Monday, January 31, 2011

Improving College Degrees

The Chronicle of Education reports on a new strategy to ensure that the college degree a student earns—central to the Lampstand criminal reformation process—actually results in advancement of the knowledge and skill of the student, a common sense goal too rarely reached.

An excerpt.

“National conversations about the quality of higher education, as well as efforts to measure what students learn in their college careers, could be aided by developing a common understanding of what degrees mean in the United States, officials at the Lumina Foundation for Education say.

“To that end, the foundation released today a suggested framework for defining the knowledge and skills students need to acquire before earning an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree. Lumina's framework, which it is calling the Degree Qualifications Profile, spells out reference points for what students should be learning and demonstrating at each degree level in five areas: broad, integrative knowledge; specialized knowledge; intellectual skills; applied learning; and civic learning.

“Lumina officials say the degree profile is intended to help define generally what college graduates should know and be able to do, regardless of their majors or fields of study. The authors of the framework, though, were specific about how students should be able to apply what they learn, providing clear outcomes that can be measured. Under the umbrella of "intellectual skills," for instance, the document says that students should show fluency in communication. At the bachelor's level, that includes being able to "conduct an inquiry" in a language other than English with a non-English-language source.

“Colleges and faculty members in individual disciplines could then add to the general framework, identifying additional outcomes specific to the college's mission and to particular fields of study. Lumina says it now plans to test and refine the framework, experimenting with it in a variety of settings.

"Tests of the Concept

“Two regional accreditors of higher education, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools' Higher Learning Commission, and a private-college association, the Council of Independent Colleges, have already agreed to test Lumina's proposed framework. Lumina says it expects to add more partners in coming months and to award grants to support testing of the framework.

“The Western association, which accredits about 160 four-year colleges, plans to build the degree reference points into its handbook for institutions' accreditation reviews, Lumina said. The accreditor will use the degree profile to help outline what colleges should be demonstrating about student learning.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Call to Perfection

As noted in yesterday’s post, St. Thomas Aquinas’s thought played a role in my conversion, primarily through the works of the great Thomists, Jacques & Raissa Maritain, whose book Liturgy & Contemplation moved me deeply prior to my wife and I being baptized.

This marvelous book is also available online.

The chapter entitled “Contemplation & the call to perfection” was a key element, and it is posted here


"Contemplation and the call to perfection

"Dominating the whole spiritual life is the call to perfection.

"Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect."

"Christian perfection consists essentially in charity," says Saint Thomas [Aquinas]. "Indeed a thing is said to be perfect in so far as it attains its proper end—the proper end of a thing being its ultimate perfection. Now it is charity that unites us to God, Who is the last end of the human soul: he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him."

"It follows that perfection falls under the divine precept, because it is on charity, on the twofold love of God and neighbor, that the two precepts of the divine Law bear.

"And "the love of God and of neighbor does not fall under the precept according to a certain measure only . . . as is evident from the very form of the precept, which implies perfection and totality: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind, thy whole strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.' This is why the Apostle says (I Tim., 1): the end of the commandment is charity. Now the end does not admit of measure—measure applies only to means.

“According to Saint Bernard's saying, the measure of loving God is to love Him without measure—"modus diligendi, sine modo diligere."

"Estote perfecti." "Thus the Lord in His goodness," says Saint Benedict, commenting on this word of Christ's in the prologue to his Rule, "shows us the way of life"—the way of eternal life, which must never be interrupted, so that charity may grow unceasingly, at the same time as humility which is the dawn of beatitude—"incipit beatitudo ab humilitate."

“The way of life which Christ shows us is a way in which one advances towards God and towards the Beatific Vision with steps of living faith, of hope, and of love. And because it makes one advance towards perfection, this way itself is perfect.

“Perfection is not a mathematical point. It is a life in state of growth; there are degrees in perfection. What is prescribed by the precept is to tend to perfection as to an end, and when one has begun to make his way towards it he is already accomplishing the precept; and one begins to make his way towards it as soon as he has charity. It is in this sense that Saint Thomas [Aquinas] tells us: "Since what falls under the precept can be accomplished in diverse ways, one does not sin against the precept by the fact alone that he does not fulfill it in the best way; it suffices, for the precept not to be transgressed, that it be accomplished in one way or another. "And Cajetan writes: "The perfection of charity is commanded as an end; and we must wish to attain the end, the whole end. But precisely because it is an end, it suffices, for a man not to transgress the precept, that he be in the state of attaining this perfection one day, even if in eternity. Whoever possesses charity, even in the feeblest degree, and is thus advancing towards Heaven, is in the way of perfect charity, and consequently avoids the transgression of the precept...."

“It is only in Heaven where the soul sees God face to face that the precept is accomplished in an entirely perfect way. But there is a perfection of charity compatible with the present life, a perfection in state of growth; it implies "the exclusion of all things which are repugnant to the movement of love towards God"—the exclusion not only of mortal sin, but also of "all that hinders the affection of the soul from tending entirely towards God." And thus, whatever may be the vocation of each, the saying of Saint John of the Cross concerns us all: "In the evening of this life you will be judged according to your love."

“Let us recall now that contemplation, as Father Lallemant puts it, "proceeds from love and tends to love," that it is "the use of the purest and most perfect charity," and that love is "its source, its exercise and its end"—as indeed Saint Paul affirmed, for whom charity—in the words of Father Lebreton—which "at death will flower into eternal life," is "the way and the end of contemplation." And let us recall too that according to the teaching of Saint Thomas [Aquinas] contemplation "relates directly and immediately to the love of God Himself," and that it "is ordered not to any love of God whatever, but to perfect love."[22] What are we to conclude from all this if not that the precept of perfection protects, so to speak, and sanctions the desire for contemplation: there is no true contemplation without progress towards perfection; and on the other hand there is nothing which accelerates better than contemplation one's progress towards perfection and the accomplishment in us of the desire for perfection.”

