Friday, July 31, 2009

Jobs & Reforming Criminals

When a criminal has made the internal decision to transform his life, being able to get a job, any job, will be helpful; but designing programs whose central mission is getting jobs for criminals has not proven to be successful reducing recidivism under rigorous evaluation—random selection, control group, third party evaluator—though the anecdotal evidence, as in this article, is often positive.

An excerpt.

“CHICAGO - George Outland had just one requirement when applying for a job: It had to be at a business that didn't check his criminal background, or didn't care.

“After Outland served three years in prison for burglary, he could land only short-term work moving furniture or delivering food.

“It's difficult for ex-felons to find steady jobs even in good economic times, with unemployment rates sometimes as high as 75 percent one year out of prison. During the worst recession in a quarter century, it can be almost impossible….

“Outland began working full time this summer for a property management company through a transitional program run by the Chicago nonprofit Heartland Human Care Services. He's paid minimum wage of $8 an hour to answer phones, enter data and learn to help manage accounts. He's making ends meet with just a few dollars left over each month, but at age 50 feels for the first time as if he has a shot at a real career.

"I would love to stay in the real estate field," Outland said after distributing parking passes to tenants at an apartment building. "I love it now; I actually love it ... it makes me feel important."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jail Life

Heather Mac Donald wrote a great article about life in New York City Jails that captures the chaos, danger, insanity, and striving for order that represent large city jails.

An excerpt.

“Standing in the well of a jail on New York’s Rikers Island as profanities rain down on you from the cells above, you realize the absurdity of academia’s most celebrated book on incarceration. Discipline and Punish, by the late French historian Michel Foucault, criticized jails and prisons for subjecting inmates to constant, spirit-crushing surveillance. The truth is that surveillance goes both ways in correctional facilities. Inmates watch their keepers as intensely as they are watched—and usually much more malignly.

“Jails are the ideal testing ground for romantic myths about incarceration. As policing has gotten more efficient at nabbing wrongdoers over the last decade and a half, it has pumped a growing volume of increasingly troubled individuals into the jail system. Governing that population is a management challenge more complex than that faced by any other criminal-justice institution. Yet jails, unlike prisons, remain largely out of sight and out of mind. This public ignorance is unfortunate, because jails have been evolving important principles for controlling criminal behavior of late, ideas that directly contradict the Foucauldian critique.

“To understand the difficulties of running a large jail, imagine that your job is personally to shepherd each of the thousands of commuters streaming through New York’s massive Penn Station to their trains safely and on time . . . except that the commuters are all criminals who keep changing their travel plans, and their trains, to which they don’t want to go, have no fixed timetables. A cross-section of the entire universe of criminal offenders, from the most hardened murderer to the most deranged vagrant, cycles through the nation’s 3,365 jails. But the majority of jail inmates show up with no predictable release date, since they have as yet only been charged with a crime and are awaiting a trial that may or may not occur and whose duration is unknown. Even before their trials begin, they may make bail at any moment and be released. Planning for pretrial detainees is therefore no easy task. “The ones who stay less than 36 hours drive you out of your mind,” says Michael Jacobson, a former corrections commissioner in New York City. “You think: ‘Couldn’t you have made bail ten hours ago rather than coming into my facility?’ ” Prisons, by contrast, hold only post-conviction defendants who have been found guilty or pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to a known term of more than a year. (Prisons and jails differ as well in their government overseers: the former are run by states and the federal government, the latter by cities and counties.)”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reentry: The Going Home Project

A Washington State reentry program that used $2 million of federal funding for 131 released prisoners, “Going Home: The Washington State Reentry Project”, has, after 18 months, had very little success, with criminal reconviction rates as follows: 15% for a violent felony; 43% for a felony; and 4% for a misdemeanor, for a total of 62 %.

The program utilizes the latest design ideas from criminological professionals, with the start of the prisoner’s involvement in the program at least 18 months prior to being released from prison, and connecting with community advisors at each program site, with advisor responsibilities including “preparing neighborhoods for the return of offenders through community education. They also developed lists of resources for offenders.” (p. 2)

As the project has only been in existence for 18 months they do not feel they have had the proper amount of time (36 months) to evaluate—using a control group—so the final results will be available in July of 2011.

Given the results so far, this could be another well-funded program that results in program participants’ recidivating at higher rates than the control group, like the Greenlight program in New York and the drug abuse program in California, as noted in a previous post.

The organization responsible for preparing this interim report—Washington State Institute for Public Policy— conduct some of the best criminal justice evaluative work in the country, using random selection and control groups.

An excerpt from the report detail webpage.

“The Institute was contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Corrections’ “Going Home Project.” The program was designed to transition younger, high-risk, violent offenders into the community. To date, not enough time has passed to conduct an outcome evaluation with a comparison group and 36-month follow-up. This interim report outlines our research design and provides 18-month recidivism rates for program participants.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mission to Mars

That is something that should have happened a long time ago, but in the forty years since the moon landing, America has entered into a period of navel gazing that seems to have precluded the type of vision that led us to outer space, for, as this article by George Weigel notes, "God made us for adventure and discovery."

An excerpt.

“On this anniversary, it's also worth reflecting on why we stopped pushing out into space and what that's meant. At the height of the space race, it was simply assumed that, after conquering the Moon (and perhaps building a permanent base there), there would be a Mars mission, which was thought doable by the end of the 20th century, if not earlier. Yet Congress decreed that we stop exploring the Moon with Apollo 17; we can't get back with the equipment we have now; Mars remains an unfocused dream; and the next men on the Moon (or beyond) could be Chinese.

“The lowness of another low decade, the 1970s, had something to do with America's failure to keep pushing the outside of the envelope in space, I suspect. As in the spiritual life, so in public life: if we look down, or look around, but don't look up, the human spirit withers a bit. After a season of withering, we find it difficult to imagine ourselves as creatures called to transcend ourselves. So we turn inward, become self-absorbed, and end up, like contemporary Europe -- trapped in a crisis of civilizational morale, unable to summon the moral energy to create future generations.

“God made us for adventure and discovery. Abandoning the great adventure of manned space exploration was a serious mistake, for America and for the human future.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Strength of Faith for Life

This is a very powerful story of one young couple’s devotion to their faith and to the life of their child.

An excerpt.

“Denver, Colo., Jul 24, 2009 / 03:19 pm (CNA).- Though Mayra Sandoval died of cancer on July 8, her son Samuel is alive and healthy thanks to her insistence on choosing life, against the advice of doctors who urged her to abort. Now, Mayra’s husband and friends remember her as a powerful witness to the immeasurable value of life.

“In an interview with the Denver Catholic Register, Mayra’s husband, Ricardo Flores, recalled the battle of faith and trust that the couple underwent in the months leading up to her death.

“Both Ricardo and Mayra were born in Mexico. They moved to U.S., where they met three years ago, began to date, and eventually moved in together. At the time, neither had a strong faith, but they were nevertheless overjoyed when, in October 2008, Mayra became pregnant.

“Months later, doctors detected a cancerous tumor in Mayra’s lungs that was already in an advanced stage and was still continuing to grow. Mayra was advised to abort the baby on the spot, so that she could start a treatment to halt the cancer growth.

“But Ricardo and Mayra chose life. Although it was difficult, Ricardo said he never had any second thoughts in the decision to choose life. When the option of abortion was presented, "We always said ‘no.’ We couldn’t do that," he explained. "God gave life and God takes it away."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Conservative & Progressive Interpretations

Regardless of the document that comes forth from the Vatican, whether from the papal or conciliar magisterium, it is assured, that in these latter days, there will be these dual interpretations, and so it is with the new encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate.

Yet, as is usually true of all of the documents from the Vatican, there will be a deep current of Catholic doctrine flowing through it, treasure to be discovered by the careful reader whose only filter is that of the faith, whose perspective is Catholic, first.

As is this excerpt from another document, the Vatican II Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes , that engendered the dual interpretations, yet only had one really, as do they all, that of Catholic doctrine, renewed for the ages.

“Coming forth from the eternal Father's love, founded in time by Christ the Redeemer and made one in the Holy Spirit, the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men, that is, of members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God's children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns. United on behalf of heavenly values and enriched by them, this family has been "constituted and structured as a society in this world" by Christ, and is equipped "by appropriate means for visible and social union." Thus the Church, at once "a visible association and a spiritual community," goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God's family.

“That the earthly and the heavenly city penetrate each other is a fact accessible to faith alone; it remains a mystery of human history, which sin will keep in great disarray until the splendor of God's sons, is fully revealed.” (#40)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Movies & the Criminal World

Earlier this month I posted on a film series that was themed around Crime & Punishment, and had planned to post regularly on it as the text from the introductory remarks were available.

However, as I read the remarks it became evident that they were from a perspective that had little to do with the perspective of Lampstand on the impact of movies; which is how the movies have impacted the criminal world and criminals who live within it; whereas the film series was a perspective on how the criminal world is perceived by some people outside of it looking in.

The films chosen, with the exception of the first, Public Enemy, have little impact on the world view of the criminals within the criminal world, but the introductions are still a good read for any film buff who enjoys all movies about crime, as do I.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Apostolate Shock Troops

An underlying mark of the effective leader—a reformed criminal with graduate degree and advanced training in the social teaching of the Catholic Church—of a criminal transformative organization, as defined by the model program we’ve developed (summarized on our website), is that they are extremely well educated and trained to perform their essentially dangerous work; work few others are able to approach authentically.

This concept is noted as an important attribute of the effective apostolate, particularly within the early church, by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, in his essential book, The Soul of the Apostolate.

“It is very certain that the primitive Church, as we have already hinted, knew how to organize magnificent and numerous shock troops, in the midst of the faithful, and their virtues both struck the pagans with astonishment and excited those most prejudiced against Christianity by their principles, their traditions, and their social background. Conversions were the result, even in circles to which no priest had access.” (p. 163)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three Strikes Sentencing & Ineffective Rehabilitation

In this article about lifers in prisons—most as a result of three strikes sentencing—there is a plaint about not enough attention being paid to rehabilitation in our nation’s prisons; but that lack of attention is based on good evidence that rehabilitation, as it has been practiced for several decades, does not work.

We’ve posted on that several times, here is one post.

An excerpt from the New York Times article.

“Seven prison systems — Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and the federal penitentiary system — do not offer the possibility of parole to prisoners serving life terms.

“That policy also extends to juveniles in Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. A total of 6,807 juveniles were serving life terms in 2008, 1,755 without the possibility of parole. California again led the nation in the number of juveniles serving life terms, with 2,623.

“The expansion of life sentences suggests that we’re rapidly losing faith in the rehabilitation model,” said Ashley Nellis, the report’s main author.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St. Mary Magdalene

Today is her feast day, and though many attempt to cut her from her traditional roots as the prostitute who became a saint, in this case tradition speaks stronger than research.

Here is an excerpt about her from my book, The Criminal, The Cross & The Church: The Interior Journey.

“There are three major criminal saints—St. Mary Magdalene, (Feast Day July 22) St. Dismas (Feast Day March 25) & St. Callistus (Feast Day October 14)—whose lives dramatically furthered and marked the course of the early Church.” (p. 18)….

“Some biblical scholars have attempted to make a case that Mary Magdalene was not the prostitute legend says she was, but the stronger case is that she was; and it comes, not from critical biblical scholarship, but from an understanding of the transformed criminal, which she also certainly was.

“The courage shown by Mary during the crucifixion and resurrection—and perhaps one of the reasons she is often called the apostle to the apostles—in the face of a threat great enough to send most of the other apostles into flight, is similar to that shown by Dismas the Good Thief, who even on the cross of crucifixion he shared next to Christ, had the courage to stand for truth and for Christ, rewarded by becoming the first canonized saint of the Church.

“Great sinners who have become transformed into saints often bring with them a physical courage usually deeper than that of other saints (one can not imagine Mary Magdalene denying Christ three times as did Peter); and it springs from a personal experiential knowledge of evil, from which they no longer feel fear, but transcendence.

“What magnificent joy was birthed within the penitential Mary Magdalene as Christ drove the devils from her, saving her from her criminal life; and what greater joy became hers as she came alone to the tomb and saw the risen Christ.” (Lukenbill, D. H., 2008, pp. 21-22)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Broken Windows, A Look Back

One of the authors of the innovative criminal justice research that has played a major role in reducing crime rates—first in New York City, then across America, writes in City Journal about how other organizations and government in New York played a major role in that initial success.

An excerpt.

"Just 20 years ago, New York City was racked with crime: murders, burglaries, drug deals, car thefts, thefts from cars. (Remember the signs in car windows advising no radio?) Unlike many cities’ crime problems, New York’s were not limited to a few inner-city neighborhoods that could be avoided. Bryant Park, in the heart of midtown and adjacent to the New York Public Library, was an open-air drug market; Grand Central Terminal, a gigantic flophouse; the Port Authority Bus Terminal, “a grim gauntlet for bus passengers dodging beggars, drunks, thieves, and destitute drug addicts,” as the New York Times put it in 1992. In July 1985, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City published a study showing widespread fear of theft and assault in downtown Brooklyn, Fordham Road in the Bronx, and Jamaica Center in Queens. Riders abandoned the subway in droves, fearing assault from lunatics and gangs.

"New York’s drop in crime during the 1990s was correspondingly astonishing—indeed, “one of the most remarkable stories in the history of urban crime,” according to University of California law professor Franklin Zimring. While other cities experienced major declines, none was as steep as New York’s. Most of the criminologists’ explanations for it—the economy, changing drug-use patterns, demographic changes—have not withstood scrutiny. Readers of City Journal will be familiar with the stronger argument that the New York Police Department’s adoption of quality-of-life policing and of such accountability measures as Compstat was behind the city’s crime drop.

"Yet that explanation isn’t the whole story. Learning the rest is more than an academic exercise, for if we can understand fully what happened in New York, we not only can adapt it to other cities but can ensure that Gotham’s crime gains aren’t lost in today’s cash-strapped environment.

"As New York suffered, an idea began to emerge that would one day restore the city. Nathan Glazer first gave it voice in a 1979 Public Interest article, “On Subway Graffiti in New York,” arguing that graffitists, other disorderly persons, and criminals “who rob, rape, assault, and murder passengers . . . are part of one world of uncontrollable predators.” For Glazer, a government’s inability to control even a minor crime like graffiti signaled to citizens that it certainly couldn’t handle more serious ones. Disorder, therefore, was creating a crisis that threatened all segments of urban life. In 1982, James Q. Wilson and I elaborated on this idea, linking disorder to serious crime in an Atlantic story called “Broken Windows”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crime Down, Some Mystified?

As this article from the Washington Post notes, crime is down but criminologists don’t’ know why.

It could be because of broken windows policing and three strikes sentencing.

And the confusion among criminologists could be because many of them have spent the past several years arguing that the massive increase in imprisonment was not responsible for crime rate drops; and who still ally themselves with the crime-is-caused-by-social-conditions movement.

Crime is primarily caused through the individual decision of the criminal, and that decision is generally based on some experience of successful criminality; or, for most criminals, crime works.

An excerpt from the Washington Post article.

“Violent crime has plummeted in the Washington area and in major cities across the country, a trend criminologists describe as baffling and unexpected.

“The District, New York and Los Angeles are on track for fewer killings this year than in any other year in at least four decades. Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and others are also seeing notable reductions in homicides.

"Experts did not see this coming at all," said Andrew Karmen, a criminologist and professor of sociology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“In the District and Prince George's County, homicides are down about 17 percent this year.

“Criminologists have different theories about why crime is down so much, although many agree that the common belief that crime is connected to the economy is false.”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Iota Unum

The wonderful book by Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century—whose section on capital punishment enriched Lampstand's book on capital punishment, coming out soon—which was once looked at somewhat askew by some in the Vatican, has now been republished in Italy and that is very good news.

The chapter on capital punishment is posted on the Dominican Idaho blog.

Chiesa reports, an excerpt.

“ROME, July 15, 2009 – As of tomorrow, two volumes that have taken their place among the classics of Catholic culture will return to Italian bookstores, published by Lindau. Their content is in striking harmony with the title and foundation of Benedict XVI's third encyclical: "Caritas in Veritate."

“The author of the two volumes is Romano Amerio, the Swiss scholar, philosopher, and theologian who passed away in 1997 at the age of 92. One of his great admirers, the theologian and mystic Don Divo Barsotti, summed up their contents as follows:

"Amerio essentially says that the gravest evils present today in Western thought, including Catholic thought, are mainly due to a general mental disorder according to which 'caritas' is put before 'veritas', without considering that this disorder also overturns the proper conception that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity."

“In effect, Amerio saw precisely in this overturning of the primacy of Logos over love – or in a charity separated from truth – the root of many of the "variations of the Catholic Church in the 20th century": the variations that he described and subjected to criticism in the first and more commanding of the two volumes cited: "Iota unum," written between 1935 and 1985; the variations that led him to question whether with them, the Church had not become something other than itself.

“Many of the variations analyzed in "Iota unum" – although just one of them would suffice, one "iota," according to Matthew 5:18, from which the book's title is taken – would lead the reader to think that there has been an essential mutation in the Church. But Amerio analyzes, he does not judge. Or better, as the fully formed Christian that he is, he leaves the judgment of God. And he recalls that "portae inferi non praevalebunt," meaning that for the faith, it is impossible to think that the Church could lose its way. There will always be continuity with Tradition, even if it is amid turbulence that obscures it and leads one to think the contrary.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leisure, Contemplation, Solitude

These are rare commodities in a culture rich in stimulation and informed by an ethic of unceasing activity woven into American life through its Puritanical roots; but as the great Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper reminds us, in his marvelous book, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, it is crucial to understand and embrace in our search for God.

An excerpt.

“Leisure stands opposed to the exclusive ideal of work qua social function. A break in one’s work , whether of an hour, a day, or a week, is still part of the world of work. It is a link in the chain of utilitarian functions. The pause is made for the sake of work and in order to work, and a man is not only refreshed from work but for work. Leisure is an altogether different matter; it is no longer on the same plane; it runs at right angles to work—just as it could be said that intuition is not the prolongation or continuation, as it were, of the work of the ratio, but cuts right across it, vertically. Ratio, in point of fact, used to be compared to time, whereas intellectus, was compared to eternity, to the eternal now. And therefore leisure does not exist for the sake of work—however much strength it may give a man to work; the point of leisure is not to be a restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical; and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually too, that is not the point.

“Leisure, like contemplation, is of a higher order that the vita activa (although the active life is the proper human life in a more special sense). And order, in this sense, cannot be overturned or reversed. Thus, however true it may be that the man who says his nightly prayers sleeps the better for it, nevertheless no one could say his nightly prayers with that in mind. In the same way, no one who looks to leisure simply to restore his working powers will ever discover the fruit of leisure; he will never know the quickening that follows, almost as though from some deep sleep.

“The point and the justification of leisure are not that the functionary should function faultlessly and without a breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man—and that means that he should not be wholly absorbed in the clear-cut milieu of his strictly limited function; the point is also that he should continue to be capable of seeing life as a whole and the world as a whole; that he should fulfill himself, and come to full possession of his faculties, face to face with being as a whole.” (pp. 30-31)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Informants & Criminal Culture

One of the strongest prohibitions within the criminal world is that against informers, and failing to honor its potency—particularly in the selection of reformed criminals to help reform other criminals—will generally ensure failure of a peer-run program.

This article from the Detroit News is a good look at the issue as it relates to urban communities.

“The no-snitch ethos is a code of conduct, popularized through music, T-shirts and a distrust of authority by those who have the least power. It is particularly acute in Detroit and helps account for one of the nation's worst homicide closure rates of less than 40 percent.

“Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has called it a serious obstacle to getting reliable witnesses in criminal cases. She complains that the unwillingness to testify has blocked prosecutions. Witnesses in pending cases have been intimidated and even killed, she said.

"One of the factors why the arrest and clearance rate is low is because of the no-snitching mentality," Worthy said. "Without people telling what they know to law enforcement we would have anarchy in the streets."

“Some say that's already a good description of Detroit.

"Truth is, that's the only thing that keeps my neighborhood bonded. No one helps us. None of us trust the police or any part of this city's government," said Ninoshka Nieves, 17, of southwest Detroit. "There have been so many promises made that nobody trusts anyone in authority any more. When something happens, we won't say a thing. That's the way it is."

“Some legal experts argue that no-snitching references in pop culture are a legitimate backlash to a runaway law enforcement practice.

“Prosecutors and police overburdened by criminal caseloads whittle down their numbers with a double-edged sword, trading lighter sentences and freedom for information. Without clear rules or public oversight, secretly brokered decisions are made without judge or jury about whose crimes get prosecuted and whose get traded away for damning testimony.

“Other practices and policies reinforce the no-snitch credo. After all, cops don't cross the "Blue Line" to tell on fellow officers. The U.S. military's official policy for dealing with homosexuality is "Don't ask. Don't tell." The Miranda constitutional right to remain silent suggests that anything suspects or witnesses say to police can and will be used against them.

“Residents of the most needy, least educated, most crime-ridden neighborhoods throughout the nation have grown resentful about the revolving back doors of justice when they see wrongdoers released from custody because they traded away their sins to put someone else behind bars.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Capital Punishment

The Catholic Church has supported capital punishment from the beginning, though some Catholics do not, and one of the arguments used pro and con is the deterrent impact.

Does applying the ultimate sanction in the appropriate situations actually deter others from committing similar capital crimes?

For several years I have been a supporter of one of the most effective legal advocacy organizations in the country—serving in the past as a member of their board of trustees—and their research has shown a clear deterrent impact.

An excellent publication from this organization— Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF)—addressing this issue comes from a statement by Kent Scheidegger, CJLF Legal Director, before the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission (October 24, 2006), and reprinted in Amy M. Keyzer, Ed., Does Capital Punishment Deter Crime? (Greenhaven Press 2007).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Protecting the Innocent

Part of the argument used by those within the Catholic leadership who are calling for an abolition of capital punishment (an abolition which Lampstand does not support, see our criminal justice principles) is that current criminal justice technology—particularly carceral security—are able to protect the innocent from the aggressor to the point that it is no longer to utilize capital punishment to do so.

This article about the proliferation of cell phones in just one state prison system—one of the most secure in the nation—reveals how easy it is for the agressor, even from prison, to reach out and threaten the innocent.

“AUSTIN — After finding 775 prohibited cell phones in Texas prisons so far this year, state officials are petitioning federal regulators and the U.S. Senate for the power to jam cell phone signals in lockups — joining 27 other states who want the same authority.

“Texas and other states hope to use jamming technology to keep cell phones out of the hands of inmates, who can use them to order criminal acts outside prison walls.

“It's critical,” said the Texas prison system's inspector general, John Moriarty. “The cell phones are the most immediate threat to public safety in Texas. ... We've had a lot of crimes orchestrated over those phones.”

“State Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire — a Houston Democrat who last year was called by a death row inmate on a smuggled phone — said in a statement, “What happened to me should never happen to another person.”

“Of the 775 phones found in Texas prisons from January through June of this year, 217 were intercepted before making it to an inmate, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. It's unclear when the rest were smuggled in. To detect and prevent contraband, the prison system conducts searches and is training dogs to find cell phones. The department received $10 million in funding for security equipment.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Capital Punishment Support

A central aspect of the social teaching of the Catholic Church is that it remains congruent with its ancient roots, yet its support for capital punishment has been battered in recent decades to the point that large sections of the faithful believe the Church is against capital punishment, which is not true, as the Catechism teaches:

“Capital Punishment

“2266 The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. the primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

“2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.

"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” (Catechism #2266-2267)

The public still is supportive of its proper use, as this article notes.

An excerpt.

“When polls correctly ask about true capital, death penalty eligible murders, support is around 80%.

“Most familiar polls wrongly ask a variation of "Do you support the death penalty for murder?", usually getting replies in the 60-75% range.

“However, in the US, the death penalty is only allowed for those who commit capital murders. Therefore, all polls, which only refer to murders are irrelevant when asking about death penalty support.

“Death penalty support is much deeper and much wider than we are often led to believe.

“Death penalty support for relevant capital, death penalty eligible murders

“81% of the American people supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, with only 16% opposed. "(T)his view appears to be the consensus of all major groups in society, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives." (Gallup 5/2/01).”

Monday, July 13, 2009

U.S. Attorney General on Crime

In a recent speech the new attorney general spoke on the crime issue in America.

An excerpt.

“Getting smart on crime requires talking honestly about which policies have worked and which have not, without fear of being labeled as too hard or, more likely, as too soft on crime. Getting smart on crime means moving beyond useless labels and instead embracing science and data, and relying on them to shape policy. And it means thinking about crime in context – not just reacting to the criminal act, but developing the government’s ability to enhance public safety before the crime is committed and after the former offender is returned to society.

“It is imperative that we get smart on crime now, for much has changed since some of our basic, governing assumptions about criminal law enforcement were developed. In the middle years of the twentieth century, America went through an historic increase in crime and illegal drug use. In the 1960s and 70s, the overall crime rate increased more than five-fold. Violent crime nearly quadrupled. The murder rate doubled. And heroin, cocaine and other illegal drug use surged.

“Many lawmakers in the 1980s responded by declaring, in rhetoric and in legislation, that we needed to get tough on crime. States passed truth-in-sentencing and three strikes and you’re out laws. Some state parole boards became more cautious, while other states eliminated discretionary parole altogether. The federal government adopted severe mandatory minimum sentencing laws, eliminated parole, and developed the federal sentencing guidelines.

“The federal government and states spent billions of dollars in new prison construction. The result was dramatic: the number of inmates in American prisons has increased seven-fold since 1970. Today, one out of every 100 adults in America is incarcerated – the highest incarceration rate in the world.

“Few would dispute that public safety requires incarceration, and that imprisonment is at least partially responsible for the dramatic drop in crime rates nationwide in recent decades. By 2007, the nation’s violent crime rate had dropped by almost 40% from its peak in 1991. But just as everyone should concede that incarceration is part of the answer, everyone should also concede that it is not the whole answer. Simply stated, imprisonment is not a complete strategy for criminal law enforcement.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wisdom Crosses Disciplines

While the wise advice embodied in this article about nuclear weapons—founded on an understanding that evil exists in the world—may appear to be unrelated to the criminal justice discipline and the issue of reentry, it is not.

First, the notion that we can abolish nuclear weapons comes from the same place that calls for the abolition of capital punishment, and the more radical one of abolishing almost all prisons, which also is a lack of recognition that there is evil in the world, there has always been evil in the world, and there will be evil in the world until Christ comes again.

Second, the professional and academic notion that we do not have to pay much attention to the Russians is discounted by the Poles who—being formerly imprisoned by the Soviets—understand the reality better than those who peer in from beyond the walls that could arise again, is analogous to our call that it takes a reformed criminal to reform criminals, as like knows like.

An excerpt.

“But above all, Mr. Schlesinger is a nuclear realist. Are we heading toward a nuclear-free world anytime soon? He shoots back a one-word answer: "No." I keep silent, hoping he will go on. "We will need a strong deterrent," he finally says, "and that is measured at least in decades -- in my judgment, in fact, more or less in perpetuity. The notion that we can abolish nuclear weapons reflects on a combination of American utopianism and American parochialism. . . . It's like the [1929] Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy . . . . It's not based upon an understanding of reality."

“In other words: Go ahead and wish for a nuclear-free world, but pray that you don't get what you wish for. A world without nukes would be even more dangerous than a world with them, Mr. Schlesinger argues….

“There's another compelling reason for a strong U.S. deterrent: the U.S. nuclear umbrella, which protects more than 30 allies world-wide. "If we were only protecting the North American continent," he says, "we could do so with far fewer weapons than we have at present in the stockpile." But a principal aim of the U.S. nuclear deterrent is "to provide the necessary reassurance to our allies, both in Asia and in Europe." That includes "our new NATO allies such as Poland and the Baltic States," which, he notes dryly, continue to be concerned about their Russian neighbor. "Indeed, they inform us regularly that they understand the Russians far better than do we."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Violence Predictors

They are the long dreamt for philosopher’s stone of criminal justice research, but as its mythic namesake suggests, have never yet panned out; but this version currently being tested in Philadelphia is an interesting one to watch.

An excerpt.

“As part of an attempt to fight crime, Philadelphia is now the subject of an experiment never tried in another city: A computer is forecasting who among the city's 49,000 parolees is likeliest to rob, assault, or kill someone.

“Since March, the city's Adult Probation and Parole Department has been using the system to reshuffle the way it assigns cases. Each time someone new comes through intake, a clerk enters his or her name and the computer takes just seconds to fish through a database for relevant information and deliver a verdict of high, medium, or low risk.

"It's a complete paradigm shift for the department," said chief probation and parole officer Robert Malvestuto. "Science has made this available to us. We'd be foolish not to use it."

“Criminologists say the system works - it can identify those most likely to commit violent crimes. But whether Philadelphia can use that to intervene and change people's behavior is still not known. A full evaluation won't be done until the end of the year.

“Yet some probation officers say the changes already are making it far harder for them to help those at lower risk to get off drugs and improve their lives.

“The controversy over the new system cuts to the heart of a long-standing debate: whether parole agencies should control dangerous people or help them reclaim their lives.

“The computer isn't merely crunching data - it is creating its own rules in what is known as "machine learning," a fast-growing technology that enables computers to encroach into the human realms of judgment and decision-making.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

El Paso is Safe Because of Immigrants

In this article we see the affirmation of the common sense reality—rather than the political myths—that people who come to this country are people who want to work and succeed, and criminal behavior is generally not part of their ethic, regardless of the few sensational crimes that tend to drive public opinion more than it should.

A good read, and here is an excerpt.

“By conventional wisdom, El Paso, Texas should be one of the scariest cities in America. In 2007, the city's poverty rate was a shade over 27 percent, more than twice the national average. Median household income was $35,600, well below the national average of $48,000. El Paso is three-quarters Hispanic, and more than a quarter of its residents are foreign-born. Given that it's nearly impossible for low-skilled immigrants to work in the United States legitimately, it's safe to say that a significant percentage of El Paso's foreign-born population is living here illegally.

“El Paso also has some of the laxer gun control policies of any non-Texan big city in the country, mostly due to gun-friendly state law. And famously, El Paso sits just over the Rio Grande from one of the most violent cities in the western hemisphere, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, home to a staggering 2,500 homicides in the last 18 months alone. A city of illegal immigrants with easy access to guns, just across the river from a metropolis ripped apart by brutal drug war violence. Should be a bloodbath, right?

“Here's the surprise: There were just 18 murders in El Paso last year, in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings. In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23)….

“What's happening with Latinos is true of most immigrant groups throughout U.S. history. "Overall, immigrants have a stake in this country, and they recognize it," Northeastern University's Levin says. "They're really an exceptional sort of American. They come here having left their family and friends back home. They come at some cost to themselves in terms of security and social relationships. They are extremely success-oriented, and adjust very well to the competitive circumstances in the United States." Economists Kristin Butcher and Anne Morrison Piehl argue that the very process of migration tends to select for people with a low potential for criminality….

“"Look at Arab-Americans in the Midwest, especially in the Detroit area," Levin says. "The U.S. and Canada have traditionally been very willing to welcome and integrate them. They're a success story, with high average incomes and very little crime. That's not the case in Europe. Countries like France and Germany are openly hostile to Arabs. They marginalize them. And they've seen waves of crime and rioting."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Encyclical Review

An excellent review of the new encyclical from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“Editor's Note: Benedict’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), appeared in Rome yesterday. Digesting this document will take no little time, but several of the regular writers for The Catholic Thing have looked over the text and offer here some brief, early observations.

“Michael Novak

“Just after Vatican Council II, Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) joined others in founding a school of thought called "Communio Theology." The inner life of the Revealed God is a Trinity, a Communion of Persons. So should be the inner life of every image of God, every human person.

“Thus, the four main ideas in the new Encyclical Caritas in Veritate are communion, gift, caritas, and truth. Undoubtedly, this is the most theological, most specifically Catholic, of all social encyclicals since 1891. Its aim is to show the divine context of political economy and the drama of its upward-leaping tongues of fire: its inspiration, its aspiration….

‘James V. Schall, S. J.

“After reading Caritas in Veritate, I said to myself that the general Catholic and world population has no idea of the brilliance of this pope. Of course, I said that when I finished Spe Salvi, Deus Caritas Est, Jesus of Nazareth, and about a zillion other writings by Pope Ratzinger. God must be amused that the brightest man of our time is the Pope of Rome.

“Though I have always admired him, I have considered Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio to be the most nearly ideological of all papal social encyclicals. Caritas in Veritate, which commemorates Paul VI’s document forty years later, I must confess, regards it as one of the best. Aside from not touching on labor union corruption or the potential totalitarian nature of the ecology movement, this latest encyclical is simply great. While noting obvious problems, it is amazingly positive about business, its potential, varieties, and openness to ethics.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Social Encyclical

The long awaited encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, (Charity in Truth) was released yesterday, and I was able to give it a quick read last night…excellent and timely, and should form the base of the Pope’s visit with the President today.

Here is an excerpt from the News Release which includes a summary of the encyclical.

“VATICAN CITY, 7 JUL 2009 (VIS) - Given below is a summary of Benedict XVI's new Encyclical "Caritas in veritate" (Charity in Truth) on integral human development in charity and truth.

“The Encyclical published today - which comprehends an introduction, six chapters and a conclusion - is dated 29 June 2009, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

“A summary of the Encyclical released by the Holy See Press Office explains that in his introduction the Pope recalls how "charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine". Yet, given the risk of its being "misinterpreted and detached from ethical living", he warns how "a Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance".

“The Holy Father makes it clear that development has need of truth. In this context he dwells on two "criteria that govern moral action": justice and the common good. All Christians are called to charity, also by the "institutional path" which affects the life of the "polis", that is, of social coexistence.

“The first chapter of the Encyclical focuses on the message of Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio" which "underlined the indispensable importance of the Gospel for building a society according to freedom and justice. ... The Christian faith does not rely on privilege or positions of power, ... but only on Christ". Paul VI "pointed out that the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order". They lie above all in the will, in the mind and, even more so, in "the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples".

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


One of the most important of the Catholic social teachings which helps us to understand that for each issue within life, there is a proper structure to respond to it.

Subsidiarity is at the heart of the work of Lampstand which posits the appropriate response to helping individual criminals reform their life is through a small community organization composed of one full-time staff (a reformed criminal with graduate education and other assets allowing him to effectively teach a reentering criminal, one-to-one, how to leave the criminal world and join the communal world) a board of directors, and a local network of other community resources.

This article from The Catholic Thing is an excellent look at subsidiarity.

