Monday, September 15, 2008

Reentry Failure & Police Athletic Leagues

1) A tragic family situation from the perspective of loving parents trying to deal with a criminal child brings home the family tragedy involved in the failure of reentry; and the difficulty of expecting the state agency responsible for imprisoning criminals to also be responsible for reforming them. It is dual roles that can only work with the small percentage of criminals who possess enough internal reasons to remove themselves from the criminal world—while surrounded by it in prisons—and will never generate enough of a success to make much of dent in the 70% recidivist rate.

Rejoining the community is a process that, though it may have some tentative beginning in prison, will not come to full-flower except in the community, through community programs managed by professionals other than correctional professionals; and it is our contention that the best professionals to have in this role is the reformed criminal, once educated, trained, and involved in a deep enough process of communal living himself, that he can legitimately attract others to a similar process.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“On the days when her son Thomas gets out of prison, Nikki Pittman follows the same routine.

"I lock my husband's office," Pittman said, seated in a chair inside the spotless residence on her 18-acre walnut ranch. "I lock my other son's bedroom. I lock my bedroom. I take my laptop and lock it. I put all checkbooks in a safe for fear that he can break open an office door."

“Then she drives to the prison, picks Thomas up at the gate, brings him home – and waits for corrections officials to revoke his parole and return him to custody.

“It's a cycle that has repeated itself 10 times in seven years, according to parole and probation records – a testament, Nikki Pittman says, to California's parole system that sends seven of every 10 offenders back to prison within three years of their release….

“"I love my son very much," Nikki Pittman said. "But the only time I'm relaxed and at peace is when he's locked up in prison. I look forward to the parole date because I love him and I can only visit him behind glass when he's in prison. But I know I'm going to be scared to death when he gets out."

“As of Sept. 3, there were 171,790 inmates in California prisons, fire camps and the like. An untold number of families share Nikki Pittman's fear of and love for society's outcasts who hold entree into their homes and hearts.”

2) One of the few types of programs that allow police or corrections to help kids that may be in danger of straying into a criminal life are Police Athletic Leagues (PALS), where the reformation work is completely separate from the police or corrections work and there is an opportunity to build a relationship on trust and honesty; virtually impossible within prisons or on the streets.

Unfortunately, many PALS are struggling to remain solvent, as this story relates.

An excerpt.

“In a forlorn building at the heart of Oak Park, a stalled dream is gathering dust where as many as 400 impoverished children once thrived.

“The Police Athletic League once was a refuge where children received tutoring, hot meals, recreation and adult guidance.

“A few years ago, money dried up, bills continued to pour in, and efforts by City Council members, the police union and other charitable folks couldn't keep the padlock off.

"We got overwhelmed. I know people are unhappy, but everybody gave it our best shot," said Dave Topaz, former president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association.

“Police athletic leagues have been around for more than 75 years, giving kids in most major cities and suburbs a place to go.

“Since the Sacramento PAL closed almost three years ago, the remaining board members have juggled debt and struggled to revive the program.”