Maritain, Jacques & Raissa. (1960) Liturgy & Contemplation . Geoffrey Chapman: London. (pp.40-44)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Angelic Doctor

Today is his feast day, and in the homily at today’s mass the priest reminded us that Pope Leo XIII made the theological teaching of Aquinas the standard for the Church, to be taught in all of the seminaries.

His influence remained until the 1960’s when Vatican II—and the incorrect interpretations of its work by the world and dissenting theologians—spun the Church off the traditional path of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Fortunately, his influence is being revived and it played a role in my conversion, primarily through the works of the great Thomists, Jacques & Raissa Maritain, whose book Liturgy & Contemplation moved me deeply prior to my wife and I being baptized.

An excerpt from Saint of the Day.

“By universal consent, Thomas Aquinas is the preeminent spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. He is one of the great teachers of the medieval Catholic Church, honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.

“At five he was given to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in his parents’ hopes that he would choose that way of life and eventually became abbot. In 1239 he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to Aristotle’s philosophy.

“By 1243, Thomas abandoned his family’s plans for him and joined the Dominicans, much to his mother’s dismay. On her order, Thomas was captured by his brother and kept at home for over a year.

“Once free, he went to Paris and then to Cologne, where he finished his studies with Albert the Great. He held two professorships at Paris, lived at the court of Pope Urban IV, directed the Dominican schools at Rome and Viterbo, combated adversaries of the mendicants, as well as the Averroists, and argued with some Franciscans about Aristotelianism.

“His greatest contribution to the Catholic Church is his writings. The unity, harmony and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervades his writings. One might expect Thomas, as a man of the gospel, to be an ardent defender of revealed truth. But he was broad enough, deep enough, to see the whole natural order as coming from God the Creator, and to see reason as a divine gift to be highly cherished.

“The Summa Theologiae, his last and, unfortunately, uncompleted work, deals with the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped work on it after celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, “I cannot go on.... All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” He died March 7, 1274.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

California Needs More Good Bishops

And, as reported by California Catholic News, it appears we are gaining another in Santa Rosa, which follows the wonderful announcement earlier of the appointment to the Los Angeles Diocese of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez to replace Cardinal Mahony upon his retirement next month.

An excerpt.

“Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, a tough and outspoken defender of Catholic orthodoxy, has been named Coadjutor Bishop of Santa Rosa.

“The appointment as coadjutor bishop confers on Bishop Vasa, 59, the right to succession to Bishop Daniel F. Walsh, current bishop of Santa Rosa,” said a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Walsh is 73, two years shy of the mandatory retirement age of 75.

"A Coadjutor Bishop is the designated successor of the current bishop of the diocese," said a statement issued by the Santa Rosa diocese. "He assists the current bishop, who remains at the head of the diocese, in the various aspects of pastoral and spiritual leadership of the people. On the retirement of the current bishop, Most Reverend Daniel F. Walsh, Bishop Vasa will become the sixth Bishop of Santa Rosa."

"Bishop Walsh, who had requested the assistance of a coadjutor, expressed his pleasure with the appointment," said the diocesan statement. “I am happy to learn of Bishop Vasa’s assignment to the Diocese of Santa Rosa,” said Bishop Walsh, “and look forward to introducing him to our parishioners and working in partnership to lay the foundation for our diocesan future.”

“Bishop Vasa has led the Diocese of Baker since 2000, during which he has developed a national reputation for his orthodoxy and for his willingness to take decisive action.

“In more than a decade as spiritual leader of central and eastern Oregon's Catholics, Bishop Vasa gained a national following for efforts to uphold Catholic teaching in the face of what he considered threats and laxity from inside and outside the church,” said a story posted yesterday on the website of The Catholic Sentinel, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. “He had lay ministers sign an oath of fidelity of Catholic teaching and erased the Catholic identity of a Bend hospital where doctors performed sterilizations. He criticized pro-choice Catholic politicians and once warned against a group of schismatics that denied the Second Vatican Council.”

“In 2003, Bishop Vasa banned the dissident group Voice of the Faithful from meeting on any church property in the diocese. In a 2006 column discussing pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Bishop Vasa suggested they might be guilty of “the right-to-murder heresy.” He has long held that Catholic politicians who bring scandal to the faithful by supporting abortion should be denied Communion.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reentry Programs

As reported by the New York Times, as federal money for reentry programs ($100 million last year for Second Chance funding) faces a big reduction this year, perhaps as high as $50 million, states are utilizing their own resources, which also face criticism.

An excerpt.

“Faced with yawning budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York and several other states are attacking both problems with a surprising strategy: helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison.

“The approach is backed by prisoner advocates as well as liberal and conservative government officials, who say it pays off in cold, hard numbers. Michigan, for example, spends $35,000 a year to keep someone in prison — more than the cost of educating a University of Michigan student. Through vigorous job placement programs and prudent use of parole, state officials say they have cut the prison population by 7,500, or about 15 percent, over the last four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on various re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training.

“We had a $2 billion prison budget, and if you look at the costs saved by not having the system the size it was, we save a lot of money,” said Patricia Caruso, who was Michigan’s corrections commissioner from 2003 through 2010. “If we spend some of that $2 billion on something else — like re-entry programs — and that results in success, that’s a better approach.”

“All told, the 50 states and the federal government spend $69 billion a year to house two million prisoners, prompting many budget cutters to see billions in potential savings by trimming the prison population. Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released nationwide, but studies show that two-thirds are re-arrested within three years.

“An exorbitant amount of money is dedicated to incarcerating people,” said Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “There are ways you can go about reducing the number of people incarcerated. The best way to help them successfully integrate into society and become independent, law-abiding citizens is to make sure they get a job.”

“Pushed by faith-based organizations and helped by federal stimulus money, California, Michigan, New York and other states expanded jobs programs in recent years to give prisoners a second chance and to reduce recidivism. The nation’s overall jobless rate is 9.4 percent, but various studies have found unemployment rates of 50 percent or higher for former prisoners nine months or a year after their release.

“Many states remain enthusiastic about the re-entry programs, but in a few states facing deficits, like Kansas, officials are cutting them back, partly because of the curtailment of federal stimulus dollars that helped finance them.

