Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reentry Data Manipulation

This is bad news for a reentry program in Michigan, as reported by the Detroit News.

An excerpt.

“Lansing — Michigan's Prisoner Re-entry Initiative has won national acclaim for helping ex-convicts stay out of trouble, but critics say the state is undercounting lapsed parolees to make the program appear more successful than it is.

“The criticism comes amid an audit of the 6-year-old Department of Corrections program that found other shortcomings, including overcharging vendors for services and allowing conflicts of interest between contractors and subcontractors.

“Jim Chihak, a former parole and probation officer who was part of a panel that evaluated the program this spring, said the program's intent — to keep prisoners from returning to prison — is admirable, but "the way it's being handled is a disaster."

"If you worked in a bank that was wasting money and not monitoring where it was going, why would you keep putting money into it?" said Chihak, a Marquette County commissioner.

“A recent Pew Center national survey of prisons found Michigan boasts one of the nation's sharpest drops in convicts returning to prison.

“The state Department of Corrections' re-entry program was credited with the decline in recidivism while the state was closing prisons and paroling 3,000 more inmates in 2009 than in 2006. Recidivism is often factored in as a way to gauge corrections costs.

“But current and former parole officers and others say offenders aren't just being returned to prison. Instead, they are being placed in alternative programs, county jails or on tethers — or worse, being freed and returning to crime — without being counted as "official" re-offenders, critics say.

“More than 22,500 ex-cons were paroled by 2010 with help from the program, including aid for housing, transportation, employment, health needs and education, according to the Department of Corrections.

“It also reports there have been 33 percent fewer returns to prison for parole violations or new crimes between 2006 to 2009 . The department boasts that returns to prison within three years dropped to a low of 36.4 percent, compared with earlier highs of around 45.7 percent.

“But those who challenged the numbers note that in most states, ex-convicts who commit new crimes while on parole go to prison or jail.

“Michigan has created a "straddle cell" category in which repeat offenders might get GPS tethers and treatment or counseling to help them get their lives on track rather than be put back behind bars. About 43 percent of offenders in Michigan fall into that classification.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Environmentalism is the secular religion of the left that replaced communism.

It is built on similar principles.

Both movements see the masses as unaware of the reality they cannot perceive, and themselves as revealers of the reality only they can perceive.

The masses historically have accepted the Judeo-Christian concept of human beings (as God's pinnacle creation) as stewards of the natural world created by Him.

Environmentalists believe nature is greater than humans and humans evolved from random acts of Nature.

An excellent look at the foundation of true environmentalism, from Catholic Culture.

An excerpt.

“Criticism tends to run high on whenever bishops speak out on environmental issues, though it is generally more muted when it comes to the statements of the Pope. It seems to me that there are two legitimate reasons for this concern. But as we’ll see, these reasons do not get beyond the surface of things.

“The first legitimate reason for concern is that environmentalism in the modern West is associated primarily with those who regard the human person as a blight on the landscape. In the prevailing environmentalist view, man has no particular spiritual destiny. Instead, too many environmentalists seem to be trending toward a sort of pantheism as a means of regaining the harmony with nature they feel has been lost in a technocratic world.

“The second reason for concern is that there seems to be little practical connection between environmentalism and the more pressing clear-cut moral issues which haunt our time, such as abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and unbridled sexual license. To be getting involved in inconclusive debates over the best way to deal with the environment can all too easily be compared with fiddling while Rome burns.

“Pope Benedict’s Approach

“Simple as this may seem, when we blink our eyes and look again, we find a good deal more at stake, including key issues which place environmental debates squarely in the Catholic wheelhouse. For the right view of environmentalism both derives from and nourishes a proper vision of the human person. Pope Benedict made precisely this point in his great social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. In the most general terms, his argument is as follows:

“The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God's creation. (48)

“Thus the Pope stresses that we must guard against two errors:

1. Nature is greater than man: The neo-pantheistic attitude which finds a kind of salvation in nature is misguided because the human person has a supernatural destiny which nature is destined to help him to achieve.

2. Nature is raw material to be manipulated: Nature “is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a ‘grammar’ which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation.” Without this understanding, we do violence to all of nature, including the nature of man himself.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eucharistic Heart of Church

A beautiful reflection from the Holy Father, from VIS News.

An excerpt.

“The Pope explained how "the Eucharist is like a beating heart giving life to the mystical Body of the Church, which is a social organisation entirely founded on its spiritual yet tangible bond with Christ. ... Without the Eucharist the Church would simply cease to exist. In fact, it is the Eucharist which renders a human community a mystery of communion, capable of bringing God to the world and the world to God. The Holy Spirit, which transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, also transforms those who receive it with faith into limbs of Christ's Body, thus the Church truly is a Sacrament of men's unity, with God and with one another.