An excerpt.

Subsidiarity matters to me, and it’s useful to recall this core principle of Catholic social teaching (and of American federalism), especially this week, as Benedict XVI releases his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), which is expected to address the subsidiarity principle in the context of the global financial crisis.

“Here’s what I wrote about it a decade ago in my book, The Concise Conservative Encyclopedia, sandwiched between entries on Strauss, Leo (1899-1973) and Sumner, William Graham (1840-1910):

subsidiarity: A term (the Latin subsidium for aid, help) from Roman Catholic social philosophy which expresses the view that, whenever practicable, decisions ought to be made by those most affected by the decisions. Put another way: the national government ought only to do what the states cannot; the states only what communities cannot; communities only what families cannot; families only what individuals cannot. This is not to suggest that Catholic social theory (especially as read in papal encyclicals) is always in favor of the minimalist state. John XXIII in Pacem in Terris (1963), while affirming the doctrine of subsidiarity, called for publicly funded health and unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and government support for the arts. Still, it is clear that “a planned economy . . . violates the principle of subsidiarity . . .” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1965). Read: R.J. Neuhaus, Doing Well and Doing Good (1992). “Just as it is wrong to withdraw from the individual and commit to the community at large what private enterprise and endeavor can accomplish, so it is likewise unjust and a gravely harmful disturbance of right order to turn over to a greater society of higher rank functions and services which can be performed by lesser bodies on a lower plane.” –Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno (1931)”

Monday, July 6, 2009

Politics and the Church

While never good bedfellows, there have been periods—certainly in recent American and history—when the Catholic Church has become much too closely identified with the policies of one political party or another, infecting the Church’s institutional integrity and ability to teach from her faith, and thereby partially reducing the potency of that faith among the faithful.

This tendency, and the wonderful relationship between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II which helped bring down communism, is touched upon in a recent review of the new book Reagan's Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster, by George Weigel.

An excerpt.

“The new revelation about the relationship in the Andersons' book is that the Pope and the President had an extensive correspondence, involving dozens of letters back-and-forth, which Professor Martin Anderson told me were by far among the most interesting of all the Reagan letters he had examined. Among the letters referenced in Reagan's Secret War is a January 1982 letter from the White House to the Vatican in which Reagan shifted the subject of the exchange from events in Poland (which had just been put under martial law) to his hopes for genuine disarmament, not just arms "control," at the talks about to begin with the Soviet Union in Geneva.

“Indeed, the Andersons' book makes clear that, somewhat to the consternation of many of his close advisers, Ronald Reagan was a nuclear abolitionist: he really did believe, as he often said, in ridding the world of nuclear weapons. His instruments for doing so -- ramping up U.S. missile capability to demonstrate that America couldn't be outmuscled, and the strategic defense initiative as an insurance policy -- were bitterly criticized by the liberal arms controllers, whose influence on the deliberations of the U.S. bishops as they prepared their 1983 peace pastoral was, to put it gently, considerable. But as the Andersons demonstrate, it was Reagan who was the true radical in this business: the man who wasn't satisfied with simply managing an arms race, the man who wanted to put the nuclear genie back into the bottle. Historians of U.S. Catholicism will thus be grateful to the Andersons for clarifying just how mistaken some of the policy assumptions underlying "The Challenge of Peace" were.”

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nonprofits & the Recession

An excellent report by John Hopkins University—at the jump—has just been released examining the impact on nonprofits around the country.

As expected, giving is down, but the nonprofit world is showing some resiliency—to which no one who has worked in the field for any length of time is surprised—and the most well led organizations will weather this period as they have weathered others, by being creative, tenacious and true to their mission.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The 4th of July & the River

This is July 4th and many of the folks in my town are down by, or in, the American River, as pictured above by our house, and I read this poem today that seemed so appropriate, and so beautiful, from the poet Charlotte Muse in America magazine.

An excerpt.

On the bank where it pours clear over freckled stones,
I want to sit and watch a leaf riding the surface,
a fish patrolling the water road
downstream through sun glint and flash of froth,
on through the river of light
river of water
river of light

And I’ll plunge in,
trusting the river which is not trustworthy,
to be carried on its back,
giving up my own motion to look at the unrolling sky,
then turning like a log to stare down
until I or the river
lets go

Friday, July 3, 2009

Criminal World Culture & the Movies

I wrote about the impact of film on the criminal world in my first book, The Criminals Search for God: Criminal Transformation, Catholic Social Teaching, Deep Knowledge Leadership, and Communal Reentry (2006).

An excerpt.

“The criminal world has grown very powerful in the past five decades in America. As a result of social trends that are long-rooted but accelerated in the 1950’s; film, music, and fashion converged to enhance the attractiveness of rebellion and crime to youth. A corresponding inability of the traditional American socializing institutions to imbue youth with respect for the simple religious-based values that internally restrained so many generations of children has contributed to this situation.

“The visual and audio world of film and music has great power to shape the interior lives of criminals, which Klavan (2005) notes in relation to the evolution of films portraying crime, violence, and evil: “It was probably 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde that first showed screen violence not as a representation of actions between people but as the movement of filmed objects more or less beautiful to look upon. …Similarly, the balletic shootouts in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch …connected him to his world and us to his vision. In short, both Peckinpah and Bonnie and Clyde’s Arthur Penn were directors trained in the old school of filmmaking…By the time we reach the films of Tarantino we’re dealing with a director whose personal preference points seem not to be found in life but only on the screen. Pulp Fiction, as the title implies, is not a film about gangsters; it’s a film about gangster movies. …Sin City is the natural next step. It’s no accident that it takes its structure from Pulp Fiction or that Tarantino was brought in to direct a single sequence in which a dead man is reanimated. This is a film in which death has no sting because the characters have no lives to lose. It’s an exercise in camerawork, and its meaningless but beautiful violence invites us to relate to its victims as aesthetic objects. (Klavan, A. (2005). The sin of Sin City. City Journal, 15(3), 72-78. p. 76-77)” (Lukenbill pp. 94-95)

The Ethics & Public Policy Center has begun a summer series of films and remarks on crime and punishment which we will be following.