“There’s a lot of national momentum to expand strategies to reduce recidivism, and a lot of that is focusing on connecting people to jobs,” said Michael Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a research organization for state policy makers. “At the same time, some states that want to accomplish those goals are concerned about cutting money where they can and are putting some of these programs on the chopping block….

“While state officials and prisoner advocates argue that these job programs for prisoners are worth the investment, the efforts sometimes face angry resistance.

“We often hear, why on earth should we want to help these guys, and where is the help for my son and daughter who haven’t done anything wrong?” said Pat Nolan, a former Republican leader of the California State Assembly who served prison time for taking bribes and is now vice president of the Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry to prisoners. “I don’t think there should be a preference for someone with a record, but there shouldn’t be a permanent black mark against them either, unless we want to condemn them to life on the margins of society and elicit the behavior that leads to.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Program Design

How often inadequate program delivery systems ruin what is otherwise a good program, and how crucial that good design elements are brought to play in nonprofit program structure—the Lampstand Catholic Reentry Program Model is partially built upon this concept—is the subject of this provocative article from Stanford Social Innovation Review.

An excerpt.

“In an area outside Hyderabad, India, between the suburbs and the countryside, a young woman—we’ll call her Shanti—fetches water daily from the always-open local borehole that is about 300 feet from her home. She uses a 3-gallon plastic container that she can easily carry on her head. Shanti and her husband rely on the free water for their drinking and washing, and though they’ve heard that it’s not as safe as water from the Naandi Foundation-run community treatment plant, they still use it. Shanti’s family has been drinking the local water for generations, and although it periodically makes her and her family sick, she has no plans to stop using it.
Shanti has many reasons not to use the water from the Naandi treatment center, but they’re not the reasons one might think. The center is within easy walking distance of her home—roughly a third of a mile. It is also well known and affordable (roughly 10 rupees, or 20 cents, for 5 gallons). Being able to pay the small fee has even become a status symbol for some villagers. Habit isn’t a factor, either. Shanti is forgoing the safer water because of a series of flaws in the overall design of the system.

“Although Shanti can walk to the facility, she can’t carry the 5-gallon jerrican that the facility requires her to use. When filled with water, the plastic rectangular container is simply too heavy. The container isn’t designed to be held on the hip or the head, where she likes to carry heavy objects. Shanti’s husband can’t help carry it, either. He works in the city and doesn’t return home until after the water treatment center is closed. The treatment center also requires them to buy a monthly punch card for 5 gallons a day, far more than they need. “Why would I buy more than I need and waste money?” asks Shanti, adding she’d be more likely to purchase the Naandi water if the center allowed her to buy less.

“The community treatment center was designed to produce clean and potable water, and it succeeded very well at doing just that. In fact, it works well for many people living in the community, particularly families with husbands or older sons who own bikes and can visit the treatment plant during working hours. The designers of the center, however, missed the opportunity to design an even better system because they failed to consider the culture and needs of all of the people living in the community.

“This missed opportunity, although an obvious omission in hindsight, is all too common. Time and again, initiatives falter because they are not based on the client’s or customer’s needs and have never been prototyped to solicit feedback. Even when people do go into the field, they may enter with preconceived notions of what the needs and solutions are. This flawed approach remains the norm in both the business and social sectors.

“As Shanti’s situation shows, social challenges require systemic solutions that are grounded in the client’s or customer’s needs. This is where many approaches founder, but it is where design thinking—a new approach to creating solutions—excels.

“Traditionally, designers focused their attention on improving the look and functionality of products. Classic examples of this type of design work are Apple Computer’s iPod and Herman Miller’s Aeron chair. In recent years designers have broadened their approach, creating entire systems to deliver products and services.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Criminal-Run Reentry Programs

Two historic reformed-criminal developed and managed reentry programs—which unfortunately have never been rigorously evaluated to determine their actual effectiveness—are profiled by the New York Times.

An excerpt.

“This year, the United States will release nearly three-quarters of a million people from prison, a record high. Nationally, 2.3 million people are in prison in the United States, and 95 percent of them will, at some point, get out and go home.

“Society has a strong interest in keeping them home — in helping them to become law-abiding citizens instead of falling back into their old ways and returning to prison. But American programs for newly released prisoners echo the typical follies of our criminal justice system: our politicians usually believe that voters only want the emotional satisfactions of meting out maximum punishment, even if these policies lead to even more crime.

“The usual package granted to someone released from prison in New York state is $40, a bus ticket and the considerable stigma that follows an ex-offender. Since prisoners are often held far away from their families and states charge astronomical rates for prison phone calls, prisoners often lose touch with their loved ones and may not have anyone to take them in when they get home. They may arrive in their home cities with no plans, other than — worrisomely — those hatched with fellow prisoners. They have little prospect for jobs or housing. Since many don’t get effective drug treatment in prison, they might still crave a fix, which costs money. It is little wonder that some former prisoners fall back into crime within hours or days….

“In West Harlem there is a large and beautiful Gothic building overlooking the Hudson River. It is called the Fortune Academy, but it is known to all as the Castle. It is owned by the Fortune Society, a group dedicated to helping returning prisoners succeed with starting new lives. The Fortune Society helps about 4,000 newly released prisoners each year with job training and placement, drug treatment, classes in cooking and anger management and being a father, and G.E.D. studies.

“Most of the people who work at Fortune were once themselves drug addicted, homeless or imprisoned. This is important. “The clients can look at the staff and say, ‘a few years ago, that person was where I am,’” said Glenn E. Martin, Fortune’s vice president of development and public affairs. (He himself served six years in prison, and was released nine years ago.) The staff can also see past appearances: “Some others may see a guy with his pants pulled down and his hat on, yelling, and say ‘he’s not ready,’ ” said Martin. “But we’ll talk to him.” The credibility and understanding produced by having a staff of former offenders is important. But about 300 of Fortune’s clients each year get something more: a bed in the Castle, and the chance to start a law-abiding life in the company of other people trying to do the same.’’’