"In an increasingly individualistic culture", Benedict XVI added, "such as that in which we live in western societies and which is tending to spread throughout the world, the Eucharist constitutes a kind of 'antidote', working on the hearts and minds of believers and continually infusing them with the logic of communion, service and sharing, the logic of the Gospel. The first Christians in Jerusalem were an evident sign of this new lifestyle because they lived in fraternity and shared all their worldly goods, so that no one should be left in want. ... In later generations too, the Church, despite human limitations and errors, has continued to be a force for communion in the world. We think particularly of the times of greatest difficulty, times of trial: for example, what could the chance of coming together at Sunday Mass have meant in countries ruled by totalitarian regimes? ... Yet the vacuum produced by false freedoms can be equally dangerous; thus communion with the Body of Christ is like a medicine for the mind and the will, helping us rediscover our taste for truth and for the common good".

Monday, June 27, 2011

Catholic Social Teaching

A wonderful article from Crisis Magazine.

An excerpt.

“What is the magisterial authority of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), and how is it applied to real world situations? Catholic Social Doctrine is simply the voice of the Church, starting with the Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers, that lays out the principles of how justice and charity are to be lived out in the world.

“The contemporary era of CST began with Pope Leo’s XII’ Rerum Novarum in 1891, and continues up to Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate. Through the social documents, one can see a gradual development that reflects the Church’s study of the times. That is to say, the Church is always looking to update and clarify the basic principles of Social teaching, given new economic situations and technologies, without ever contradicting authoritative past teaching.

“Confusion enters in when Catholic lay faithful (and in some cases clergy) mistakenly claim for their opinions the absolute magisterial authority of the Church and correspondingly denounce as un-Catholic the conflicting positions of others, whether their political criticism comes from the left, right, or center. The basic error is the failure to see that the foundational teachings and principles of CST can be applied in practice in a wide variety of ways — and working out the application of such principles in any given case rightly falls mainly to the laity, not the hierarchy. The magisterial Church’s role, normally exercised through the local ordinary (the bishop), is to point out when these applications appear to diverge from the principles and teachings themselves.

“Conflicting opinions on CST fall into three basic camps:

1. Those (including both some on the Catholic Left and Traditionalists) who seem to believe that all CST is Catholic doctrine, from basic principles of social justice down to their specific applications in the documents. They would argue, for example, that Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio requires Catholics to support government-to-government aid to developing nations (regardless of conflicting opinions about whether such aid actually harms the recipients). This group makes little distinction between the principles and their application.

2. Those who hold that the principles of CST constitute definitive Church teaching and require assent, but that the applications found in Church documents are strictly prudential.

3. Those who hold that CST constitutes the combined institutional wisdom of a Church that has existed since the Roman Empire. This group would argue that, while Catholics should follow CST, the principles are of relatively recent origin and therefore do not constitute definitive doctrine.

“Before delving deeper into these questions, we should also consider another modern development: the post-Vatican II emergence of national conferences of bishops (known as episcopal conferences), and the extent to which, especially in the United States, such conferences speak and teach authoritatively on issues of Catholic social teaching. There has been much confusion in this area, going back to the American bishops’ conference’s endorsement of controversial documents largely written by bureaucrats. The most noteworthy of these statements, emerging during the Reagan years in the context of the Cold War, dealt with nuclear weapons and was titled “The Challenge of Peace.”

“The reaction from the Catholic right was great. One of the founders of this magazine, Michael Novak, spearheaded a group of lay Catholic writers who issued a “pastoral” letter disagreeing with some of the conclusions of the conference’s document, as well as with the bishops’ authority on the subject and the extent to which their teaching was normative for their flock. The Novak piece, which took up an entire issue of National Review, was later published as Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age (Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

“Happily, the collapse of the Evil Empire and the end of the Cold War made “The Challenge of Peace” largely a dead letter. However, in 1997, the Committee on Marriage and Family of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued an even more controversial document titled “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children.”

“On the bright side, this document led the Vatican (or, more precisely, Pope John Paul II) to issue a clarifying motu proprio (a document issued by the pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him), Apostolos Suos, on May 21, 1998. Apostolos Suos confirmed the limited authority of national bishops’ conferences, along with their associated committees, commissions, advisors, and experts. Since Vatican II, these had tended to usurp the fundamental canonical responsibility of an individual bishop as chief teacher of the faith in his diocese.

“In a statement apparently directed principally toward the USCCB, the Holy Father wrote, “Commissions and offices exist to be of help to bishops and not to substitute for them.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Faith Based Mentors

A new program opens in Kansas, as announced by the Kansas Governor in this local news report.

While mentoring programs do show some success with youth—who can benefit from the surrogate parental figure—those for adults do not.

An excerpt.

“Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday announced an expansion of his faith-based initiative, saying that he wants to match state prisoners with faith-based mentors.

“Brownback has already given the green light to a new faith-based division in the state’s welfare agency.

“Now, the Kansas Department of Corrections is ready to roll out Mentoring 4 Success, he said.

“The state prison system will work with Prison Fellowship Ministries, Reaching Out From Within and the ecumenical Spiritual Advisors to help inmates succeed when they are released from prison, he said.

“I know firsthand, as we all do, the importance and the power that a mentor has in our lives,” Brownback said.

“Brownback’s Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts said of the 5,000 inmates released from the Kansas prison system last year, approximately 1,100 came back to prison for violations.

“The goal is to reduce that number, Roberts said.

“He said the prison system has been working since March on developing a plan of action to launch the initiative and recruit mentors, who will work on a voluntary basis.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Capital Punishment & Cost Benefit

This article from the Los Angles Times examines the cost of capital punishment in California and suggests remedies—the capital punishment abolitionist viewpoint is obvious—which do not include legislation to reduce unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits extending the death penalty cases way beyond common sense.

The Crime and Consequences Blog also examines the article.

An excerpt from the Los Angeles Times article.

“Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then, according to a comprehensive analysis of the death penalty's costs.

“The examination of state, federal and local expenditures for capital cases, conducted over three years by a senior federal judge and a law professor, estimated that the additional costs of capital trials, enhanced security on death row and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year.

“The study's authors, U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell, also forecast that the tab for maintaining the death penalty will climb to $9 billion by 2030, when San Quentin's death row will have swollen to well over 1,000.

“In their research for "Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature's Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle," Alarcon and Mitchell obtained California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records that were unavailable to others who have sought to calculate a cost-benefit analysis of capital punishment.

“Their report traces the legislative and initiative history of the death penalty in California, identifying costs imposed by the expansion of the types of crimes that can lead to a death sentence and the exhaustive appeals guaranteed condemned prisoners.

“The authors outline three options for voters to end the current reality of spiraling costs and infrequent executions: fully preserve capital punishment with about $85 million more in funding for courts and lawyers each year; reduce the number of death penalty-eligible crimes for an annual savings of $55 million; or abolish capital punishment and save taxpayers about $1 billion every five or six years.

“Alarcon, who prosecuted capital cases as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney in the 1950s and served as clemency secretary to Gov. Pat Brown, said in an interview that he believes the majority of California voters will want to retain some option for punishing the worst criminals with death. He isn't opposed to capital punishment, while Mitchell, his longtime law clerk, said she favors abolition. Both said they approached the analysis from an impartial academic perspective, aiming solely to educate voters about what they are spending on death row.

“Alarcon four years ago issued an urgent appeal for overhaul of capital punishment in the state, noting that the average lag between conviction and execution was more than 17 years, twice the national figure. Now it is more than 25 years, with no executions since 2006 and none likely in the near future because of legal challenges to the state's lethal injection procedures.

“The long wait for execution "reflects a wholesale failure to fund the efficient, effective capital punishment system that California voters were told they were choosing" in the battery of voter initiatives over the last three decades that have expanded the penalty to 39 special circumstances in murder, the report says.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Magic Genetic Bullet

Physiological causes of crime have been an object of search for a long time, and every criminal justice student will remember the Lombroso approach.

The belief of this apostolate, based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, is that criminals largely choose to become criminal and though certain social and psychological situations can play a role—though many others in the same situation will choose not to become criminals—it is largely a matter of individual choice as the Catechism teaches:

"Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
-by partcipating directly and voluntarily in them;
-by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
-by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
-by protecting evil-doers.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1868).

But the search continues for the magic bullet, as this article from the New York Times remarks.

An excerpt.

“It was less than 20 years ago that the National Institutes of Health abruptly withdrew funds for a conference on genetics and crime after outraged complaints that the idea smacked of eugenics. The president of the Association of Black Psychologists at the time declared that such research was in itself “a blatant form of stereotyping and racism.”

“The tainted history of using biology to explain criminal behavior has pushed criminologists to reject or ignore genetics and concentrate on social causes: miserable poverty, corrosive addictions, guns. Now that the human genome has been sequenced, and scientists are studying the genetics of areas as varied as alcoholism and party affiliation, criminologists are cautiously returning to the subject. A small cadre of experts is exploring how genes might heighten the risk of committing a crime and whether such a trait can be inherited.

“The turnabout will be evident on Monday at the annual National Institute of Justice conference in Arlington, Va. On the opening day criminologists from around the country can attend a panel on creating databases for information about DNA and “new genetic markers” that forensic scientists are discovering.

“Throughout the past 30 or 40 years most criminologists couldn’t say the word ‘genetics’ without spitting,” Terrie E. Moffitt, a behavioral scientist at Duke University, said. “Today the most compelling modern theories of crime and violence weave social and biological themes together.”

“Researchers estimate that at least 100 studies have shown that genes play a role in crimes. “Very good methodological advances have meant that a wide range of genetic work is being done,” said John H. Laub, the director of the justice institute, who won the Stockholm Prize in Criminology last week. He and others take pains to emphasize, however, that genes are ruled by the environment, which can either mute or aggravate violent impulses. Many people with the same genetic tendency for aggressiveness will never throw a punch, while others without it could be career criminals.

