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."