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July 11, 2022

"FAMM challenges policymakers nationwide to #VisitAPrison"

FAMM, an advocacy organization which describes itself as promoting "fair and effective criminal justice policies that safely reduce incarceration, save taxpayer dollars, and keep families together," has launched today what is now an annual campaign that encourages local, state, and national policymakers to visit a prison or jail in their states or districts.  The title of this post is the subject line of an email I just received from the FAMM folks, and here is more its text:

“Laws are written for prisons and jails across the country and voted on by people who’ve never set foot inside them,” Ring said.  “This is such a simple step for policymakers to take, and anyone who visits will learn something by talking to the people who live and work in these facilities.  Our message is simple: You don’t know if you don’t go.”

Our nation’s prisons and jails are in crisis.  Staff shortages, poor healthcare, crumbling infrastructure, and other chronic problems have resulted in prisons that are unsafe to live and work in for prisoners and correctional officers alike. 

To assist in the effort, FAMM has mobilized families, advocates, allies, and public figures to share their stories via video using the #VisitAPrison hashtag and to challenge policymakers to educate themselves about the conditions of confinement in federal and state prisons and jails.

For more information, including a tracker of lawmakers who have visited a prison, visit FAMM.org/visitaprison.

I robustly endorse this effort to encourage lawmakers and other public officials.  Especially amid considerable political discourse about crime and punishment, I hope political candidates and voters will, in this significant election year, make efforts to advance and inform discussions regarding the goals and the realities of incarceration in America circa 2022.

UPDATE: The organization Fair and Just Prosecution today released this notable letter in support of the FAMM campaign which starts this way:

Today, 65 elected prosecutors pledged to personally visit the correctional facilities in which individuals prosecuted by their offices are placed and to require all prosecutors in their offices to do the same.  The signatories — who represent over 50 million people across 28 states and territories and the District of Columbia — emphasize that “it is vital for prosecutors to understand the true impact of their decisions and to see firsthand the jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities in their jurisdiction.”  The pledge is part of FAMM’s #VisitAPrison challenge, which encourages all state and federal policymakers to visit a prison or jail.

July 11, 2022 at 09:55 AM | Permalink

Comments

I urge lawmakers to visit (1) the hospital bedsides of people who have been beaten up or shot up by thugs, (2) their rehab facilities, if rehab is possible, (3) the pregnancy/adoption care centers for 15 year olds who've been raped, (4) the McDonalds where Grandpa had to go back to work at 73 because he got swindled out of his savings.

Then they can tell me about the woes of the people who caused all this but are, unlike their victims, having all their bills paid and their needs attended to by your tax money.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 11, 2022 3:38:51 PM

Gosh Bill. If honest discussions with a varied sampling of prisoners incarcerated for a number of years ever occurred, I'm sure they would say that they would gladly forfeit all those wonderful benefits you have cited in exchange for their freedom. Certainly some would not qualify for release as they obviously have violent pasts and would present a danger. We're not talking about that cohort here. However, there are quite a few non-violent offenders in the prisons that could be working in the community, contributing to the restitution of victims, contributing to our country by paying their fair share of taxes, and thus re-paying taxpayers for their custodial costs ($30k per yr. or so). Or, we could just continue to punish, punish, punish with the naïve belief that this will put a stop to future criminal acts. Seems that this model has not worked out all that well, consistently failing to achieve this stated goal (witnessed by the soaring crime rates that are consistently cited by the 'tough on crime' mob).

Let's consider our Grandpa swindled out of his life-savings.
Is there any possibility of restitution or remuneration for Grandpa as long as the swindler is doing 15-30 years? Grandpa will be about 100 yrs old when Mr. Swindler is released. There could be 15-30 years of $ restitution heading to Grandpa, if not for the incapacitation of Mr. Swindler. Seems not to make much sense, even to Grandpa. True?

Posted by: SG | Jul 11, 2022 6:08:22 PM

SG --

You're in fantasyland. Of course you could provide evidence otherwise by producing statistics on how many criminals, in prison or outside, provide restitution to their victims, and what percent of restitution ever actually gets paid.

"Or, we could just continue to punish, punish, punish with the naïve belief that this will put a stop to future criminal acts. Seems that this model has not worked out all that well, consistently failing to achieve this stated goal (witnessed by the soaring crime rates that are consistently cited by the 'tough on crime' mob)."

What an astonishing fabrication. When the prison population was growing substantially, 1990-2010, crime fell by almost half. Over the last eight years, when the prison population has been falling, crime is up. The murder rate is up by close to 50% from what it was in 2014.

The sober plan worked. Your hug-a-thug (or is it rapist?) plan fails, just as it failed in the past.

No wonder you refuse to sign your name and take any responsibility for what you say.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 11, 2022 11:03:07 PM

Nice try, Bill, but that is a very unpersuasive rebuttal. As it is said, "Correlation does not prove causation", and as such, the fluctuations in prison populations do not necessarily correlate to rising or falling crime rates. There are myriad dynamics, factors, causes, etc. which may or may not include rising/falling prison populations.

Aside from that, I specifically stated that the violent cohort would be excluded when considering any alternative sentencing scheme. References to rapists and thugs not withstanding, the non-violent offenders to whom I had referred in respect to such alternatives, would be released under specific conditions ordered by the Court. Hypothetically, they could be ordered to (1) maintain steady employment, and (2) contribute a reasonable percentage of their income to their victim as restitution (much like Courts regularly order alimony, child support, garnishment of wages, etc.). Convicts who would voluntarily agree to participate in such an arrangement would of course be held to account. Failure to comply would result in re-incarceration. Such a scheme would work towards the reduction/elimination of the incredible waste of resources (i.e., prisons), both human and economic, while better achieving the goals of justice for the victims and society.

By the way, you did seem at least somewhat perturbed that our monies were going for the care and feeding of these warehoused individuals, and I thought (perhaps mistakenly) that such alternatives would somehow please you, if that were possible. I would hate to think that the only scheme that would please you is the antiquated model of very long-term incarcerations in prisons with rather harsh conditions.

Posted by: SG | Jul 12, 2022 6:32:39 AM

SG --

"As it is said, 'Correlation does not prove causation', and as such, the fluctuations in prison populations do not necessarily correlate to rising or falling crime rates."

But correlation proves correlation, which is more than you've got. Or are you saying that the increase in incarceration 1990-2010 had nothing to do with the substantial decline of crime in that period?

Is that what you're saying?

In your previous comment, you went on and on about how we should avoid imprisonment so the criminal could work to earn money for restitution. I asked for actual evidence that that happens or would happen. Specifically, I asked you to provide statistics on how many criminals, in prison or outside, provide restitution to their victims, and what percent of restitution ever actually gets paid.

You provided nothing and ignored the question.

We have many, many years of court-ordered restitution schemes like the one you suggest. So instead of speculation, how about actual facts? How often do criminals pay restitution on their own, without an order? How often to they pay when given an order? How much of what they actually owe do they ever pay? And if they don't pay, how often does the threat to be sent back to jail get carried out?

Just gushing about how wonderful and remorseful these characters are (according to you) doesn't advance the inquiry. Where are your facts?

I also asked you to take at least minimal responsibility for what you say be giving your name. I do. Doug Berman does. Michael R. Levine does. Brett Miller does. Soronel Haetir does. Beth Curtis does. Many others here do.

If you're the criminal law expert you sometimes claim to be, you should be eager to give your name so that others can check out your (presumably sterling) academic affiliations, scholarship, and/or litigation record.

So what's your name?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 12, 2022 9:14:56 AM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB