Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas & New Year Break

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Blogging will resume Monday January 3, 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reentry Program

An article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a program whose practice—mentioned in the last paragraph of the excerpt—teaches clients to take any job available to get a foothold in the employment world after prison.

This is a crucial strategy for all reentry programs, but unfortunately, too rarely used.

An excerpt.

“Henry Brown made mistakes, and he's worked doubly hard not to repeat them.

"I'm not going to bump my head in the same spot twice," said Brown, who served time on a drug conviction years ago and hasn't been back since.

"Being in those situations is not a vacation. It wasn't for me," he said. "I like my freedom and being able to go where I please."

“But with all of his efforts - even scoring at the top of his machine operation class - Brown has had a hard time finding a job.

“It's a scenario repeated time and again, as former inmates turned job applicants face the often stigmatizing effect of a criminal record made even more difficult during a tough economy.

"When they get out into the job market, a lot of them come up short. They get very frustrated, and that's where we come in to help," said Darryl Johnson, executive director of Riverworks Development Corp., which works one on one with former inmates in an effort to level the playing field.

"Many people have mentors who have guided them through their careers, but these are workers who haven't had that same opportunity," said Johnson, whose organization serves residents living in the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods.

“Along with huge doses of encouragement, the organization also provides free job training, employment counseling, work support strategies, coaching in financial literacy and other workforce development opportunities.

“This year, the organization received $40,000 from the United Way of Greater Milwaukee toward its job training and placement program.

"Studies show that people who have received additional, job-specific training make more money per hour than their counterparts," said Nicole Angresano, vice president of community impact with the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. "This program helps people develop the skills to gain and sustain employment and earn enough income to meet daily expenses and basic needs."

“Of the 254 people enrolled in employment counseling, at least 90% have been convicted of a felony at some point, said Vanessa M. White, the organization's director of workforce development.

“Building a work history after they've been away is crucial, even if they have to start at the bottom, she said.

"We teach them to take every little job," White said. "That means accepting some jobs they might feel are associated with a young person, but it is a steppingstone to learn how to deal with people and find out their strengths or weaknesses."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fighting Evil, Lane's Book

It is at the very heart of our traditional culture and our traditional faith and it is heartening to read this article in the Washington Post recognizing that.

The case described here is also that which completely meets the definition of “A Special Penalty for Special Cases” the name of the chapter in the new book, Stay of Execution: Saving the Death Penalty from Itself, offering a listing of those crimes which fully deserve capital punishment.

An excerpt from the book.

“Genocidaires and terrorists occupy the top level of a death deserving hierarchy whose next levels should probably be reserved for serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer or those who murder multiple victims in a single criminal act. Depraved individual killings—premeditated murders involving torture, murders of small children, sadistic rape-murders and other deeds that “shock the conscience,”…—also belong on the death-eligible list. And in 28 of the 35 death penalty states, capital offenses include murders that are,… ‘especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or depraved (or involved torture).’” (p. 109)

An excerpt from the Washington Post article.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. William Petit who, in his extreme hour of grief, taught us a valuable lesson about the nature of evil, forgiveness, and the problem of suffering.

“No, not what you would expect. In speaking of the man convicted of killing his wife and two daughters, Petit did not deliver an amoral, slobbering speech about forgiving his wife and daughters' murderer and how all suffering teaches us some valuable lesson, enriching us in the process. On the contrary, he said that the murderer deserved his sentence of death and that the loss of his family would leave a gaping hole in his heart that would never close.

“What a relief. Finally someone who does not excuse gross evil, who refuses to forgive monstrous acts of human cruelty, and who says that suffering is not only not redeeming but leaves a permanent wound that never heals.

“The facts of the case are by now well known. On Nov. 8, 2010, Steven Hayes was convicted of murdering Petit's wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and received the death penalty. The jury found him guilty for his crimes in a horrific home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut in 2007 that killed Hawke-Petit and her two daughters. Hayes reportedly raped and choked Hawke-Petit to death while his accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela and her older sister Hayley who were tied to their beds and raped. Gasoline was then poured on all three victims and the house was set on fire. The verdict was unanimous and came on day four of deliberations.

“Tuesday, on the courthouse steps Dr. William Petit, who was savagely beaten in the attack but survived, said this: "We thank the jury for their diligence and consideration. We feel that it was an appropriate verdict. There is some relief, but my family is still gone. It doesn't bring them back. It doesn't bring back the home that we had."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stan the Man

I did not know Stan Musial was Catholic, but remember well what a great ballplayer he was.

This recent story in the American Spectator notes his 90th birthday [November 21, 2010] and he still lives in St. Louis with his wife of 71 years.

An excerpt.

“Happily, the good don't always die young. This Sunday, God willing, Stan "The Man" Musial, who was not only one of baseball's greatest hitters but one of the nicest guys to ever wear cleats, will turn 90. He lives independently with Lillian, his bride of 71 years, in St. Louis where they are beloved.

“The St. Louis Post-Dispatch plans extensive coverage of Stan's 90th this weekend, as well it should. Red Sox Nation and Fenway fanatics may get more coverage nationally. But there are also plenty of savvy baseball fans in St. Louis, home of a venerable and successful franchise in the Cardinals. Stan is remembered and revered here, even though it has been 47 years since Stan ended his career at Busch Stadium with a sharp, RBI single to right Sept. 29, 1963 against Jim Maloney of the Cincinnati Reds.

“Long-time Post-Dispatch baseball writer Rick Hummel, who knows as much about the Cardinals and The Man as anyone, told me that neither of the Musials is suffering from any debilitating ailments. Stan still gets out, he said, though less often than in the past and sometimes with the help of a cane. He even makes it to his natural habitat, the ballpark, from time to time. Good thing. Somebody has to give Albert Pujols hitting tips.

"Everybody here still knows who Stan is," Hummel said. "The fans go nuts every time he appears at the ball park." Few players have the numbers and the gravitas to presume to advise the great Albert on hitting. But Stan certainly does. Between September of 1941 and the end of the 1963 season, with 1945 off in the U.S. Navy, Stan compiled a .331 lifetime batting average on 3,630 hits, including 475 home runs. He drove in 1,951 runs while winning seven batting titles and being chosen as the league's most valuable player three times.

“Musial, not streaky or prone to slumps, was consistent with his gaudy numbers. He hit .336 against right-handers and .323 against lefties. He hit .336 at home and .326 on the road. He had 1,815 hits both at home and on the road.

“Musial put his Hall of Fame career together with a combination of God-given talent, hustle, and considerable baseball smarts. His head was always in the game. With superb coordination, sharp reflexes and eye sight, he made hitting look easy. He was rarely fooled by a pitch. When he was he was usually quick enough to adjust and still hit the pitch….

“Stanislaw Franciszek Musial was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, a small industrial town 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, to Lukasz and Mary Musial. Zinc miner Lukasz was just eight years in America from Poland. Mary was a first-generation Czech-American. Lukasz gave his oldest son the nickname Stashu.

“Baseball fame and success as a restaurateur and real estate investor made Musial a rich man before he was 40, but he never acted the big star. He was always solicitous of others, and treated stars, fans, the club house guy, waitresses, and the scrub player hitting .204 and destined for a career in used car sales just the same, respectfully. Even after he had won three MVP awards his home phone number was still listed in the St. Louis directory.

“For baseball and business reasons Musial moved from Donora to St. Louis. But he didn't leave his home town behind, returning often, including for his high school reunions. He remained Stashu to the people he came up with, who he never abandoned after he became The Man.

“He never abandoned his Catholic faith either. He's regularly attended mass all his life, including on the road as a player. Musial has lived his long life with considerable grace. A class act, we might be tempted to say. But all the evidence shows that Musial's quiet charisma isn't and has never been an act.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Endless Reports

I have just perused another of the endless reports criminal justice academics produce examining, and supposedly solving, why criminals continue to commit crimes even after being in prison, but will not burden you with anything it says about how to rehabilitate criminals.

However, what it doesn’t say, is that the real issue is personal internal transformation. Rather the report presents a mechanistic world of exploded moving parts that if we can only provide enough services — jobs, housing, counseling, education — all will become aligned and criminals will become community.

Without an internal transformation, all of the services will not help.

Professional career criminals who commit crimes for money and who make up the bulk of people in maximum security prisons, chose to be criminals through an internal decision based on their perception of how the world operates; a perception not far off the mark considering who the prince of the world is.