The first film is The Public Enemy and here is an excerpt from the opening remarks.

“This week we're once again kicking off with a movie from the early 1930s, William Wellman's classic gangster film The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney and - well, a bunch of other people whom nobody but film buffs now remembers….

“The audience of 1931 was as impressed by Cagney as we still are today, and his role as Tommy Powers, the eponymous Public Enemy, made him into the star he remained for the rest of his life. If modern screen acting begins with this role, so does the gangster film which has remained a hardy Hollywood perennial ever since, down to and including Scorsese's own Goodfellas (1991) to which tonight's movie bears a certain resemblance. But there is also an important difference between it and the movies that come after it.

“Most gangster movies, Goodfellas among them, derive their emotional force from the sense of belonging - familial, tribal, ethnic - that they romanticize. The family drama of The Godfather or The Sopranos is at least as big a part of their attraction as the daring deeds of their magnetic central characters. Cagney's Tommy Powers in The Public Enemy forms strong bonds with particular people, but he is very much at the center of things as an individual. Even his close friend and constant companion, Matt, he often dismisses as nobody or nothing. "I don't even know you're here," he says when they meet Mamie and Kitty in the nightclub. The family, in this film, is not what draws him into a life of crime but what tries, without success, to draw him away from it, while "the mob" is often referred to but is in fact almost invisible as such.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Reentry & Background Checks

Information technology is a very good thing and the use of it by employers and the general public to become aware of criminal backgrounds of people they might hire or bring on as volunteers to their community organization or parish, is also a very good thing.

What it means for the penitential criminal is the mandate to accept the fact that, as it was centuries ago in the village and small town, virtually everyone may now know your past.

The increased burden on criminal transformative organizations is to learn how to use this in a positive way, and teach reentering criminals to adapt to this new reality.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the National Institute of Justice Journal which looks at one way of adapting—though given human nature being what it is, probably won’t be used widely, especially for reentering criminals—but still worth examining.

“According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 80 percent of U.S. employers perform criminal background checks on prospective employees. Add two additional factors to that equation — advances in information technology and growing concerns about employer liability — and we can begin to understand how complicated the issue of employing ex-offenders has become.

“The numbers leave no doubt that we have reached a broad penetration of criminal history records into the fabric of our society:

• In 2006, nearly 81 million criminal records were on file in the states, 74 million of which were in automated databases.
• Another 14 million arrests are recorded every year.

“What does this mean for employers? And what does it mean for ex-offenders who need a job?

“Consider a 40-year-old male who was convicted of burglary when he was 18 years old and has committed no further crimes. Every time he applies for a new job, he tells the potential employer that he was convicted of a felony; even if he does not state this up-front, the employer is likely to do a criminal background check. In either case, he probably will not get the job because many employers are unwilling to hire an ex-offender.

“This situation prompted us to ask the question: Is it possible to determine empirically when it is no longer necessary for an employer to be concerned about a criminal offense in a prospective employee's past?

“Most people would probably agree that there should be some point in time after which ex-offenders should not be handicapped in finding employment. The question is when, precisely, should this occur? In the case of our hypothetical 40-year-old, when should a prospective employer no longer consider a burglary that was committed more than two decades earlier if the job applicant has stayed clean since then?”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Prison as a Parallel Universe

This article about an innovative in-prison program in Arizona is something to keep an eye on.

The core concept is that the normally corrosive prison environment has been reshaped to more closely resemble the outside world, or at least that aspect of it that someone trying to change his life might find; and in that respect it is certainly innovative.

The only two problems I see with it currently, is that the cost and logistics seem pretty substantial, not to mention the change in most correctional professional's perspective on the nature of their work, and in that respect, will probably resist replication.

The other is that with all of the good they can do, what happens in prison, even positively, has, at least so far, rarely translated into improved recidivism reduction.

However, it is really a strategy to revisit, once a proper multi-year evaluation by an independent and criminal justice credentialed third party, is completed.

An excerpt.

“The sad truth is that most traditional corrections systems in this country take men and women who are already clearly imperfect in their decision-making and severely restrict their opportunity to learn to make any decisions. In many ways, this allows them to continue to shift responsibility and avoid accountability for their prior bad acts and for their conduct in general.

“Shortly after I arrived in Arizona, staff throughout the Department of Corrections came together as a team to lay the groundwork for developing Getting Ready, a common-sense approach to pre-release preparation that begins on day one of incarceration and continues to the conclusion of every inmate's sentence. The program is a bottom-up, systemwide reform that can be implemented without enabling legislation or new funds. Getting Ready redefines the officer-offender relationship, shifting many responsibilities from the staff to the inmates and empowering both groups to function at substantively higher levels than in other correctional systems. For example, officers do not tell inmates when to get up and when to go to sleep. Getting Ready does not just preach about what you ought to be doing when you get back to the real world. We bring the real world — what we now call a "Parallel Universe" — into prison so that inmates in every custody level acquire and practice basic life skills from the first to the last day of their incarceration.

“Parallel Universe

“The remaking of prison life to resemble life in the community is a central premise of Getting Ready. Modifying ordinary facets of life in prison to parallel life outside prison — thus, its name, Parallel Universe — begins with one basic question: How do people in the real world tackle this problem?

“Take health care as an example. As most people know, health care costs are rising. In Arizona, we applied the Parallel Universe model by asking, How do we address this problem in the outside community?

“If someone in the community adheres to healthy habits — by not smoking, eating healthy foods, exercising and complying with medical directions — he will likely have a lower co-pay. On the other hand, people with unhealthy habits are at higher risk and thus will have a higher co-pay. We applied this same solution in Getting Ready, creating an all-encompassing incentive system that includes wellness, so that healthy habits deliver personal and fiscal benefits for both the prisoner and the system.”