“The subject still raises thorny ethical and policy questions. Should a genetic predisposition influence sentencing? Could genetic tests be used to tailor rehabilitation programs to individual criminals? Should adults or children with a biological marker for violence be identified?

“Everyone in the field agrees there is no “crime gene.” What most researchers are looking for are inherited traits that are linked to aggression and antisocial behaviors, which may in turn lead to violent crime. Don’t expect anyone to discover how someone’s DNA might identify the next Bernard L. Madoff.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Catholic Charities

Most are, unfortunately, really more secularly-informed than Catholic-informed.

Though still using the name Catholic, their agendas and missions more clearly reflect the substantial donations and secular priorities they get from government rather than those established by the Church, as this article from The Catholic Thing notes, with links at the jump.

An excerpt.

“Real estate agents unable to grasp the paramount importance of “location, location, location” would not last very long. Reminders about something so elementary are not needed. Keeping “identity, identity, identity” front and center within Catholic charitable organizations, as I have written previously (here and here), seems to require more vigilance, though why that is so is a long tale.

“Identity was the recurring theme of a momentous Caritas Internationalis gathering in late May, following news that its executive director would not be permitted another term. The prominent French commentator Jean-Marie Guénois described Pope Benedict XVI’s attempts to reform the Caritas network as revolutionary – not in terms of new doctrine, but in the sense that he is reasserting control over an entire area of the Church’s vital activity in agencies that have veered far off course.

“In a remarkable address to the Caritas Assembly, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah (president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum) stressed that expressions of authentic Catholic charity are especially needed today, not least because the number of other actors on the scene is mushrooming. Most NGO activities, he reminded them, are expressions of prevailing western culture, now characterized by widespread religious indifference and secularization – “a humanism without God.” For all its tremendous material, scientific, and technological progress, the West, he maintained, is also suffering from “serious moral regression.”

“Western Catholics agencies should be all the more eager to stand in solidarity with the Church in other parts of the world precisely against just such moral regression – a considerable obstacle to human development everywhere, perhaps especially in the “developed,” but bleaker, swaths of the modern West.

“Yet on my own many trips to Africa with Catholic Relief Services, for example, it was not uncommon to hear locals refer to them as the “non-Catholic Catholic agency.” (Imagine what they say about CAFOD – the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development).”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Credit Card Crime

An informative post from NPR about the sophistication of the crime and the use of technology.

An excerpt.

“To find the online megamall for stolen credit cards, I have to go to Pittsburgh.

“That's where Keith Mularski works. He's a cybercrime agent with the FBI, and he's going to show me how to buy thousands of stolen credit card numbers.

“Mularski pulls up a login screen on his browser.

“To even be able to see this site — to register and get a password here — Mularski had to use an an alias to persuade two criminals already on the inside to vouch for his criminality.
“It's sort of the exact opposite of getting two references when you're applying for a job; rather than vouching for you as an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, you're getting people to attest to your deviousness.

“Not a problem for us. We're in.

“It's the photo-negative version of sites that you've been to like Craigslist or eBay. The background is literally black instead of white. Vendors have banner ads across the top, advertising illegal things like hacking and phishing tutorials.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Liberal Catholicism

Which, of course, is an oxymoron; but it is finally, slowly, but inexorably, fading away in the American Catholic Church, as this article from Catholic World Report reveals.

An excerpt.

“For decades conservatives have been marginalized in groups like the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), which do not even pretend to be hospitable to “all points of view.” People have been denied tenure, lost their jobs, were never hired in the first place, or were otherwise penalized for upholding Church teaching, not only in academia but even in official Church agencies.

“As documented in Michael Rose’s book Goodbye Good Men, for years orthodox young men were denied entry into certain seminaries, despite the urgent need for priests. A common ploy was to ask the candidate his views on the ordination of women and, if he said he accepted the official teaching, to reject him as “insensitive to women.” Conservative members of religious orders have suffered severe marginalization over almost five decades.

“Church bureaucrats are situated midway between the hierarchy and the laity, and after the Council they began to claim a kind of authority over both. While bishops are constantly told that they must humbly seek to learn from their people, bureaucrats often reject or ignore criticism of their work, because they are qualified professionals. Conservative lay people learned very quickly that it did no good to raise questions about the education of their children or dubious liturgical practices, because even many conservative bishops automatically supported the “experts.”

“After decades conservative Catholics have at last received a sympathetic hearing from some bishops, but liberals have an almost reflexive reaction against hierarchical authority, with every issue immediately defined as the “interference” by that hierarchy in the life of the Church.

“Dolores Leckey, who for years used her position as executive director of the US bishops’ Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women, and Youth to promote feminism, in effect now denies that there even is such a thing as legitimate episcopal authority—bishops act only because they are “afraid” and “insecure,” not because of their religious convictions.

“Manifestations of traditional Catholicism elicit emotional reactions from liberals all out of proportion to their cause. The priest-theologian Richard McBrien denounces the revival of Eucharistic adoration as a “step backwards,” and to Rick Marren, an editor of the National Catholic Reporter, Eucharistic and Marian devotions constitute a “betrayal” of Vatican II. The Benedictine liturgist Anscar Chupungco laments, “The church is now experiencing the cold chill of winter….”

“But no one is forced to participate in Eucharistic devotions—McBrien is offended merely because some people choose to do so. One woman told the NCR that she finds the acceptance of former Anglicans into the Church “worrisome,” because “They’re kneeling for Communion, the priest facing the altar…we are regressing from the Vatican II model of going with the spirit of the law to the letter of the law. There used to be more heart.”

“A former NCR editor expressed fear that the Anglican converts would be “anti-gay bigots,” and the Jesuit Thomas Reese, who has become the secular media’s favored commentator on Catholic matters, feared that the converts will “further discourage reform.”

“The acrimonious attacks on the new translation of the Mass have much less to do with the quality of language than with the power of the liturgical establishment, which for almost the first time in 45 years is being questioned by the pope and the bishops. Liturgists are indignant that they were not entrusted with the task of making new translations.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Supreme Conservative

As Thomist Catholics know, being strongly conservative in relation to crime and criminals is being strongly compassionate, and accepting the eternal nature of sin and the sinner’s life.

Fortunately, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a Catholic, also realizes this, and a profile in USA Today—about which the Crime & Consequences Blog comments—takes note.

An excerpt from the USA Today article.

“WASHINGTON — Twenty years ago, when a senator asked then-appellate Judge Clarence Thomas why he wanted to be on the Supreme Court, Thomas said he often looked out his courthouse window at arriving prisoners and said to himself, "But for the grace of God, there go I."

“During his confirmation hearing, Thomas explained that he would identify with defendants: "So I can walk in their shoes and I could bring something different to the court."

“It is now clear that to Thomas, those remarks did not mean he necessarily would empathize with defendants. During two decades as the court's most consistent conservative, he has taken a tough approach to criminal defendants' cases, showing a disdain for hard-luck tales of bad childhoods and a conviction that defendants accept responsibility.

“As several cases this term have shown, criminal law is one area in which Thomas — who almost never speaks during public court sessions — is making his mark. He often writes alone, yet with strong rhetoric that gets attention — particularly in light of his difficult background and professed concern for men who took the wrong path.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bishops in Boston

The history of Catholic bishops working for the enemy—consciously or unconsciously—is well-known and captured in the famous saying that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.

This article from Phillip Lawler in Catholic Culture describes what happened in the 1960’s around the issue of contraceptives

An excerpt.

“In 1966, Massachusetts became the last state in the US to legalize the sale of contraceptives. When the state legislative voted to repeal the law prohibiting their sale, the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts celebrated—and said that the victory was due to the cooperation of the Boston Catholic archdiocese.

“Legislation calling for an end to the ban on contraceptive sales was originally introduced in 1965 by a young legislator named Michael Dukakis—who would eventually become Governor of Massachusetts, and the Democratic candidate for the US presidency in 1988. When the bill finally passed, a year later, Dukakis too said that the Archdiocese of Boston was responsible.

“Is it really possible that a Catholic archdiocese was instrumental in promoting legislation that allowed for the acceptance of contraception? That is the thrust of an an astonishing article published in Boston College Magazine.

“In my book The Faithful Departed, I wrote that Cardinal Cushing was the first prominent American Catholic to advance the now-familiar argument that it is morally permissible to vote for acceptance of a practice that the Church regards as gravely immoral. Today, that “personally opposed, but…” argument is regularly invoked by supporters of legal abortion. But in the 1960s, it was used by Cardinal Cushing to justify acceptance of legal contraception.

“In 1965, as the state legislature discussed the repeal of the contraceptive ban, Cardinal Cushing said that he personally opposed the use of contraceptives. But he added, significantly: “I am also convinced that I should not impose my position—moral beliefs or religious beliefs—on those of other faiths.” To legislators weighing the merits of the bill, he said: “If your constituents want this legislation, vote for it.”

“Thus did the leader of Boston’s Church signal an end to any active Catholic opposition to legalized sale of contraceptives. But the Boston College Magazine article reveals that the archdiocese had begun quietly planning for a change in the law even before Dukakis introduced his formal bid for repeal.

“In 1963, the article reports, Cardinal Cushing was a guest on a radio call-in show. One caller asked the cardinal about his stance on the contraceptive ban, and he replied: “I have no right to impose my thinking, which is rooted in religious thought, on those who do not think as I do.”

“At the time of that broadcast, listeners in the Boston area did not know the identity of the woman who called in with the question that drew that response. But now, thanks to Boston College Magazine, we know that it was Hazel Sagoff, the executive director of Planned Parenthood. There is reason to believe that both Sagoff’s call and the cardinal’s response had been arranged in advance. Prior to the show, Sagoff had been conferring with Msgr. Francis Lally, the editor of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and a trusted adviser to Cardinal Cushing. Sagoff had said that a bid to repeal the contraceptive ban was doomed to fail, unless legislators were confident that the cardinal would not fight the measure. Msgr. Lally had indicated that he favored an end to the ban—although he hoped that the courts would settle the issue, making legislative action unnecessary.”