Our apostolate is based on changing that internal dynamic through the only body of intellectual and spiritual truth capable of combating and defeating worldly truth.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Surgery & Blogosphere Absence

Emergency surgery right after Thanksgiving, and the subsequent recuperation will keep me from the blogosphere for a few more days.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thaksgiving week and we'll resume posting on Monday the 29th.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Standing for the Church

In America, being Catholic poses no risk, but not so in Venezuela, where the only institution against tyranny is the Church, as reported by this article from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“When Hugo Chavez was sworn in as president of Venezuela in February 1997, he was hailed as the true successor to Latin American freedom fighter, Simon Bolivar. Notables including Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte, Oliver Stone, and Noam Chomsky shouted from rooftops that Chavez was a visionary who would restore prosperity and return power to the people. And they applauded his claim that the United States is “the most evil regime that has ever existed.”

“These useful idiots have turned a blind eye to the fact that Chavez is a depraved Marxist totalitarian whose heroes are Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. They have also ignored that he supports global terrorism, has provided sanctuary to the Colombian terrorist group FARC, and has pledged, “that nothing will stop us” from acquiring nuclear power.

“A misogynist, who claimed former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found him irresistible, Chavez has been described by his long-term mistress and mother of his child as a “typical narcissist dictator.” “Ego” Chavez, as dissenters refer to him, has been called “Der Narziss von Caracas” by Die Zeit foreign correspondent Reiner Luyken and a “Narcissist-Leninist” by The Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer.

“Since taking office Chavez has destroyed what was considered the most stable Latin American democratic country. A 300-page 2010 report issued by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission accused Chavez of massive violations of human rights, the destruction of democratic principles such as the separation of powers, judicial review of acts of state, and the rule of law over the will of the president. The report concluded that there are “persistent threats and violations of human rights involving political participation, freedom of thought and expression, right to life, personal security and personal integrity and liberty.”

“During his tenure, national literacy has gone up only 1 percent and crime is rampant. Homicide rates have increased 90 percent between 1998 and 2005 and 91 percent of murders are never solved. At 57 murders per 100,000 people, Venezuela’s homicide rate is the world’s highest. Not included in these statistics are the thousands who are killed annually “resisting authority.”

“The Index of Economic Freedom study of 157 countries places Venezuela in 148th place. Transparency International rates Venezuela as one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

“Throughout his reign of terror, the major thorn in Chavez’s side has been the hierarchy of Venezuela’s Roman Catholic Church. Venezuela, a nation of 25 million, is 90 percent Catholic and recent polling indicates that 80 percent of the population is supportive of the Church and regards it as trustworthy.

“The bishops have instructed their flocks that Chavez’s brand of socialism is not compatible with the social teachings of the Church. In October 2006, Archbishop Diego Rafael Padrón Sanchez of Cumana declared: “Chavez’s so-called twenty-first century socialism has already been polarizing the country for seven years. People are for him or against him, but nevertheless, they have remained poor.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bishop's Conferences

1) Pope Benedict XVI wrote about their role, as noted on p. 44 of the Lampstand book on capital punishment, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support:

“…the Holy Father has remarked on the teaching authority status of the episcopal conference:

“The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given by the individual bishops.

“It is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension.” (Ratzinger, J. Cardinal with Vittorio Messori. (1985). The Ratzinger report: An exclusive interview on the state of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. pp. 59-60)

2) He again spoke about their proper role, as reported by Catholic News Service.

An excerpt.

“Vatican City, Nov 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -- A national conference of Catholic bishops exists so that pastors of the Church might "share the fatigue of their labors." But, according to Pope Benedict XVI, those national conferences can never substitute for an individual bishop's authority and duty to guide his people.

“The pope turned a Nov. 15 address to a group of bishops from Brazil into a lesson on the function of the bishops' conference.

“The Catholic bishops of the world are divided into bishops' conferences depending on their geographic locations and language groups. For example, the more than 400 bishops of the United States, form the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the English and Welsh bishops are combined into a single bishops' conference.

“Since the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965), some critics have argued that bishops' conferences have assumed too much influence in the lives of local churches and in some cases have diminished the authority of local bishops.

“In his address, Pope Benedict reminded the Brazilian Church leaders that “the counselors and structures of the episcopal conference exist to serve the bishops, not to replace them.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

France & the Guilds

Though Americans traditionally bash France (once the heart of the Church) for much worth bashing lately, there is one tradition that stands — reminding us of why we did admire them so, once — and it is reported in this article from American Spectator.

An excerpt.

“One of the more heroic feats of nearly 75 years of French socialism is to have made "work" a particularly nasty four-letter word, something to be avoided like very sin.

“For decades, assorted handouts have multiplied and overlapped, along with ever more generous, extended-and flagrantly abused-unemployment compensation. Labor legislation required employers to grant longer, and still longer, paid vacations, now up to five weeks and counting. Doctrinaire leftism topped off its campaign against the country's once-proud work ethic with a signal victory in the 1980s, when President François Mitterrand pushed through laws lowering the retirement age from 65 to 60 and limiting the legal work week to 35 hours. With these sops to radical socialist mullahs, many highly qualified senior professionals were sidelined, to the detriment of the French economy, and every other week became a three-day weekend….

“And yet, defying the corrupting zeitgeist, there exists still a small, tight-knit band of brothers who find personal satisfaction in a job well done. These few good men who take pride in careful workmanship are a happy anomaly not only in France, but in our "quick 'n' easy" Western societies in general.

“They are les Compagnons, heirs of the rigorous stonemasons, carpenters, and other craftsmen who festooned ancient France with cathedrals and châteaux. Along with the redoubtable French Academy, the Compagnons, numbering around 10,000, are one of the country's rare institutions to have survived revolutions, religious persecution, and, perhaps most remarkable, modern time-and-motion studies. Steeped in the ritual and methods of medieval craft guilds, these lovers of la belle ouvrage make a cult of manual work. To hear them tell it, they rub their hands with relish at the prospect of another hard nut to crack. "For us it's never a chore to go to work," Serge Mory, a young compagnon carpenter in Paris, told me. "The tougher and more complex the problem on the job, the more we look forward to solving it."

“When 19th-century industrialization dehumanized work and devalued traditional craft trades, the Compagnons were momentarily caught in a time warp. Since then they have adjusted. Compagnon boilermakers now shape sheet metal, coachbuilders do automobile bodywork, saddle makers painstakingly stitch fine upholstery. Compagnons leaven most of France's big projects, from restoring Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre, to boring the Channel tunnel and making rocket engines for the Ariane satellite launcher.

“Today the three Compagnon groups that comprise France's craft guilds train apprentices in nearly a hundred trades. What they all have in common is an idea: manual work is a noble calling as worthy as tapping on a computer keyboard in an office. The notion is hardly new, of course. In the fifth century B.C., the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras held that "man thinks because he has a hand."

“But besides the satisfaction of making things well, there is an ethical dimension. "Being a Compagnon is about brotherhood and sharing," Laurent Bastard, curator of France's Guild Museum beside the Loire River in Tours, told me. "If the Compagnons thrive today, it's not only because they teach a trade better than anyone else, but because they inculcate a moral reference point that's lacking among most young people."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Social Programs Data

Getting good data that can determine success has always been difficult from programs that work to change behavior, as it is not always easy to measure behavior change — though programs working with criminals have arrest records — especially within the two or three year window most nonprofits interact with clients.

This article from the Foundation Center explores the issue.

An excerpt.

“There's no question that the need for better data is on the minds of just about everyone who is working to address seemingly intractable social problems. If you run a nonprofit, you've undoubtedly felt the push from funders to demonstrate the impact of your programs. If you're a foundation program officer or an individual donor, you are probably looking for data that enable you to compare programs and choose the most effective ones. And in today's tough economic climate, government leaders at the local, state, and federal levels are urgently seeking ways to use data to make better use of increasingly limited resources.

“Fortunately, we're on the brink of a sea change in how we generate and use data to address social problems — and change is exactly what we need. Although significant data on social issues exist, much of it is not publicly available or is not action oriented. Indeed, quality information about nonprofit performance is scarce and not typically standardized to make it possible to compare organizations working on the same issue. As a result, we don't know whether the billions of dollars invested annually in nonprofit organizations by the public and private sectors is achieving the desired results — or any results at all.

“The enormous potential to improve the quality of and access to information is analogous to the information revolution that took place in the private sector during the twentieth century. The first stage of that revolution was inaugurated by Section 13 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which required publicly traded companies to file annual reports (known as 10Ks) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The information revolution continued with the rise of the tech sector in the United States in the late 1970s. Back then, tech start-ups were growing rapidly. Many investors, however, lacked data about industry trends, which companies were "hot," and how those companies were performing on a comparative level. One of the innovations that helped provide more transparency at the time was the development of an independent financial research industry. Reports, conferences, and advice began to be offered by the likes of the Yankee Group, Forrester, and Gartner Research. That information, in turn, provided investors with the insights they needed to make informed investment decisions and greatly increased the amount of growth capital available to tech companies, both young and established.

“In the nonprofit sector today, by contrast, the only standardized source of information is the 990 tax form. And while the 990 provides financial information, it offers no indication of whether an organization is fulfilling the charitable purpose for which it was awarded tax-exempt status in the first place. Imagine, then, what an information revolution similar to the one that transformed the private sector in the the last quarter of the twentieth century might mean for twenty-first-century efforts to invest in social change. Rigorous and readily available assessments would ensure that "social investors" are able to identify the most successful approaches to our most pressing social issues. Nonprofits with access to better information could use that information to assess their programs and make informed decisions about ways to improve those programs. Funders would be able to more effectively compare programs and select the most promising grantees at every step of the innovation cycle — from early-stage testing of new models to replicating already proven approaches. And collaborations involving the nonprofit, government, and business sectors would be able to use data to help ensure that their efforts resulted in sustained social impact.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New President of the USCCB

In what is one of many such stories that will be written about the new president of the conference, this one from Catholic World Report is worth a read.

Hopefully, the apparent demise of the influence of the seamless garment concept will eventually lead to a reemergence of the USCCB’s full support — rather than calling for abolition — of capital punishment, (see the Lampstand Foundation’s capital punishment webpage) which has traditionally been and still is, supported by Catholic teaching.

An excerpt.

“In the years following Roe v. Wade, the US bishops debated the place of abortion in their agenda. Cardinal John O’Connor of New York argued for giving primacy to the abortion issue, while Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago wanted abortion integrated into a long and dubious list of “threats to life.” The latter view prevailed in the USCCB, and became known as the “Seamless Garment.” The upset election of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the USCCB presidency over Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, the media-described Bernardin “protégé,” is a posthumous victory of sorts for O’Connor.

“Not that the Bernardin Left is now powerless in the Church in America. It retains plenty of influence in chanceries and Catholic classrooms across the country, not to mention—as evidenced by the close vote between Dolan and Kicanas—the episcopate itself. But the “Seamless Garment” bishops are running out of steam, stopped not only by their overtly political liberalism, which looks painfully passé in the light of the Democratic Party’s crack-up and the nation’s changing mood, but also by the moral fallout of their doctrinal liberalism.

“Historians will likely note that what ultimately silenced and discredited the “Seamless Garment” bishops was not this or that silly political stance, but the sex abuse scandal. Before it erupted, bishops like Roger Mahony could command an audience on topics like amnesty; after it, their moral authority seemed shot. People were in no mood to be lectured on “justice” from bishops who hadn’t provided any to children in their own dioceses.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Verbum Domini

The new Apostolic Exhortation from the Holy Father is excellent, and answers many questions around using the scriptures.

An excerpt from page 94.

“All the baptized are responsible for this proclamation

“Since the entire People of God is a people which has been "sent", the Synod reaffirmed that "the mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism". No believer in Christ can feel dispensed from this responsibility which comes from the fact of our sacramentally belonging to the Body of Christ. A consciousness of this must be revived in every family, parish, community, association and ecclesial movement. The Church, as a mystery of communion, is thus entirely missionary, and everyone, according to his or her proper state in life, is called to give an incisive contribution to the proclamation of Christ.

“Bishops and priests, in accordance with their specific mission, are the first to be called to live a life completely at the service of the word, to proclaim the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments and to form the faithful in the authentic knowledge of Scripture. Deacons too must feel themselves called to cooperate, in accordance with their specific mission, in this task of evangelization.

“Throughout the Church's history the consecrated life has been outstanding for explicitly taking up the task of proclaiming and preaching the word of God in the missio ad gentes and in the most difficult situations, for being ever ready to adapt to new situations and for setting out courageously and boldly along fresh paths in meeting new challenges for the effective proclamation of God's word.

“The laity are called to exercise their own prophetic role, which derives directly from their Baptism, and to bear witness to the Gospel in daily life, wherever they find themselves. In this regard the Synod Fathers expressed "the greatest esteem, gratitude and encouragement for the service to evangelization which so many of the lay faithful, and women in particular, provide with generosity and commitment in their communities throughout the world, following the example of Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the joy of Easter". The Synod also recognized with gratitude that the ecclesial movements and the new communities are a great force for evangelization in our times and an incentive to the development of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Criminal Fugitive Cases Dropped

A very dangerous way to reduce court dockets, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

An excerpt.

“Twenty-three years later, the woman still trembles when she remembers the attack.

“The man pushed his way into her Kensington house at gunpoint, slapped her so hard her glasses shattered, then forced her to have oral sex.

“The alleged attacker, Francisco Sanchez, fled before trial, but the woman says she never gave up hope that one day he would be tried and convicted.

"I wished all my life that they would catch him," she said in a recent interview. "I would go to court to testify and do as much as possible to send the man to jail."

“But in a sweeping move to lower Philadelphia's staggering tally of 47,000 fugitives, top court officials have quietly dropped criminal charges against Sanchez and more than 19,000 other defendants who skipped court years ago.

“At the urging of Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and District Attorney Seth Williams, Philadelphia judges closed criminal cases and canceled fugitive bench warrants for thousands of accused drug dealers, drunken drivers, thieves, prostitutes, sex offenders, burglars, and other suspects.

“The withdrawn cases are from 1998 and earlier.

"They were clogging up the system," said Castille, a former Philadelphia district attorney. "You're never going to find these people. And if you do, are you going to prosecute them? The answer is no."

“The woman attacked in Kensington was astounded by the decision.

"How could they erase the case?" she asked after Inquirer reporters told her the criminal charges had been withdrawn. "I was a victim. There were lots of victims. It's not right."

“The newspaper also located several Philadelphia bail jumpers around the country and told them their cases had been dismissed.

"I'm ecstatic," said Reginald Newkirk, who had been facing two drunken-driving charges. Reached at his current home in Watha, N.C., Newkirk was told that the charges had been withdrawn. "I'm glad to hear that."

“In Newkirk's 1991 arrests, police determined that his blood-alcohol levels were 0.273 and 0.277 percent - almost three times the legal threshold for intoxication at the time. Asked whether he had been drunk at the time, Newkirk, now 61, replied, "More or less."

“Another fugitive, Alfred Carter, who fled in 1989 before he was sentenced for a strong-arm robbery, is now living in Washington.”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Solitary Confinement

One of the major arguments for stopping the use of solitary confinement as standard prison practice for all prisoners in the early 20th century was that the practice “drove men mad”.

Now there is a study reporting the opposite, greatly enhancing the discussion, as reported by the Denver Post.

An excerpt.

“A controversial study by Colorado's Corrections Department claims to debunk the widely held theory that solitary confinement harms prisoners.

“Findings seem to show not just a lack of deterioration in mental health after long periods with virtually no human contact, but also, incredibly, some slight improvement.

“The report is being ripped for its methodology. Detractors fear it will prompt Colorado and other states to warehouse more inmates in prolonged isolation.

"It's garbage in, garbage out," says Stuart Grassian, the psychiatrist internationally recognized for describing the crippling effects of solitary confinement. "Their approach is fatally flawed."

“Others — including some notable critics of isolation — defend the study.

"I was certainly surprised by its findings. We all were. But this is a serious piece of research," says Jamie Fellner, a top lawyer with Human Rights Watch who serves on the state's advisory board.

“State Corrections chief researcher Maureen O'Keefe has said her office launched the project largely because her department was concerned about being sued for civil-rights violations. Colorado houses 6.2 percent of its prisoners in so-called "administrative segregation," far more than the national average.

“The state snagged federal funding to spend a year researching the psychological effects of keeping human beings locked up 23 hours a day with almost no social interaction, their food pushed through slots in their doors. The 24th hour is for exercise and showers, also alone.

“The expectation was that prisoners would get worse.

“Instead, the report claims to show the opposite effect — a slight "improvement in psychological well-being across all study groups." It doesn't discount emotional distress, yet concludes that solitary confinement didn't cause it.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

83% Support Capital Punishment

While 62% support its use for rape—positions which the Lampstand Foundation also supports—according to this new poll from Angus Reid.

An excerpt from the press release.

“Most Americans support the death penalty in murder cases, but are divided on whether it acts as a deterrent for potential criminals, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

“The online survey of a representative sample of 1,006 American adults also finds that a high proportion of respondents believe that innocent people have been executed in the United States.

“Across the country, 83 per cent of respondents support punishing homicide with the death penalty, while 13 per cent are opposed. A majority of Americans would also rely on capital punishment to punish rape (62%) and kidnapping (51%), but not armed robbery (40%).”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gaudi’s Vision

The incredible cathedral by the architect Gaudi—who is being considered for sainthood—is truly magnificent and calls us back to the glorious building of the Gothic cathedrals so many years ago.

It was consecrated by the Holy Father November 7, 2010 as reported by the Vatican News Service.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2010 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today the Pope travelled by popemobile from the archbishopric of Barcelona to the church of the Sagrada Familia, masterpiece of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

“Work on the building, which began in the year 1882, continues today thanks to donations from all over the world and is scheduled to come to an end in 2026. The final project is due to comprehend eighteen spires, twelve dedicated to the Apostles, four to the Evangelists, one to Jesus - at 170 metres the highest of all - and one to the Virgin Mary.

“Before Mass, the Holy Father travelled around the outside of the church where thousands of people were gathered to greet him.

“Benedict XVI entered the building by a secondary entrance where he was welcomed by the president of the Sagrada Familia foundation and by Jordi Bonet, head of the building project. He then went on to meet with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain in the Museum Hall of the Sagrada Familia.

“After his meeting with the monarchs, the Pope went to the sacristy to prepare for the celebration of Mass during which he consecrated the church and the altar of the Sagrada Familia.

“Beginning his homily the Pope spoke in Catalan, greeting the King and Queen, and Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, and the other cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay people present.

“Going on then to highlight how this day "marks an important step in a long history of hope, work and generosity that has gone on for more than a century", the Holy Father made special mention of the people whose efforts made it possible to build the church, especially "the man who was the soul and the artisan of this project, Antoni Gaudi, a creative architect and a practising Christian who kept the torch of his faith alight to the end of his life, a life lived in dignity and absolute austerity. This event is also in a certain sense the high point of the history of this land of Catalonia which, especially since the end of the nineteenth century, has given an abundance of saints and founders, martyrs and Christian poets. It is a history of holiness, artistic and poetic creation, born of the faith, which we gather and present to God today as an offering in this Eucharist".

“Benedict XVI expressed his joy at the fact that "this shrine, since its beginnings, has had a special relationship with St. Joseph. I have been moved above all by Gaudi's confidence when, in the face of many difficulties, filled with trust in divine Providence, he would exclaim, 'St. Joseph will finish this church'. So it is significant that it is also being dedicated by a Pope whose baptismal name is Joseph".

“This work of art "stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One Who is Light, Height and Beauty itself. In this place, Gaudi desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy. In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God, but at the same time he brought the sacred images outside so as to place before people the mystery of God revealed in the birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Clash of Civilizations/Clash of Idols

In this remarkable editorial from Catholic World Report, the words of the Holy Father describe the world accurately, while utterances of the confused echo aimlessly in the halls of relativism.

An excerpt.

“Pope Benedict XVI delivered an important meditation at the beginning of the October Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. The meditation addressed the “false divinities” that govern modern times. Though the Holy Father did not speak explicitly in the meditation about the media-labeled “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West, a topic central to many of the Synod’s discussions, his remarks apply to that struggle and offer the only real solution to it.

“The world suffers under two destructive idols, he suggested in the meditation, one from the East that assumes the form of false religion, one from the West that takes the form of no religion. Both idols must fall under the advance of true religion, which alone comes from the Son of God:

“Let us remember all the great powers of the history of today. Let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man which is no longer in man’s possession but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power that threatens the world. And then there is the power of terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.

“These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall. What is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the domination, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The “clash of civilizations” is at bottom a clash of irrational ideologies: a distorted faith without reason in the East advances upon a culture of distorted reason without faith in the West. Modernist commentators propose that the two find peace in “pluralism” and other articles of man-made faith, but Pope Benedict can see that secular humanism provides no resolution to the conflict at all. It is just one more false divinity.

“Peace will grow in proportion to the East finding Christ and the West rediscovering him. It is this diagnosis of the global crisis that contributes to the Pope’s urgency in calling for Middle Eastern Christians to preserve the faith in embattled lands. Inspired by his meditation, several Middle Eastern bishops spoke eloquently about the need for a continued Christian witness and presence in Muslim-dominated countries, despite the severe persecution Catholics endure in many of them.

“Unfortunately, not all the bishops in attendance at the Synod grasped the meaning of the Pope’s words. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, one of two US representatives at the Synod, sounded more interested in winning conversions for modern liberalism than for Christ. Secular missionary activity appeals to Mahony far more than Catholic apologetics. While he would never dare call Islam a false religion, he is anxious to evangelize Muslims in the merits of pluralism, feminism, reciprocity, and UN-decreed human rights.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recidivism in Britain

As reported by the Telegraph, the rate there is about as high as here, and the “root causes” (code-word for the concept that crime is the fault of society rather than the individual) comment in the final paragraph in our post also indicates a comparable lack of understanding of the criminal world culture, foundational to the failure to decrease recidivism.

An excerpt.

“The first long term study of its kind shows that 74 per cent of criminals will commit at least one crime within nine years of being released from jail or serving a community sentence, Ministry of Justice figures show.

“The figures show the true challenge facing Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, to meet his promise to bring about a "rehabilitation revolution".

“Prisons that have the worst reoffending rates were also revealed for the first time.

“It shows that in 14 establishments, including four women's jails, more than seven in ten inmates go back to crime within a year of release.

“New Hall women's prison in Wakefield had the highest rate at around 77 per cent while in the far large men's estate some 75 per cent of prisoners leaving HMP Dorchester reoffend within a year.

“Crispin Blunt, the Justice Minister, said: "Today's statistics show we need a more intelligent approach to sentencing that targets the root causes of crime and reoffending, so making our communities safer and better places to live.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

College Admission & Criminal History

It is absolutely crucial that colleges collect criminal history information and utilize it to determine if they should allow certain offenders to become students.

The first rehabilitation program I developed and managed was one that brought penitential criminals to college as a rehabilitative strategy, and key to managing the program was having access to full criminal histories of potential students—we excluded sex offenders and drug dealers—which resulted in not one incidence of criminality over the three years I managed the program which brought in 50 reentering prisoners a year.

However, once the program came under new management, the restrictions I had established were dropped and soon after, a student of the program who was a convicted rapist came on campus and raped another student.

A new report has come out about the issue, which takes the opposite position, as reported by the Center for Community Alternatives.

An excerpt from their press release.

“We are pleased to share with you our new publication, “The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered” that shows that a majority of colleges and universities now collect criminal history information as part of the college admissions procedures. The survey was done in collaboration with the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. The survey found that a broad array of convictions, including convictions for relatively minor offenses, are viewed as negative factors in the context of admissions decision-making.

“Among the studies key findings are:

• 66% of the responding colleges collect criminal justice information, although not all of them consider it in their admissions process.
• A sizable minority (38%) of the responding schools does not collect or use criminal justice information and those schools do not report that their campuses are less safe as a result.
• Most schools that collect and use criminal justice information require additional information and procedures before admitting an applicant with a past criminal record including consultation with academic deans and campus security personnel.
• Less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information.

“The use of criminal history records in admissions decision making is problematic for a number of reasons: there is no empirical evidence that shows a links between having a criminal record and posing a risk to campus safety; criminal record information is often inaccurate or misleading; and racial disparities in the criminal justice system means that young people of color are more likely to be affected by admissions practices that screen for criminal records.

“In light of the findings, CCA offers a series of recommendations designed to make admissions processes fairer and more evidence-based. A college education is one of society’s most potent and effective crime prevention tools. It opens doors of opportunity, enhances critical thinking, and leads to better and more stable employment. If past criminal convictions are preventing qualified young people from going to college, society as a whole is the loser.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pit Bulls & Parolees

A very creative grassroots approach to reentry, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“Tia Torres has a passion for underdogs – whether they're people or animals. The star of Animal Planet's series "Pit Bulls & Parolees" has proved that for the past 17 years since she established the Villalobos Rescue Center in Santa Clarita, the largest pit bull rescue facility in the United States. She started taking in refugee pit bulls and later parolees who were having trouble finding work.

“The red-headed Torres, dressed in denims and a black sweatshirt against the fall chill, manages 200 pit bulls on 10 acres of dusty desert property. Her daughters, Mariah and Tania, help out, as do her two adopted twin sons, Kanani and Keli'I.

"I was at an animal shelter up in the high desert with a friend, and she was getting a collie out; she was with collie rescue," Torres said, seated on a folding chair under a pepper tree.

"It was then when the sheriff's department were bringing in some dogs. It was a drug deal gone bad.

"Out in this area there are a lot of meth labs and everybody had been killed on the property. And the only thing that was left was one pit bull. They brought her in because she was evidence.

"They had tied her ears off with fishing line. And it stopped the circulation and the ears just fell off. The fishing line was still in her ears. When the shelter brought her in she broke loose and ran toward my daughters. They were both sitting on a bench and she knocked them over and I thought, 'Oh, oh.' And the next thing I knew she was kissing them all over the place. So I decided to get her. It took me a while because there was a court case, but I finally got her and she was the inspiration for the whole place. Tatanka was her name."

“Back then, pit bulls were considered satanic dogs, she said.

"It was hard to get them out of a shelter," she said. "No one wanted to save them, everybody hated them. So it was tough. Thankfully I was able to build up a decent relationship with animal control and worked my way up the ladder." During Hurricane Katrina about 50 dogs were sent to Torres.

"It hit us hard, so recently we went to New Orleans to see where our dogs came from and were really taken with the people there. You feel it and we fell in love with the people and with their animals and we made a promise to not forget about them."

“Torres has been married three years to a man she met when they became pen pals while he was in prison. He's back in prison, charged with stealing property in a mixup with another parolee, she said.

"It's hard when you deal with pit bulls and parolees. People go, 'What? I don't want to donate to that.' But they fit together. You spend five minutes with them, you wonder what's the fuss?"

Friday, November 5, 2010

California Recidivism Report

According to this post from the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, about the new report on recidivism—as measured over the standard three year period—is at 67.5%

An excerpt from the post.

“While CDCR has tracked return-to-prison rates for first-time felons released from prison since 1977, the 2010 Adult Institutions Outcome Evaluation Report expands this measure of recidivism to include re-released felons and felons who have been discharged from parole. Measured over a three-year period, inmates released in fiscal year 2005/06 have a recidivism rate of 67.5 percent.

“Other key findings in the report include:
• Nearly three-quarters of felons who recidivate did so within a year of release.
• Most recidivists returned to prison for parole violations.
• After three years, re-released felons returned to prison at a rate 16.8 percentage points higher than those released for the first time.
• Females have a three-year return-to-prison rate of 58 percent, which is approximately 10 percentage points lower than that of males.
• In general, recidivism rates declined with age. Among inmates, ages 18 to 24 when released in fiscal year 2005/06, nearly 75 percent returned to prison within three years, compared to about 67 percent ages 40 to 44 and 46 percent of those 60 years of age and older.
• Sex offenders recidivate at a slightly lower rate compared with other felons. Of the sex offenders who recidivate, 86 percent do so because of a parole violation.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gang Membership Increases

As it becomes a more desirable route to worldly success, the numbers seeking entrance will continue to increase, and prison time is an important aspect of membership sustainability rather than a deterrent.

An excerpt from USA Today.

“Gang membership, a traditional trigger for violent crime, is rising even as murder and other violent crime have declined substantially in much of the USA.

“Across the country, gangs have grown to about 1 million members, according to the federal government's most recent count in 2009, and law enforcement officials say that number is increasing.

“The 25% jump in the membership ranks from 2005, recorded by the National Gang Threat Assessment, defies the steep decline in violent crime. That has sunk to its lowest levels since 1973, according to a National Criminal Victimization Survey released last month by the Justice Department.

“Violent crime declined to 17.1 incidents per 1,000 people in 2009, down from 19.3 incidents in 2008, the report says.

"With gangs usually comes a lot of violence; we're looking at this very closely," says John Moore, director of the National Gang Center, an arm of the Justice Department. He says national surveys of gang membership continue to show growth.

“Just as a spike in crime did not follow the nationwide financial crisis, Moore says, violent crime has not followed expected patterns linked to the proliferation of gangs.

“In Chicago, where gang membership is up to 105,000 this year from about 70,000 in 2000, murders are on pace to drop to the lowest levels since 1965, Police Superintendent Jody Weis says. The 343 murders this year are eight fewer than this time last year, Weis says.

“Among the reasons, Police Commander Leo Schmitz says, is that some gang leaders — including those ordering murders and other retaliatory attacks — are serving long prison sentences.

“Their absences, Schmitz says, have contributed to disorganization in the ranks and cause some lower-level operatives to form their own groups with new members, a factor driving an increase in Chicago gang membership.

"We've taken out so many of the leaders — stone cold killers — that it has fractured some of these organizations," Schmitz says.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Judge: Case Dismissed

A society cannot effectively fight crime if it will not fund the judges needed to try criminal cases, but that is apparently what has happened in California, as this story in the Los Angeles Times reports.

An excerpt.

“A shortage of judges in Riverside County has led to the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases, a practice the California Supreme Court upheld on Monday and blamed on the state's budget woes.

“In unanimous ruling, the state high court said Riverside County's dearth of judges represented a "chronic" problem that was the fault of the budget-strapped state.

“The case before the court involved an accused burglar, one of 18 criminal defendants whose cases were dismissed on the same day after they invoked their rights to speedy trials. Two of the 18 were charged with felonies.

“Riverside County Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek said Monday's ruling also would end prosecution for as many as 300 other defendants whose cases were on appeal after being dismissed for lack of judges. But Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Tate said his office would fight to prosecute the most serious of the dismissed cases.

"There are quite a few very serious allegations, some involving dead bodies — vehicular manslaughter, assault on police officer, assault with deadly weapon, crimes against children," said Tate, who argued the case before the Supreme Court.

“The judiciary has long insisted that California needs more judges, but nowhere has the shortage been more dramatic than in Riverside County.

“Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the court, said in Monday's ruling that "the lack of available courtrooms and judges was attributable to the Legislature's failure to provide a number of judges and courtrooms sufficient to meet the rapidly growing population in Riverside County."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Election Blogging Break

Dear Reader:

I’ll be taking an election period break from blogging until Wednesday, November 3rd, when I hope we will all share in a great wave of common sense voting, bringing committed public leadership to serve this great nation and our beloved communities.

Take care.

David H. Lukenbill

Friday, October 29, 2010

Crime Costs

They have been calculated somewhat, as this article from Slate notes.

An excerpt.

“Crime doesn't pay, supposedly. But it does cost society something. The question is how much.

Researchers at Iowa State University recently attempted to run the numbers. They wanted to include not just the direct costs—the damaged property and lost careers and prison upkeep and lawyer fees—but also the broader and more intangible societal costs, such as more frequent police patrols, more complicated alarm systems, and more expensive life-insurance plans. If we knew how much a crime costs society, their reasoning went, maybe we could better decide how much money to spend trying to stop it.

“They found that each burglary in the United States—a car break-in, for example—costs $41,288. For armed robberies the cost increases eightfold, to $335,733. Every aggravated assault costs $145,379. Each rape costs $448,532.

“Then there is murder. The researchers, led by sociologist Matt DeLisi, put the price tag at a whopping $17,252,656. That means in 2009, according to the FBI, murder cost the United States almost $263 billion—nearly as much the federal government annually spends on Medicaid.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reforming the Church

The difficulty in reforming a part of the Church, such as the Legionaries of Christ, even after abundant evidence of the evil actions—over a lifetime—of its founder, as reported by Chiesa, is testament to how difficult it is to effect change within the larger Church in the world.

It reminds us that it is not the people—save Peter and the saints—of the Church that need inform our living of our faith, but the teachings, the dogma; and here, we are to consult scripture, the Church Fathers, and the universal Catechisms of the Church from the Council of Trent and Vatican II, first and second editions.

An excerpt from Chiesa.

“ROME, October 25, 2010 – Now that he has been made a cardinal, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis will have even more authority in implementing the mandate he has received from Benedict XVI to salvage the Legionaries of Christ, brought to the brink of ruin by their founder, Marcial Maciel, and by the men of his inner circle.

“But the difficulties that the pontifical delegate is encountering are significant. The superiors of the congregation, the most powerful of which is vicar general Luís Garza Medina (in the photo), are by no means giving up on the idea of remaining in their positions of command, now and always.

“In mid-September, De Paolis asked Garza to give up the main offices that he holds, at least those of territorial director for Italy, supervisor of consecrated virgins of the movement Regnum Christi, general prefect of studies and head of the financial holding company Integer. But Garza said no. A chill has fallen between the two.

“De Paolis has been in office since June 16, but has only been able to operate and decide fully since this October, when he was finally given the four "advisers" that the Vatican authorities had promised him four months earlier. One of them, Brian Farrel, is a Legionary with an important role in the Vatican curia, a proponent of a decisive shift in the direction of the congregation. Two others, the Jesuit Gianfranco Ghirlanda and Sacred Heart Fr. Agostino Montan, are highly experienced canon lawyers, even more in favor of decisive action for reform. The one most inclined to negotiate with the heads of the Legionaries appears to be the fourth, Mario Marchesi, previously a professor at their university.

“Last October 19, De Paolis addressed to the Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi a long and well-constructed letter, reproduced in its entirety further below, which gives fairly clear indications of the process of "rebuilding" and "renewal" that the pontifical delegate intends to undertake. And of the obstacles that he is encountering.

“De Paolis describes his project as "change in continuity," with the accent on the first word. The changes – he writes – include "not a few things." They concern freedom of conscience, the role of confessors and spiritual directors, the forms of control over everyday life, and more. But the point on which he is insisting most is "the problem of the exercise of authority within the Legion," including the way in which the superiors relate with each other.

“De Paolis dedicates numerous passages and one entire paragraph of the letter to the need for superiors to change the way in which they act. For the first time in an official Church document, he states in black and white the thesis according to which "the current superiors could not have been unaware of the offenses of the founder," and so "by remaining silent about them, they would have been lying." He does not endorse this thesis, but he also does not rule it out. In conjecturing that their knowledge of the outrages of the founder would have come about "late and gradually," he does not say how or when. And in effect it is now common opinion, even among the Vatican authorities, that Garza and the other ultra-faithful of Maciel knew of and covered up his double life as early as the early 1990's, long before his denunciation in 2006 and his death in 2008.

“But in spite of this, it could be gathered from the letter from De Paolis that for now neither he nor the Vatican authorities intend to remove the superiors of the Legion by executive fiat. They are instead trying to get them to leave their positions of their own will, or at least immediately change their attitude, because – as stated in the letter – "if we get caught up in the desire to prevail, and to impose our own ideas on the others, disaster is certain."

“The fact remains that, so far, no trace of this desired conversion has been seen in the leaders. By closing ranks, they are withholding visibility and initiative from the healthy part of the Legion, those dozens, hundreds of priests and novices who yearn for a renewal of their religious life, but continue to suffer highly suffocating restrictions and pressures, on the individual and collective level.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crime Costs

Understanding the costs involved in all aspects of decision-making in the criminal justice system benefits everyone, and it appears, as this article in Governing reports, that evaluating government criminal justice programs is becoming more common, which is very good news.

An excerpt.

“How much does it cost?

“It is a question we have asked hundreds of times since we were old enough to visit the candy store with a few coins in our pockets. In a market economy, each of us makes hundreds of decisions about what to eat, drive and wear, and our choices are guided in large part by prices.

“Governments often operate in the dark when it comes to cost, particularly in the realm of criminal justice.

“A recent article in The New York Times notes that Missouri judges will now be informed of the costs associated with the sentences they issue. According to the article:

“A second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer's 30-year prison term: $504,690.

“Prosecutors worry that judges will now tend to hand out more lenient, less costly sentences. But others claim that this information will only help judges make smarter choices in a world of limited resources.

“In California, for example, budget woes have prompted the early release of prisoners. The New York Times noted that "The goal is to reduce the number of inmates in the state's 33 prisons next year by 6,500 -- more than the entire state prison population in 2009 of Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah or West Virginia." It costs California about $47,000 on average to house a prisoner for a year, and currently the Golden State spends more on incarceration than higher education. Given the state's budget crisis, these costs are coming under scrutiny, and the state is moving to release the least dangerous prisoners early to cut costs and relieve overcrowding.

“There are some who argue that you shouldn't put a price tag on "justice." But imagine grocery shopping in a store without any prices. Guided only by desires, the cart might get filled with filet mignon and caviar, not to mention those yummy whoopee pies from the bakery.

“But in a world of limited resources -- that is, the real world -- every expenditure represents a tradeoff. More of this means less of that. How can anyone make good decisions without cost information?

“Yet when it comes to cost, government often operates in the dark. How much does it "cost" to borrow a library book? At your local "free" public library there is no price, but there is a cost. Just like there is a price but no cost for a visit from police, a criminal trial or a year spent in jail.

“Government can't and shouldn't attempt to charge for its services -- you don't want to have to enter your credit card number for the fire department when your house is on fire. But understanding costs can lead to better decision-making.

“Texas is hardly a state known for coddling criminals, or for lavish public spending. But when the Texas Sunset Commission looked at the operations of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, it recommended "significant additional funds to TDCJ for offender treatment and rehabilitation programs proven to reduce recidivism." Why? Because a dollars and sense case was made that it was worthwhile to invest in rehabilitation and education for inmates to avoid the costs of future visits to the pokey. The Sunset Commission noted that legislators lacked good data on what programs did and didn't work, and how much various approaches cost. Recidivism, it turns out, is a huge cost driver. But without insight into the relative costs and effectiveness of rehabilitation programs, lawmakers were operating in the dark.

“They say that justice should be blind. When it comes to guilt or innocence, that is certainly true. But when it comes to putting scarce resources to use to maximize public value, we need to better understand costs and trade-offs.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gangs & the Church

What is sad about this story from California Catholic Daily News, is that these gangs have been actively involved in the street/prison culture since the 1950’s and their culture is generations deep and so woven into the fabric of the enabling worldly culture, that virtually all attempts to combat their influence—by those with the very best intentions but sadly lacking in deep knowledge of why the gangs have formed and how they really live—have (based on rigorous evaluations) failed.

Criminal transformation can only come from within the soul of a penitential criminal; either by his efforts or with the guidance of a reformed criminal whose leadership will be accepted by the penitential criminal.

What is truly heartening however, is that this effort is coming from the Catholic Church, the only institution possessing the fullness of truth potent enough to trump the narrative of the criminal world.

An excerpt.

“Oakland, Oct 16, 2010 (CNA) -- Captain Paul Figueroa opened a September gang awareness workshop at his alma mater, Oakland’s St. Elizabeth Elementary School, noting that as a student at the parish’s neighboring high school, he couldn’t wear the school’s red color because he didn’t want to be confused with the Norteño gang that controlled his neighborhood.

“Now wearing the dark blue of the Oakland Police Department, Figueroa helped bring about the first of several planned workshops in the diocese to teach parents, educators, clergy and staff how to recognize gang involvement and intervene.

“About 70 teachers and staff from St. Anthony, St. Elizabeth, St. Bernard and St. Louis Bertrand parishes attended, learning about the symbols, colors and mentality associated with the city’s largest Hispanic gangs.

“We’re really going to be aggressive about trying to give you the information so when you see it firsthand, you can try to reach out and stop it, right from jump street,” Figueroa said.

“Bishop Salvatore Cordileone requested the training, which will eventually extend to parents and children in the parishes, said Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, pastor of St. Anthony Parish. Father Nieto-“Ruiz is leading the training efforts for his largely-Latino deanery.

“The idea is to get parents training on the gang culture and see if there is a way to intervene and prevent more teens from joining gangs,” said Father Nieto-Ruiz, noting that Latino gang members’ families are generally Catholic.

“Gang culture hit close to home as Officer Doug Keely showed a clip from “Gang Wars: Oakland,” a television documentary that followed Keely and other members of OPD’s eight-man gang unit through familiar Oakland streets, as well as violent members of Oakland’s primary Hispanic gangs: the Norteños, Sureños and Border Brothers.

“Keely indicated that the gangs mostly operate in East Oakland and parts of West Oakland.

“The Norteños’ color is red, and members are the “foot soldiers” of the prison gang La Nuestra Familia, Keely explained.

“The Sureños wear blue and are affiliated with the Mexican Mafia prison gang. The Border Brothers wear black, he said.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vatican Speaks Clearly

Regarding the issue of Catholic politicians promoting abortion, the Vatican has again spoken definitively, as reported by the California Catholic Daily.

An excerpt.