Delancey Street, in San Francisco, is a very different community with the same purpose. People come to live at the Delancey Street residential building for an average of four years. Each resident is required to get at least a high school equivalency degree and learn several marketable job skills, such as furniture making, sales or accounting. The organization is completely run by its residents, who teach each other — there is no paid staff at all. Teaching others is part of the rehabilitation process for Delancey residents. The residence is financed in part by private donations, but the majority of its financing comes from the businesses the residents run, such as restaurants, event planning, a corporate car service, a moving company and framing shop. All money earned goes to the collective, which pays all its residents’ expenses.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Prisoners Train Dogs

Having prisoners train dogs for use by the disabled—a project already in place around the country—is a great idea, as reported by this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

An excerpt.

“HARRISBURG - As he leaves office, Gov. Rendell is already focused on a pet cause he hopes will help ease two problems at once: He wants to give pooches to prisoners.

“The goal is to make a dent in the state's burgeoning stray-animal crisis, while giving selected inmates responsibility for dogs - a pairing that has worked well in prisons that have tried it.

“Rendell told The Inquirer that he wanted to create a network of animal shelters at state prisons to respond to the rising number of shelters that no longer accept stray dogs and cats.

“In what may be his first action as a civilian, Rendell, who leaves office Tuesday, said he planned to announce his shelter plan as early as this week.

"I hear it's worked well elsewhere," Rendell said. He vowed to personally raise money for the potentially costly network - no mean promise in light of Rendell's legendary gifts as a fund-raiser.

“While the statewide network he envisions might be a first, using inmates as animal trainers and caretakers is not novel.

“Prisons around the country - including at least four in Pennsylvania - have programs that match selected inmates with dogs. In some cases, inmates get special training, and in turn train the dogs to help the disabled or to serve as companion animals for families.

"It works for everybody," said Kelly McGinley, coordinator of the Hounds of Prison Education (HOPE) program, which has operated at the state's Camp Hill maximum-security prison since 2005. "It provides dogs with training and socialization, while foster groups work on placing them with families.

"At the same time, it has a calming effect on prisoners - even those not involved in the program."

“Inmates qualify for the HOPE program if they have had no disciplinary infractions for at least a year. Those convicted of sex crimes or animal cruelty are not eligible.

“In Phoenix, a full-scale, inmate-staffed shelter run by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office takes in abused dogs as well as those left behind when human domestic-violence victims enter shelters that bar pets. At a newly opened animal shelter in a prison in Jackson, La., inmates - much like those at Camp Hill - are to learn dog-training skills they can use when they are released, organizers say.

"The concept is sound," if expensive, said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, which helped build the Jackson shelter. "You are helping animals by activating existing institutions. There may not be an economic development or philanthropic model, though, so the challenges come in application."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

National Catholic Register to EWTN

The acquisition of NCR by EWTN is very good news, as reported by Catholic News Agency.

An excerpt.

“Birmingham, Ala., Jan 19, 2011 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Eternal Word Television Network, the world's largest religious media provider, announced on Jan. 19 that it would be acquiring the National Catholic Register from its current owners, the Legionaries of Christ.

“I believe the Register has a bright future and fits quite well under the EWTN umbrella,” EWTN's President and CEO Michael Warsaw told CNA, announcing the planned acquisition from the network's headquarters in Birmingham, Ala. “Our goal is not only to continue the Register's legacy, but also to build upon it and to give it a platform for growth and expansion.”

“In the short term, readers will likely see very few big changes,” he explained, while noting that “over time, we intend to continue the Register's digital transition plans and to integrate it more fully with EWTN's global presence on the internet.”

“That presence has already expanded in recent years to include the network's collaboration with Catholic News Agency, and the recent creation of the Spanish-language service “EWTN Noticias.”

“The Register's previous owners, the religious order the Legionaries of Christ, ran into financial difficulties at the paper during 2009 and 2010, alongside other troubles caused by the revelation that their founder, Fr. Marcel Maciel, lived a double life.

“In the midst of these problems, EWTN sought to keep the long-running publication from disappearing.

“It was quite apparent to me that the loss of the National Catholic Register would be a sad development for the Church,” Warsaw said. “As an apostolate that is focused on using the media to evangelize, we immediately saw how the Register could fit into what we do, and become another extension of our mission.”

“The network has signed a letter of intent to acquire the publication from the Legionaries of Christ. No cash will be exchanged under the terms of the agreement, which states that EWTN will take over the Register's operating expenses and subscription liabilities on Feb. 1.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

American Nun’s Visitation

Begun in 2009 by the Vatican, the progress is detailed in this article from Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.

“What ever happened to the apostolic visitation of women religious in the United States that was announced in 2009? Is it still happening? If so, how is it going, and what might be the outcome?

“Many people have been asking these questions, for Church officials have had very little to say publicly about the visitation. This silence is common practice with apostolic visitations, which normally are initiated to address problems of some kind. The lack of public discourse, however, should not be translated as inactivity.

“In fact, Mother Mary Clare Millea, the American superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who was appointed by the Vatican to conduct the visitation, had personal meetings with more than 100 religious superiors during phase one of the four-phase visitation. In the second phase, orders were asked to respond to a questionnaire about their work, life, and prayer together as well as their financial status. In the third phase, teams of visitors called on nearly 100 congregations of women religious during 2010. That on-site visiting phase of the apostolic visitation was completed in December.

“All that now remains to be accomplished is the fourth phase: preparation of a report by Mother Clare that will include results of the interviews conducted by the teams of visitors, as well as information Mother Clare gathered from the other 300-plus congregations that did not receive an on-site visit. During 2011, Mother Clare will write and submit her report to Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Each order of sisters in the US will receive some kind of feedback from that curial office “for the purpose of promoting its charismatic identity and apostolic vitality in ongoing dialogue with the local and universal Church,” wrote Mother Clare in a January 12, 2010 letter to all US women superiors.