Lawler writes more about a Boston bishop in in relation to the sexual abuse scandal in the Church in the paperback and Kindle edition of his book in the new preface.

"…in Boston the head of the archdiocese, Cardinal Bernard Law, eventually accepted responsibility for the disaster and resigned. Dozens of other American bishops were equally culpable; dozens of others coddled predatory priests and covered up the evidence of their crimes. But while a number of bishops have stepped down after public revelations of their own misconduct, Cardinal Law is the only U. S. prelate who has resigned because of his failure to curb the misconduct of others.

"Looking back now [Spring 2010] on the sequence of shocking revelations that became public in 2002, it is astonishing that the casualties among the American Catholic hierarchy have been kept so low—that only a single bishop was held fully accountable for the outrage in his diocese. Thousands of children have been molested; more than $2 billion [$700 million of that in the Los Angeles Diocese] has been paid to settle legal claims; thousands of parish churches and parochial schools have been closed down so that dioceses can pay off the cost of criminal activity; countless souls have turned away from the Catholic Church in disgust. And only one Church leader has lost his job." (Phillip Lawler, The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture, Preface, (3rd page) Kindle Edition of July 2010)

The Church is not only an earthly institution for it has been destroyed in many countries in the past, yet the faith always remains, for as long as there is a priest to deliver the Eucharist bringing physical communion with Christ to the faithful, and prayer bringing spiritual communion, the Church exists, as real as the day it was founded, as real as the promise of Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail.

As the Catechism teaches:

" #752 In Christian usage, the word "church" designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers. These three meanings are inseparable. "The Church" is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ's Body."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Criminals & Gangs

Becoming a criminal is an individual choice and programs invented by well-intentioned academics, sociologists, and other social justice practitioners that claim anecdotal success without rigorous evaluation often have to be viewed skeptically, as our ongoing post of failed programs indicates.

These program ideas seem to be again promulgated in this article from the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIA)—though the theme noted in the final paragraph of the post does show promise if actually acted upon—and the reason for less gang members on the streets now than ten years ago is three-strikes sentencing and broken-windows policing.

When you have more criminals in prison there are less on the streets, and over the past few decades, three-strikes and broken-windows kept ahead of the criminal replacement curve, though current calls to empty prisons and change policing will bring us back to the future.

An excerpt from the JJIA article.

“ORLANDO, Fla, – Frontline practitioners working on gang prevention, intervention and suppression are gathered this week for the National Gang Symposium in Orlando, Fla. For prevention, think of the Boys & Girls Club. For intervention, think of the Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, whose motto is “nothing stops a bullet like a job.” And for suppression, well, of course, think of the police.

“The number crunchers from the National Gang Center, using their own just released data, are telling symposium attendees today that gangs remain a substantial problem in the nation. However, gang levels are lower than the peak levels in the mid-1990s, and law enforcement agencies reported gang activity in their jurisdictions at about the same levels for five straight years – all this during a time when overall violence is way down.

“Arlen Egley, one of those National Gang Center number crunchers, is learning something in return from the police at the symposium. A common theme among law enforcement is, “We can’t arrest our way of this problem.” And Egley added, “It is reassuring to hear that.”

“The symposium’s clarion call is that total collaboration among prevention, intervention and suppression folks will make a difference. James “Buddy” Howell, also from the National Gang Center, said that to reduce gang activity the community at large will have to be better organized than the gangs themselves.

“Luis J. Rodriquez, speaker, author, and former Los Angeles gang member, said gang members call it “La Vida Loca” (the crazy life) because even they know it as a crazy existence. The brains of gang members in their teens and early 20s are not fully developed, he noted, and still can be molded for good or bad.

“Unfortunately,” Rodriquez said, “that’s the time we want to put them away.” Thus prison life often determines who they will become.

“Sticking with the dominant symposium theme of full community support, Rodriquez provided five prescriptions for helping kids break away from the crazy web of gang life: Provide help and community; aid them in making spiritual connections beyond gang loyalty; give them a cause bigger than themselves, which might simply be how to be a good mother or father; find the art within which could be the creative arts or the art of teaching or being a mechanic; and finally, they have to learn to run their own lives because “taking full responsibility is a powerful, liberating thing.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crime & Public Policy

It is the title of a new and magisterial book on criminal justice, co-edited by James Q. Wilson & Joan Petersilia, a copy of which I’ve just received and begun to peruse.

It should be in every criminal justice library.

The Crime Report interviewed one of the editors recently.

An excerpt.