“ROME ( – Speaking at the Human Life International World Prayer Congress on Saturday, Oct. 9, Archbishop Raymond Burke received sustained applause when he noted that Catholic politicians who support abortion are required to repent publicly.

“Speaking to pro-life leaders from 45 nations, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest Vatican court) also noted that those who recognize the scandal caused by such public, dissident Catholics assist the Church in repairing a serious breach, but are nevertheless often ridiculed for it.

“Archbishop Burke stressed that “both bishops and the faithful” must be obedient to the Magisterium – which he described as the teaching of Christ as handed down through the successor of Peter and the bishops in union with him. “When the shepherds of the flock are obedient to the Magisterium, entrusted to their exercise, then surely the members of the flock grow in obedience and proceed with Christ along the way of salvation,” he said. “If the shepherd is not obedient the flock easily gives way to confusion and error.”

“Burke, who is also a member of the Congregation for Bishops added: “A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.”

“Humanae Vitae reiterated age-old Christian teaching on the immorality of the use of artificial contraception. However, after its publication the encyclical was repudiated by many within the Catholic Church, including priests and bishops, who had believed that the Church would change its views on contraception.

“Turning to the issue of scandal within the Church, the archbishop said, “We find self-professed Catholics, for example, who sustain and support the right of a woman to procure the death of the infant in her womb, or the right of two persons of the same sex to the recognition which the State gives to a man and a woman who have entered into marriage. It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself publicly in this manner.”

“To resounding applause Burke said, “When a person has publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts, leading many into confusion and error about fundamental questions of respect for human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, his repentance of such actions must also be public.”

Read full talk here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hope & Change

Certain times seem to generate optimism, others pessimism, and for many observers of the public arena, this is one of those very optimistic times, as we wait for the results of the elections across the country that will surely usher in a new sense of public policy making.

With all of the hitches in the formerly ascendant narrative putting some halt to its once remorseless advance; the stiller, smaller, voices of the people have been raised in a dynamic chorus of hoping for change, and it does appear that change will occur, at least in public leadership.

Whether the change in public leadership—assuming it does happen—will actually lead to a change in public policy, remains to be seen, as many who enter the halls of power from main street often become so self-enamored by their very ascension, that they forget how and on whose shoulders they arose, but I am optimistic it will happen and they will not forget.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Prison Drug Programs

An article from the Chicago Sun Times advocates a drug program in every prison, but if we examine the rigorous evaluation of a large-scale effort (over 1$ billion) in California recently, which not only failed miserably but actually made the problem worse, maybe that is not such a good idea.

An excerpt from the press release of the California program.

“In a 60-page special review released Wednesday, the Office of the Inspector General reported that numerous university studies of the state’s in-prison substance abuse programs conducted over the past nine years consistently show no difference in recidivism rates between inmates who participated in the programs and those who received no substance abuse treatment. One five-year University of California, Los Angeles, study of the state’s two largest in-prison programs found, in fact, that the 12-month recidivism rates for inmates who received in-prison treatment was slightly higher than that of a control group." Office of the Inspector General, Sacramento, California, February 21, 2007 Press Release “The states substance abuse treatment program for inmates do not reduce recidivism, yet cost the state $143 million per year”, pp. 1-2 italicized in original)

An excerpt from the Chicago Sun Times article.

“Two million, three hundred thousand Americans are in prison today -- No. 1 in the world. That's up from just 500,000 in 1980.

“Imprisonment is one of the most expensive items of state and local budgets. The cost of incarceration in the U.S. is estimated at more than $60 billion a year.

“Most of this increase is due to the prosecution of drug abusers that started in the '80s. Drugs were rampant during that time, with 14 percent of Americans abusing illegal drugs monthly in 1980. That number is now down to 8 percent, but a whopping 68 percent of people arrested test positive for illegal drugs, according to Justice Department surveys of 30 cities.

“The nexus of drugs and crime is simply undeniable.

“There is a solution other than putting drug abusers behind bars -- drug treatment. Though 68 percent of arrestees test positive for drugs, only 14 percent of prisoners receive treatment.

“Birmingham, Ala., was able to call a halt on building a new prison 15 years ago when the city instituted an arrestees' drug treatment program. And the Sheridan Correctional Center, a medium security facility 70 miles west of Chicago that houses male offenders, found that prisoners who completed treatment after release were 40 percent less likely to be arrested a year later and 85 percent less likely to return to prison; counseling, job training and supervision were critical to this success.

“But when we asked the warden's office at the famous Attica prison in New York if they had a drug treatment program, the staff told us, "We're not a drug prison."

“In fact, every prison needs to be a "drug" prison that provides treatment. Only then will we end the overcrowding and recidivism.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Second Chance Funding

$110 million funded for reentry and crime reduction programs, as announced by the Department of Justice on October 8, 2010.

Unfortunately, virtually all of these programs will be built on a service-based model rather than one of internal change; a model which has met with sustained failure over several decades, as our post on rehabilitation evaluation reveals.

An excerpt from the DOJ News Release.

“WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaking at the European Offenders Employment Forum today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced $110 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 funding for the Second Chance Act reentry grants and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. These two efforts focus on reducing recidivism rates and state and local spending on corrections through the use of evidence-based, smart-on-crime approaches implemented by state, local, tribal and non-profit partners. The department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is administering the grants, research, and training and technical assistance.

“Today’s Department of Justice is dedicated to being smart, not only tough, on crime – and our reentry efforts are no exception,” said Attorney General Holder. “It’s vital that we help ensure that people who want to improve our society, as well as their own circumstances, have opportunities to grow, to learn, and to contribute. By joining together, I believe that we can realize our shared vision of safe, thriving communities.”

“According to OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States. Ninety-five percent of all people incarcerated today will eventually be released and will return to their communities. The conference, Oct. 7-8 in Washington, D.C., was convened by the National Transitional Jobs Network and the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion to discuss promising practices, policies, and strategies for prisoner reentry.

“We have a responsibility to partner with communities to keep the public safe and to ensure ex-offenders are fully equipped to become productive, law-abiding citizens, ” said Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for OJP, who also spoke at the conference. “This includes supporting community-based programs that are successful, and backed by evidence of effectiveness.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Catechism

The Holy Father has created a new Pontifical Council, as this Vatican news release notes, where the Catechism is a major tool, which is very good news as it is one of the best tools of the Church.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, 12 OCT 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the newly-founded Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, explained the contents of "Ubicumque et semper", the Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" by which Benedict XVI establishes the new dicastery.

"The theme of new evangelisation has been the subject of deep reflection by Church Magisterium over recent decades", said Archbishop Fisichella. "It is immediately clear that this goal represents a challenge to the entire Church, which must ... find adequate ways to renew her announcement to many baptised people who no longer understand what it means to belong to the Christian community, and are victims of the subjectivism of our times with its closure in an individualism that often lacks public and social responsibility. The 'Motu Proprio' directly identifies those Churches of ancient tradition which ... require a renewed missionary spirit, one capable of helping them make a forward leap to meet the new requirements which the current historical situation imposes".

"As 'Ubicumque et semper' makes clear, new evangelisation is not a mere formula, identical in all circumstances", the archbishop explained. "Rather, it obliges us to develop well-founded ideas capable of acting as support to a corresponding pastoral activity. Moreover it must be capable of carefully verifying the various traditions and goals that the Churches possess by virtue of the treasure of their centuries-long history: a plurality of forms that does not undermine unity".

“Nor must new evangelisation sound like "an abstract formula", the president of the new dicastery continued his remarks. "We must", he said, "fill it with theological and pastoral content, and we will do so with the strong support of the Magisterium of recent decades", also bearing in mind "the many initiatives which, over the course of recent years, have been enacted by individual bishops in their particular Churches, episcopal conferences and groups of believers".

“Among the tasks entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation is that of promoting the use of the Catechism of the Universal Church. "The Catechism is indeed", the prelate noted, "one of the most mature fruits to emerge from the directives of Vatican Council II. It is an organic compilation of the entire heritage of the development of dogma and is the most complete instrument to transmit the unchanging faith in the face of the constant changes and questions the world poses to believers".

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hiring Criminals

There are few stories about businesses that look forward to hiring former criminals, but the ones that emerge, as this one from BNET, are truly wonderful testaments to the power of individual belief in second chances, forgiveness, and redemption.

An excerpt.

