmates.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 14, 2011 5:40:57 PM

The title of this entry is "Second Chances After Prison." There was a story just today about what one fellow did with his second chance:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/15/2011-10-15_excon_cashier_brawls_with_2_women_over_50_bill_punchout_at_micky_ds.html

The story is deliciously timed to give a counterpoint to malcolm's smarmy, nose-in-the-air post about how Wonderful Criminals Are.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 15, 2011 7:57:45 PM

TarlsQtr

From those with real world knowledge, answer 'E' would be the most common answer. Most prison 'career skill building' is nothing but a sham and waste of time for those with a working brain. It's only useful for those individuals lacking even basic rudimentary skills and for the few so called teachers/instructors on the prison payroll who most likely would be more inspiring and productive pounding rocks somewhere else.

'E) I already know this $h!t.'

Posted by: comment | Oct 17, 2011 6:06:53 PM

Comment,

With all due respect, you are wrong. I would love to hear about your expertise in this field, beyond the typical "prisons are all warehouses" cliche.

There are several studies floating around that show a GED diploma reduces the rate of recidivism and increases the amount of money one makes over a lifetime.

And, no, an overwhelming majority of my students did not "know this $h!t."

Now, I know you use the weaselers "working brain" and "real world knowledge." The problem you have is that an overwhelimg majority of prison inmates have neither. Our custodial maintenance class had to actually teach students how to hold a mop. The biggest problem in carpentry class? Students could not use a tape measure because simple fractions are over their heads.

As far as the "so-called" teachers, in NY they have the same credentials as a public school teacher (Masters Degree & teaching license). The average rate of passing the GED on the street is about 40%. The tests are normed so that 50% of the most recent year's high school graduates will pass the test if given to them. System-wide, we had a passing rate of 60%. Where I worked, we had a passing rate of 80-85%.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 18, 2011 9:51:12 AM

i'm going to have to give tarlsqtr this round! i've heard the same numbers he's using from my brother-in-law who works in florida DOC

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 18, 2011 12:56:14 PM

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