"The latest edition of one of the country’s most authoritative criminal justice anthologies adds sex offenders, race and crime, and prisoner re-entry to its list of “hot topics.” Anthology co-editor Joan Petersilia explains why in a conversation with The Crime Report’s Ted Gest.

“Criminologist Joan Petersilia of Stanford Law School and political scientist James Q. Wilson of Pepperdine University have published the fourth volume of their widely praised series, “Crime & Public Policy” (Oxford University Press, 2011). The series, which first appeared in 1983, was designed, according to Petersilia, to draw on “the most comprehensive, sophisticated intelligent thinking that academics had to offer.”

“The new volume reflects some of the major changes in criminal justice policy and practice since the last edition in 2002. In an exclusive interview with TCR, Petersilia discusses some of those changes, in areas ranging from sentencing reform and policing to policies towards sex offenders.

“And she points out how far we still need to go in developing sound crime prevention policies, eliminating racial disparities, and pursuing evidence-based solutions in a political climate where “tough on crime” is still a vote-getter. Warns Peteresilia, “public policy goes awry when legislators react in a knee-jerk way. “

“The Crime Report: How does this work differ from other writings on criminal justice?

“JP: We wanted a volume that can be read by high-level policy makers. We asked each contributor to write, in no more than 30 pages, why their subject is important, the rigor of the evidence they have to draw on, what we should do once we know the evidence, and where bad policy is made because people are not paying attention to the evidence. We want a mayor or governor to be able to pick up the volume and trust what is in there.

“TCR: How did you organize the subject matter?

“JP: Some chapters are on the broader context, such as biology, crime causation, and international crime. Much of it is on the criminal justice system itself—policing, juvenile crime, sentencing, corrections. A third section is what you might call “hot topics”—what’s on the agenda now that people need help with. Among those topics in this volume are sex offenders, race and crime and prisoner re-entry. That last topic wasn’t even mentioned in the last volume.

“TCR: The previous volume was prepared about a decade ago. Did things change enough in most key areas to require revising every chapter?

“JP: Yes, in many areas. For example, Lawrence Sherman (of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University) rewrote the policing chapter to talk about “hot spots” policing, CompStat, and other new trends. Francis Cullen (of the University of Cincinnati) and Cheryl Lero Jonson (of Northern Kentucky University).did a total update on rehabilitation and treatment.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hold Fast

This recent, and unfortunately, all too truthful column in the New York Times is exactly the type of writing that is hampering the ability of Catholics who are involved with prison ministry to catechize criminals; and for those Catholics who are unschooled in their faith, to retain a strong allegiance to it.

It is vital for Catholics—particularly now when the works of evil attacking the Church from within and without, are very strong, and the flesh, buffeted by the virtually complete concupiscencialization of American culture, is very weak—to learn about the truths of their Church, her history and her pilgrim journey through time, for she is divinely mandated but humanly led, and in her humanity, often deeply sinful, regularly naïve, and slow to act against an evil she does not always understand, though her history gives her ample lessons to prompt understanding.

Peter was chosen to be the rock of the Church because he was a leader and in spite of that he was also a sinful and weak man, yet after Pentecost he arose to the task before him and set a path of courage and constancy and sacrifice the Holy Fathers have largely followed for two millennia.

With Peter, to Christ, Through Mary…Read the Catechism, study the history of the Church, read the writings of the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and pray, always pray; and most of all, attend daily Mass, it is the true strength and blessing outshining every other sacrament, the pinnacle of the gifts of the Church.

Hold Fast. They were the words English sailors often tattooed on their fingers to remind them to hold on tightly to the ship’s rigging when aloft lest a stray gust blow them to their death below.

The Barque of Peter is always beset with gusts and torrents of wind and mighty waves crashing as the world struggles against its slow and steady progress, and for us, the faithful crew of the great ship, we too must hold fast.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Capital Punishment & Public Policy

An excellent post at the Catholic Advocate concerning capital punishment, an issue that Catholics have struggled with, though the teaching of the Church consistently supports its use as appropriate under certain conditions.

An excerpt.

“The Death Penalty (Chapter VIII)

“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor” (CCC 2267).

“Capital punishment is probably the most misunderstood moral issue in the Catholic Church. This confusion stems from the change made in the Catechism in 1997 to bring the teaching into conformity with the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995).

“The change was widely reported in the media and by some Catholic commentators as the Church declaring total opposition to the use of the death penalty. This view is not supported by the words of the revised Catechism or Evangelium Vitae itself.

“The Church’s position can be summarized in this way: The Church is not opposed to the death penalty in principle but in practice. To oppose the death penalty in principle would be to remove one of the most basic responsibilities of the common good—to provide defense and security against aggression.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lower Crime Rates

As we blogged about earlier, crime has dropped, and the cause is clear to the clear eyed—though not to the perplexed criminologists—as this article from James Q. Wilson in the Wall Street Journal notes.

You would think at some point perplexed criminoligists would realize that more criminals in prison means less criminals on the streets.

An excerpt.