“When I took over Electronic Recyclers International in late 2004, it was a failing company. I decided to restructure and rebrand it. And when it came time to hire new employees, I saw an opportunity to hire individuals from what have typically been marginalized segments of society: former convicts, former gang members, the homeless, people recovering from drug addiction, and people coming off of welfare.

“It wasn’t the first time I’d hired employees looking for a second chance. Back in 1993, I co-founded Homeboy Tortillas and Homeboy Industries — two small businesses that train and employ former gang members, helping them transition into the workforce. It was a landmark moment in my life, and from then on, I wanted to make sure any business I took part in had a bottom line for profit and for social responsibility. I felt strongly about continuing that mission at the recycling company, which safely dismantles and recycles electronic waste.

“Everyone at our company buys into that mission. We posted a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve” — over the front door in all of our regional offices. We all agreed that we need to make money, but also that we can seek to turn people’s lives around by opening our doors and our hearts to those in need.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Capital Punishment Poll

A recent poll asked the question about capital punishment support in a nuanced enough way so as to elicit precise answers, and the results are revealing, very revealing; as reported by the Crime & Consequences Blog.

An excerpt.

“Quinnipiac has this interesting poll on the death penalty. The survey was taken in Connecticut, but the numbers run pretty close to the national average. In particular, we see the result of phrasing the question in different ways:

“The standard way Gallup has been asking since the 30s:
"Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?" 65-23-12

“This is problematic because it implies the respondent must choose a single punishment for all murderers.

“The opponents' favorite phrasing, which makes the problem noted above even worse:
"Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder, the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole?" 46-41-14

“As strong a proponent of capital punishment as I am, I would answer that question LWOP myself if I were really constrained to a single choice for all murders. Most polls with this phrasing report that a substantial portion of respondents break out of the choices offered and volunteer "it depends" or something like that. No such breakout is reported here. That could be a difference in the way the surveyor follows up if the respondent breaks out of the choices offered. Some polls will simply record the volunteered answer, while others will press for a choice among those given.

“And finally, the real question that is actually under discussion:
"Which statement comes closest to your point of view? (A) All persons convicted of murder should get the death penalty, (B) No one convicted of murder should get the death penalty, or (C) Whether or not someone convicted of murder gets the death penalty should depend on the circumstances of the case." 7-14-78-1

“Bravo for Quinnipiac! When a pollster finally asks the real question, 78% of the people favor the basic approach of current law. Another 7% favor making it far more severe than it presently is or has been at any time in modern history, for a total of 85% in favor overall.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cafeterianism in Religion and Politics

As it bedevils the Church, so it bedevils America—the uncertainty and confusion that has been part of the world since the beginning—as this article from The American Spectator notes; and though the conflation of God’s teaching with America’s founding principles is a stretch, the metaphor is still instructive.

An excerpt.

“Those of us who are faithful Catholics have the misfortune of coexisting with those of our brethren who are not in communion with all the teachings of the Church. Some of these folks attend Mass each week, while most haven't seen the inside of a church in years, yet feel compelled to identify themselves as Catholics; one would suppose, for the sole purpose of being interviewed by the New York Times.

“I will not rehash the grievances of these Catholics-In-Name-Only, but suffice to say that they involve the Church's failure to have evolved sufficiently enough to approve of the current proclivities toward the sins they wish to commit. They would seek to contravene the immutable truths of our Founder who said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away." They favor modern mores over timeless truths.

“In much the same way, America is now experiencing this inclination of a large number of citizens to disregard the founding principles that underpin our nation in favor of their own ideas of what our government is and should do; all the while insisting that they support and defend our Constitution. It is at times like these that non-Catholics share with us our frustration when reading the opinions of our brethren who pick and choose which, if any, precepts of the Faith they might respect.

“And the most perplexing aspect of all this is that these liberals who constantly trumpet diversity have a chilling disdain for the fact that both the Church and the U.S. are truly melting pots open to all men and women on Earth -- who are willing to obey the rules.

“And so must we deal with those who lay claim to an America that in many ways would be unrecognizable to those who crafted the greatest founding document in the history of world governance. The scandal of their perversion of that document is surpassed only by their phony allegiance to it when convenient.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Crime Cost Calculator

RAND has come up with a pretty nifty way to calculate crime costs in relation to the number of police officers.

An excerpt.

“Existing high-quality research on the costs of crime and the effectiveness of police demonstrates that public investment in police can generate substantial social returns. A Center on Quality Policing study, Hidden in Plain Sight: What Cost-of-Crime Research Can Tell Us About Investing in Police, shows how this research can be used to better understand the returns on investments in police.

“The following example is based on the size of the Los Angeles Police Department. See the April 14, 2010 LA City Council hearing on police force reductions. The LA City Council rejected a recommendation to freeze hiring, choosing to maintain staffing at 9,963 officers this fiscal year. You can edit the numbers for your community.
• To see how an increase or decrease in police personnel will affect crime costs, enter a number of officers in Change in Number of Police Personnel. The default example shows that reducing the size of the department by 90 officers would increase crime costs by over $32 million. You can also edit the Size of Department.
• You can edit the Cost per Crime and Crimes per Year columns to calculate the value of police in other cities. See the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for data on reported crimes in other cities.
• The Dollar Year Adjustment is based on inflation. To adjust the cost of crime figures from 2007 dollars to other years besides 2010, use this inflation calculator.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Criminals Become Entrepreneurs

Though it seems counter-intuitive to many, but completely aligned with the principles of the Lampstand Foundation, this is the centerpiece of the rehabilitative approach used by several other organizations—profiled by the Cleveland Plain Dealer—and by being congruent with the operating mantra of many professional criminals, will work, as this article in the Plain Dealer notes.

An excerpt.

“CLEVELAND, Ohio -- For nearly 10 years, Augustus Turner had a lot of time to ponder an American dream that he refused to believe was out of reach because of a big mistake and a permanent label.

“Turner was a prison inmate, hoping to run his own business after serving time for drug trafficking.

“He knew the odds weren't good. Although 97 percent of prisoners are eventually released, only 53 percent find work, and a far smaller share start their own businesses.

"What I learned from the streets is how to hustle," said Turner, 39. "You can dream. You can pray. It all starts there. But you have to actively make it happen."

“And he did. Today, Turner operates Masterpieces, a 10-year-old art studio, tattoo shop and silk-screening business on the West Side of Cleveland.

“Turner made his dream happen through sheer perseverance, but a growing movement across the country is trying to train released convicts to achieve success as entrepreneurs.

“Northeast Ohio might be lagging behind the trend. A few people here are trying to make a difference, but no coordinated effort has emerged to help parolees stay out of prison by starting businesses.

“More than 700,000 people will be released from the nation's state or federal prisons this year. About two-thirds will wind up back behind bars within two or three years.

“Government, private-sector officials and academics seem to agree that a job helps keep an ex-prisoner from returning to the penitentiary. And nobody disputes the challenges of becoming employed.

“For instance, studies in Milwaukee and New York found that a criminal record reduces employment opportunities by 50 percent for white people and 64 percent for black people -- at a time when jobs are already scarce.

"More than 60 percent of employers surveyed in the 2002 Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality (MCSUI) reported that they would "probably not" or "definitely not" hire applicants with criminal history records.

“The answer might be entrepreneurship, according to a 2007 national report from the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "Venturing Beyond the Gates" is considered the most extensive recent study on successful re-entry to society through entrepreneurship.

“Only a handful of entrepreneur-loan programs exist for ex-prisoners. And communication is virtually nonexistent among them, according to the study.

“The most notable and biggest prison entrepreneurship program is in Texas, with offices in Houston and Dallas. Former Wall Street investor Catherine Rohr founded the program in 2004 after she toured a prison and decided that executives and inmates had more in common than most would think. Both know how to manage others, and even the most unsophisticated drug dealers understand business concepts like competition, profitability and proprietary sales channels, said David Joekel, executive relations manager at the prison program.

“Hardened criminals including murderers, thieves, drug dealers and gang leaders from more than 60 jails in Texas are invited to apply each year. Those selected are transferred to one correctional facility, where they learn entrepreneurial skills as well as strategies for finding a job. With private funding, MBA students as mentors, a highly selective admissions process and stringent pre- and post-release programs, ex-prisoners have started about 60 businesses in the program's six years.

“So far, 600 inmates have graduated. In the last two years, 98 percent of the graduates have found decent jobs within three months of release, with an average starting salary of $10.75 an hour. The program continues to gain momentum and interest from volunteers including business, government leaders and dozens of MBA programs, because of a return-to-prison rate of less than 10 percent for the graduates.”