“While the visitation is on schedule, and anecdotal reports indicate that the on-site visits went very smoothly and amicably, the entire project has faced significant challenges, including confusion about the apostolic visitation and the separate doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; the resistance of some women religious; the manipulation of the visitation process by some religious superiors; and the role the media has played since the announcement of the visitation.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conservative Ideas in Criminal Justice

One of the most astute journalists on criminal justice issues, Heather McDonald, has penned another great article for City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Conservative ideas are responsible for the two great urban-policy successes of the last quarter-century: the breathtaking drops in crime and in welfare dependency since the early 1990s. You’d never know it from members of the opinion elite, however, who have rarely recognized these successes, much less their provenance. So let’s recapitulate an epic battle about the foundations of social order, a battle that had not just a clear winner but also a clear loser: the liberal policy prescriptions for cities that many opinion makers and politicians still embrace. New York has been at the center of this battle because so many of the bad ideas that wreaked havoc on cities hatched there. Fortunately, so did many of the antidotes…

“…Since 1990, New York has experienced the largest and longest sustained drop in street crime of any big city in the developed world. In less than a generation, many major felonies have fallen 80 percent or more. New York did this by rejecting everything that the criminology and social-work professions counseled about crime. Police Chief William Bratton announced in 1994 that the police, not some big-government welfare program, would lower crime by 10 percent in just one year. He not only met his goal, he bested it—by ruthlessly holding precinct commanders accountable for the safety of their beats, by the rigorous analysis of crime data, and by empowering street cops to intervene in suspicious behavior before a crime actually happened.

“Just as the liberal philosophy of exempting the poor from bourgeois standards of behavior set up a vicious cycle of fatherlessness, crime, and dependency, the conservative philosophy of universal standards set up a virtuous cycle of urban renovation. With crime in free fall across New York in the 1990s, the tourism and hospitality industries boomed, triggering demand for the low-skilled welfare mothers whom welfare reform was nudging into the workplace. Businesses moved back into formerly violence-plagued areas, creating more jobs. Neighborhoods were transformed.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Social Teaching & American Audiences

In a long overdue move, the Vatican realizes the importance of helping some members of the American Catholic community come to term with many words and phrases used in the social teaching, in the way the Church defines them, rather than how some American interests do.

An excerpt from the article from Catholic News Agency.

“Vatican City, Jan 13, 2011 / 05:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When he travels to the United States next month, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is aware that he may have to make some adjustments in the way he talks about the Church’s social teaching.

“As president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Ghanaian cardinal, 62, is charged with making the Church’s social teaching more widely known and practiced around the world….

“In a recent interview with CNA, Cardinal Turkson said he has learned from past experience that the Church’s justice and peace terminology often needs clarification for an American Catholic audience. Key terms used by the Vatican — such as “social justice” and “gift” — are not always understood the way the Vatican intends, he said.

"We found out that some of the vocabulary which is just taken for granted and used freely may not always have the same sense or may have had some nuances which sometimes are missed because of the way the terms are used in the American political context,” Cardinal Turkson said in a Jan. 12 interview at the council’s offices in Rome.

“Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Turkson to his post in Oct. 2009, just months after the Pope released his blueprint for the Church’s social teaching, “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth). The council has since made promotion of the Pope’s vision a top priority.

“The encyclical outlines Pope Benedict’s plan for "integral human development" in economics, society and politics through the principles of charity and truth.

“Cardinal Turkson said the Vatican is pleased by response to the document. But he said reaction from some sections of the audience in the United States was unexpected.

“The council has been surprised to find that common terms were misunderstood or misinterpreted. He emphasized that the misunderstanding was not a general or widespread problem among American Catholics. But, he said, "in certain circles ... there is a difficulty."

“For instance, the Pope's teaching on themes of "social justice" have been mistakenly connected to "socialism" and "communism." As a result, he indicated, the Pope is mistakenly seen as promoting socialist or big-government solutions to social problems.

“The council has also learned that words like "social" and "solidarity" may have been dismissed by American readers for their perceived connection with communist regimes such as the Soviet Union, he said.

“Cardinal Turkson explained that in the Church’s thinking, social justice involves citizens’ obligations and responsibilities to ensure fairness and opportunity in their communities and societies.

“While this may include the adoption of specific government policies and programs, the emphasis in Catholic social teaching is on the obligations that flow from citizens' relationships in societies.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pope John Paul II’s Beautification

Wonderful news, and it is scheduled for May 2011, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

The full decree is on the Vatican Radio site.

An excerpt from the Catholic News Agency article.

“Vatican City, Jan 14, 2011 / 10:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The much-anticipated beatification of Pope John Paul II will take place on May 1, the Sunday after Easter, the Vatican announced.

“The healing of a French nun with Parkinson's disease is to go down in history as the miracle that made John Paul II a "blessed." The title is given to martyrs and other Christians to whom a miracle has been officially attributed, thus bringing them one step closer to sainthood.

“Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree for the beatification of his predecessor during a Jan. 14 audience with the head of the Vatican department for saints' causes, Cardinal Angelo Amato.

“John Paul II's cause arrived in the current's Pope's hands for approval after doctors studied the miraculous healing of Sister Marie Simon Pierre Normand and concluded it was "scientifically unexplainable." Following approval from theologians and Church officials, Pope Benedict promulgated the decree with his signature.

“The atmosphere was electric at noon in the the Holy See's Press Office with journalists from all over the world expecting news of the beatification decree.

“During the rather cheerful press briefing, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi explained some of the details of the process and revealed preliminary plans for the ceremony.

“In what some have called "record time," the Pope's cause was seemingly expedited through the trials to prove his sainthood. Fr. Lombardi admitted that the cause for the Pope was "facilitated" because of his "great fame of sanctity."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

English Persecution

The persecution of Catholics in England is a horrible history, part of which is noted in this article from Saint of the Day about Blessed William Carter, who served many years in prison for defending the faith.

An excerpt.

“Born in London, William Carter entered the printing business at an early age. For many years he served as apprentice to well-known Catholic printers, one of whom served a prison sentence for persisting in the Catholic faith. William himself served time in prison following his arrest for "printing lewd [i.e., Catholic] pamphlets" as well as possessing books upholding Catholicism.

“But even more, he offended public officials by publishing works that aimed to keep Catholics firm in their faith. Officials who searched his house found various vestments and suspect books, and even managed to extract information from William's distraught wife. Over the next 18 months William remained in prison, suffering torture and learning of his wife's death.

“He was eventually charged with printing and publishing the Treatise of Schisme, which allegedly incited violence by Catholics and which was said to have been written by a traitor and addressed to traitors. While William calmly placed his trust in God, the jury met for only 15 minutes before reaching a verdict of "guilty." William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn and quartered the following day: January 11, 1584.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lampstand Profiled

In yesterday's Catholic Culture, Dr. Jeff Mirus wrote about our work.

An excerpt.

"The only daily paper we get in our household is the local paper which covers our town and county in Northern Virginia, or about 375,000 souls. Despite this modest population, nearly every day there is a new local disaster on the front page, very often a crime—burglary, armed robbery, assault, child pornography, even murder. Some of the reports are perversely humorous, as in the recent robbery of a convenience store in which the perpetrator used a six-foot broken branch as a weapon; or the effort to steal a van while the owner was busy in the back. But we’ve had a string of over twenty burglaries in nearby neighborhoods in recent weeks, there have been some unprovoked gang attacks, and today we learned about the first murder of the new year.

"Crimes of passion—and the violent use of an available knife or hand gun in a sudden quarrel—are to some degree understandable, as is the increased incidence of random violence in a crumbling society which is increasingly incapable of nurturing well-adjusted and fundamentally happy people. But consistent criminal activity is a trickier subject; one wonders about the causes that lead someone down that path. A great deal of ink has been spilled over the past fifty years on the sociology of crime, and in particular the degree to which the criminal is himself a victim who cannot be held completely responsible for his actions. Among various attempts to identify root problems, we have seen indictments of society as a whole, of capitalism in particular, and even of the criminal justice system itself.

"One man who works directly in this area of assessing criminal responsibility believes that such analyses are fundamentally unproductive. David H. Lukenbill, himself a former 20-year criminal and founder of The Lampstand Foundation, puts the matter succinctly: “In the work of criminal reformation, it is vital to keep in mind that the criminal is the problem.” Lukenbill now devotes his life to criminal reformation, and to recruiting other former criminals who have gone on to convert or come back to their Catholic faith (as Lukenbill did) to work directly to touch and transform others."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Reentry Council

A new government council begins work on reentry, as reported by the hosting agency, the U.S. Department of Justice.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder today convened the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet-level "Reentry Council" in Washington to identify and to advance effective public safety and prisoner reentry strategies.

“In addition to the Attorney General, the council includes Departments of Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; Labor Secretary Hilda Solis; and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Members also include Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Michael Astrue; Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske; Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Melody Barnes; Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois; and Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Jacqueline Berrien.

“The council will address short-term and long-term goals through enhanced communication, coordination and collaboration across federal agencies. The mission of the council is threefold: to make communities safer by reducing recidivism and victimization; to assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive, tax paying citizens; and to save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

"Reentry provides a major opportunity to reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars and make our communities safer," said Attorney General Holder. "More than two million people are behind bars, and 95 percent of them will be released back into their communities. By developing effective, evidence-based reentry programs, we can improve public safety and community well-being."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crime Rates

In this Wall Street Journal article examining the crime rates in New York City, the larger issue of crime rate policy—and the politics involved in setting it—are also looked at.

An excerpt.

“For 2010, New York City is once again on pace to record an annual decrease in major crimes, even as the New York Police Department was placed under unprecedented pressure to justify its crime figures.

“Based on the latest NYPD statistics, overall crime was down 1.4% through Sunday compared with the same period in 2009. However, murder, rape, robbery and felony assault remain higher than last year. While burglaries also spiked, other property crimes such as grand larceny and vehicle theft declined.

“Rapes are up 15% this year and robberies have risen by 5.1%. Felony assaults are up 0.7%; shooting incidents climbed 3.6%.

“Through Wednesday, there were 526 homicides in the city—a 13.4% increase from last year's record low of 465 on the same date, police said. By the end of 2009, the city had recorded 471 murders in total, also a record low and the eighth year in a row that there were less than 600 murders.

“But in keeping with the conventional wisdom that one can't hide bodies, murder numbers have not been the source of contention in a year where the index-crime rate is expected to register a decline for the 22nd consecutive time.

“Critics have charged that the police department is manipulating statistics by downgrading many property crimes to minor offenses that don't show up in the official crime rate. That theory was put forth by Eli Silverman, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-author of a study challenging the accuracy of the NYPD's statistics.

“Mr. Silverman and John Eterno, associate dean of graduate studies in criminal justice at Molloy College, believe pressure to keep the crime rate dropping, even as the NYPD has seen its number of officers shrink by about 5,000 in recent years, has led to statistical manipulation. They point to the audiotapes that Brooklyn police officer Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded that led to a deputy inspector, two sergeants and two officers being hit with administrative charges in October related to failing to take crime reports.

“On Monday, the NYPD began posting data on citywide misdemeanor-crime complaints dating back 10 years, partly in response to claims that withholding such statistics indicated it had something to hide.

“A Wall Street Journal analysis of those numbers, assisted by professors on both sides of the statistics debate, found there were no obvious trends to indicate that index crimes were being downgraded into misdemeanors.”

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Punishment & Love

As noted in yesterdays’ post, the consequences of not understanding the necessity for appropriate punishment can be horrible.

As the Church struggles to reclaim the high moral authority degraded by the filth of the sexual abuse crisis and clarify its recently ambiguous position on just war and capital punishment; the words of Peter can provide some light.

In his recent book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, Pope Benedict XVI responding to a question about the Church’s dealing with the sexual abuse crisis, said:

“The Archbishop of Dublin told me something very interesting about that. He said that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950’s; admittedly it was not perfect—there is much to criticize about it—but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid-sixties, however, it was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.

“Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice or courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love.” (pp. 25-26)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Denying Power of Punishment

In a sad story from the Boston Globe, we see the effects of a criminal justice system that forgets its major public role is the protection of the public and that involves appropriate punishment for the aggressor.

An excerpt.

“Governor Deval Patrick, facing widespread anger from police chiefs and victims’ advocates, pleaded for patience yesterday as his administration completes a review of the state Parole Board’s decision to free a violent career criminal who shot and killed a Woburn police officer last week.

“House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, however, expressed outrage at the board’s decision and vowed to make it a “major focus’’ of legislative action in the new session.

“Appearing minutes apart on the third floor of the State House, the two leaders struck dramatically different postures as they spoke for the first time since the parolee, Dominic Cinelli, killed Officer John B. Maguire during a botched robbery of a Kohl’s department store on Dec. 26.

“The governor said he was “obviously upset’’ about the case, but would not comment at length until his administration finishes its review of the Parole Board’s 2008 decision to free Cinelli, who was serving three concurrent life terms for a series of armed robberies.

“I want to wait for the review and then review what they show me thoroughly and then take whatever action is necessary,’’ the governor said. “The thing that, for me, gets lost in this — and I was thinking about this at the funeral last week — is that we jump immediately to the recriminations, and we forget there’s a human tragedy there, a family that’s been upended.’’

“But a visibly angry DeLeo sharply questioned the Parole Board’s decision and said the case “cries out’’ for a remedy, either from the governor or the Legislature, to ensure that convicts serving multiple life sentences cannot be paroled.

“When I read three life sentences, that just grabbed me, and I said, ‘Why are we even having this discussion?’ ’’ DeLeo said.”

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vatican II Rebalancing

It continues, as noted in this article from Chiesa.

An excerpt.

“ROME, January 3, 2011 – The Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei recently published a new history of Vatican Council II that is causing a great deal of discussion, because of its method and conclusions.

“As for the method, de Mattei strictly keeps to the historical facts, to the unfolding of the conciliar event, because – he maintains – the documents of the Council can be understood and judged only in the light of the incidents that produced them.

“As for the conclusions, de Mattei gathers from the reconstruction of this event that the documents of Vatican Council II are in effect sometimes in contrast with previous doctrine. He therefore asks the current pope to advance "a thorough examination" of these documents, "to dispel the shadows and doubts."

“Looking only at the historical reconstruction presented by de Mattei, what is striking is the enormous influence that certain individuals and groups had in determining the unfolding of the Council and the creation of its documents.

“One of the most influential was certainly the Italian Giuseppe Dossetti (1919-1996, see photo), in his capacity as expert adviser of Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, archbishop of Bologna.

“Before becoming a monk, Dossetti had studied ecclesiastical law, had fought in the partisan war against the Fascists and Germans, had participated in the drafting of the new Italian constitution, and had been one of the leading politicians in the party that governed Italy after the war, Democrazia Cristiana, where he excelled in the mastery of assembly mechanisms.

“As a conciliar consultant, Dossetti made use of these abilities. On November 10, 1962, another famous adviser, Dominican theologian Marie-Dominique Chenu, quoted Dossetti in his diary: "The actual battle is waged over procedure. It is always by this means that I have won."

“His peak came in 1963, in the second session of the Council, when for a few months Dossetti acted as the de facto secretary of the four cardinal "moderators," one of whom was Lercaro, thereby becoming the hub of the entire assembly.

“He was the one who wrote the questions on which the conciliar fathers had to make their statements. On October 16, 1963, four of these questions – on the issue of episcopal collegiality – were published, before they were given to the fathers, in the Bologna newspaper "L'Avvenire d'Italia," directed by Raniero La Valle, a close friend of Dossetti and Lercaro. Irritated, Paul VI ordered a recall of the 3,000 copies of this newspaper that, as every morning, were to be distributed free of charge to the fathers.

“Even after the Council, Dossetti continued to exercise a profound influence over Catholic culture, and not only in Italy.

“He was the one who gave rise – together with a few of his followers who were historians, Giuseppe Alberigo first among them – to that interpretation of Vatican II which until today has had the greatest fortune all over the world, condensed in the five-volume "History" that has been translated into various languages.

“Not only that. For many, Dossetti was also a great model of the fusion of theology and politics. With a strong following among the clergy, the bishops, and Catholics politically active on the left.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Outside Crime Controlled from Inside

The ability of modern penal technology to protect the innocent is used as a major justification for reducing the use of capital punishment.

As this article from the New York Times reveals, criminals always find a way to accomplish their goals.

An excerpt.

“ATLANTA — A counterfeiter at a Georgia state prison ticks off the remaining days of his three-year sentence on his Facebook page. He has 91 digital “friends.” Like many of his fellow inmates, he plays the online games FarmVille and Street Wars.

“He does it all on a Samsung smartphone, which he says he bought from a guard. And he used the same phone to help organize a short strike among inmates at several Georgia prisons last month.

“Technology is changing life inside prisons across the country at the same rapid-fire pace it is changing life outside. A smartphone hidden under a mattress is the modern-day file inside a cake.

“This kind of thing was bound to happen,” said Martin F. Horn, a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The physical boundaries that we thought protected us no longer work.”

“Although prison officials have long battled illegal cellphones, smartphones have changed the game. With Internet access, a prisoner can call up phone directories, maps and photographs for criminal purposes, corrections officials and prison security experts say. Gang violence and drug trafficking, they say, are increasingly being orchestrated online, allowing inmates to keep up criminal behavior even as they serve time.

“The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison,” said Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, one of a handful of companies that create cellphone-detection systems for prisons. “The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it.”

“The Georgia prison strike, for instance, was about things prisoners often complain about: They are not paid for their labor. Visitation rules are too strict. Meals are bad.

“But the technology they used to voice their concerns was new.

“Inmates punched in text messages and assembled e-mail lists to coordinate simultaneous protests, including work stoppages, with inmates at other prisons. Under pseudonyms, they shared hour-by-hour updates with followers on Facebook and Twitter. They communicated with their advocates, conducted news media interviews and monitored coverage of the strike.

“In Oklahoma, a convicted killer was caught in November posting photographs on his Facebook page of drugs, knives and alcohol that had been smuggled into his cell. In 2009, gang members in a Maryland prison were caught using their smartphones to approve targets for robberies and even to order seafood and cigars.”

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peter Teaching

The power of the teaching of the Catholic Church, especially through the voice of the Holy Father, is remarked on in this article from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“This being the season of hope, Islamic extremists of course have been engaged in their annual tradition of blowing up Christian churches.

“An attack by a radical Muslim sect on two churches in northern Nigeria killed six people on Christmas Eve. On the Philippines' Jolo Island, home to al Qaeda-linked terrorists, a chapel bombing during Christmas Mass injured 11.

“One of the central public events during these days at year's end is the Pope's midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. In his homily the pope invariably pleads for peace, but on Friday evening a viewer could not have missed the meaning when Benedict XVI twice mentioned "garments rolled in blood," from Isaiah 9:5.

“The image, as befits Isaiah, is poetic and disturbing. Benedict surely intended it so: "It is true," he said, "that the 'rod of his oppressor' is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the 'garment rolled in blood' still remains." He was of course referring to the sustained violence against Christian minorities by Islamic fundamentalists.

“Hours before this, from a window above St. Peter's Square, Benedict also took a pass on the holiday pabulum handed out by other world leaders this time of year by explicitly criticizing China. He said the "faithful of the church in mainland China [should not] lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience."

“For some, the Vatican's efforts on behalf of Christian minorities in Islamic countries or among China's population of 1.3 billion is regarded as worthy and admirable, but only a footnote against the grand sweep of current geopolitical concerns. Iran's bomb, China's economic importance and all that. This is a mistake. In these times, the pope's agenda is the civilized world's agenda. The pope's agenda is individual freedom.

“To the extent that the goal of freedom still occupies a high place in the purposes of foreign policy, then the pope remains an important strategic ally, as he has been since Karol Wojtyla left Poland to become pope in October 1978.

“The reality of the modern Church's interests aligned with the world's best interests emerges forcefully in the recently published second volume of George Weigel's magisterial biography of John Paul II, "The End and the Beginning." For this final volume, Mr. Weigel had access to material from the archives of former Communist intelligence services. The book's first half tells the tale of Communist security agencies—the Soviet KGB, East Germany's Stasi and Poland's SB—coming to grips with the threat posed to their system by Karol Wojtyla, first as archbishop of Cracow and then as Pope John Paul II. One Polish Communist Party ideologist called then-Cardinal Wojtyla "the only real ideological threat in Poland."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Legislative Lack of Knowledge

A nationwide problem—public leadership’s policy-hampering lack of insight into the criminal justice system— is revealed in this article from the Las Vegas Sun.

An excerpt.

“Come Jan. 4, Nevada Corrections Department Director Howard Skolnik will no longer have to deal with life and death decisions, shrinking budgets or queries from state lawmakers who have hardly toured prison grounds.

“At 66, Skolnik leaves a career that began as a correctional officer at the Ohio Penitentiary 45 years ago, longer than most hardened inmates spend behind bars.

“It ends in a position as director he says is rewarded more by what doesn’t happen on one’s watch — such as stabbings or escapes — than what does.

“It’s those life and death decisions, such as instructing a warden how to handle an inmate during a dangerous moment, that Skolnik says translates into protecting both the prison system and public.

“During his career, prisons evolved from having poorly trained guards and crude methods to quell inmate uprisings to having better trained personnel but intense scrutiny from the courts.

“In the 1960s, Skolnik manned a prison office with an emergency button under the desk.

“If I pushed the button, two large inmates came in and beat whoever was in my office, dragged them out,” he said. “That button, I’m relatively sure, saved my life one time. But that was not how this business should operate.”

“Skolnik, who guides a staff of 2,800, was appointed prisons director in February 2007 by Gov. Jim Gibbons after serving nearly 20 years as the department’s deputy director for industrial programs and the official prison spokesman.

“He’s stepping down, he said, because he thinks he would not have been retained by Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval, who takes office next month.

“I’ve had my battles with the Legislature, and I suspect that this governor coming in has a much more conciliatory attitude toward them than the governor I’ve worked for,” Skolnik said. “And, of course, my responsibility is to support the governor that I worked for.”

“Gibbons more than appreciates that loyalty. Dan Burns, Gibbons’ spokesman, said “the governor believes Howard’s performance as head of prisons has been outstanding, especially in these trying economic times.”

“When he ran prison industries, Skolnik developed a reputation as an innovator who had inmates work on projects involving far more creativity than the traditional license plate programs usually associated with prison labor.

“One highly publicized program was the auto restoration work done by inmates at Southern Desert Correctional Center in Indian Springs that included assembly of the famed Shelby Cobra sports car.

“Under Skolnik, inmates developed a clothing line, fed stray horses, created stained glass and began manufacturing Bighouse Choppers, which he billed as the only outlaw motorcycles made in the U.S. by real outlaws.

“But it wasn’t until he became prison director that Skolnik was thrust into the spotlight. He inherited a system whose facilities were overcrowded because of the state’s rapid population growth, lengthy sentences and high incarceration rates.

“Wasting little time trying to convince legislators that the overcrowding endangered an undermanned prison staff — he says the inmate to prison staff ratio is second highest in the nation behind Alabama — Skolnik embarked on an ambitious plan to build prisons and upgrade existing ones.

“He succeeded in adding 1,000 beds to the system and got some relief when the prison population began flattening out. That was because of legislation that allowed mostly nonviolent offenders to be released earlier, along with a drop in crime rates.

“But the state’s economy soured, forcing Skolnik to close a prison in Jean and a conservation camp in Silver Springs.

“All of a sudden my job was to figure out how to run a department with a lot less money than we had,” he said.

“Some proposals didn’t sit well with lawmakers, such as his recommendation to close the antiquated Nevada State Prison in Carson City, part of which was constructed in the 1860s. Despite his arguments the prison is unsafe, it remains open.”