“When the FBI announced last week that violent crime in the U.S. had reached a 40-year low in 2010, many criminologists were perplexed. It had been a dismal year economically, and the standard view in the field, echoed for decades by the media, is that unemployment and poverty are strongly linked to crime. The argument is straightforward: When less legal work is available, more illegal "work" takes place.

“The economist Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, a Nobel laureate, gave the standard view its classic formulation in the 1960s. He argued that crime is a rational act, committed when the criminal's "expected utility" exceeds that of using his time and other resources in pursuit of alternative activities, such as leisure or legitimate work. Observation may appear to bear this theory out. After all, neighborhoods with elevated crime rates tend to be those where poverty and unemployment are high as well.

“But there have long been difficulties with the notion that unemployment causes crime. For one thing, the 1960s, a period of rising crime, had essentially the same unemployment rate as the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period when crime fell. And during the Great Depression, when unemployment hit 25%, the crime rate in many cities went down. Among the explanations offered for this puzzle is that unemployment and poverty were so common during the Great Depression that families became closer, devoted themselves to mutual support, and kept young people, who might be more inclined to criminal behavior, under constant adult supervision. These days, because many families are weaker and children are more independent, we would not see the same effect, so certain criminologists continue to suggest that a 1% increase in the unemployment rate should produce as much as a 2% increase in property-crime rates.

“Yet when the recent recession struck, that didn't happen. As the national unemployment rate doubled from around 5% to nearly 10%, the property-crime rate, far from spiking, fell significantly. For 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an 8% drop in the nationwide robbery rate and a 17% reduction in the auto-theft rate from the previous year. Big-city reports show the same thing. Between 2008 and 2010, New York City experienced a 4% decline in the robbery rate and a 10% fall in the burglary rate. Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles witnessed similar declines.

“Some scholars argue that the unemployment rate is too crude a measure of economic frustration to prove the connection between unemployment and crime, since it estimates only the percentage of the labor force that is looking for work and hasn't found it. But other economic indicators tell much the same story. The labor-force participation rate lets us determine the percentage of the labor force that is neither working nor looking for work—individuals who are, in effect, detached from the labor force. These people should be especially vulnerable to criminal inclinations, if the bad-economy-leads-to-crime theory holds. In 2008, though, even as crime was falling, only about half of men aged 16 to 24 (who are disproportionately likely to commit crimes) were in the labor force, down from over two-thirds in 1988, and a comparable decline took place among African-American men (who are also disproportionately likely to commit crimes).

“The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index offers another way to assess the link between the economy and crime. This measure rests on thousands of interviews asking people how their financial situations have changed over the last year, how they think the economy will do during the next year, and about their plans for buying durable goods. The index measures the way people feel, rather than the objective conditions they face. It has proved to be a very good predictor of stock-market behavior and, for a while, of the crime rate, which tended to climb when people lost confidence. When the index collapsed in 2009 and 2010, the stock market predictably went down with it—but this time, the crime rate went down, too.

“So we have little reason to ascribe the recent crime decline to jobs, the labor market or consumer sentiment. The question remains: Why is the crime rate falling?

“One obvious answer is that many more people are in prison than in the past. Experts differ on the size of the effect, but I think that William Spelman and Steven Levitt have it about right in believing that greater incarceration can explain about one-quarter or more of the crime decline. Yes, many thoughtful observers think that we put too many offenders in prison for too long. For some criminals, such as low-level drug dealers and former inmates returned to prison for parole violations, that may be so. But it's true nevertheless that when prisoners are kept off the street, they can attack only one another, not you or your family.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

Recidivism News

There has been some good recidivism news lately from Washington State, as this report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy indicates.

An excerpt.

“In this report, we examine recidivism rates for close to 70,000 adult offenders who released from prison in Washington State over a 17-year-period. Our analysis reveals quite notable and favorable recidivism trends.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Continuing the Destructive Narrative

For decades, academics and many criminal justice practitioners have been proclaiming that the key to rehabilitation for reentering prisoners is to provide services like mentoring, job training, substance abuse, drug counseling, and transition housing.

However, years of evaluations show that these service-based programs are failures, often to the point of actually making the problem worse, as we have noted.

The only vigorously evaluated programs that have shown some success are cognitive behavioral efforts, those working to encourage an internal change within criminals.

Unfortunately, this new effort being broadcast for California is sticking with what doesn’t work, and, according to this report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, isn’t using what does.

An excerpt.

“More than 160,000 inmates are serving time in California prisons. Two-thirds of released state prisoners return to prison within three years – contributing to the high cost of incarceration. Our state currently spends nearly $9 billion annually on corrections.

“To help California close this revolving door, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has created a partnership with Prison Fellowship, which reaches out to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, to strengthen rehabilitation services. Next week, we are inaugurating Out4Life California, a statewide effort to bring together businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches and other community groups. Our goal is to form local coalitions to help returning offenders make a successful transition back to the community by providing training, mentoring and other services.

“Ninety-five percent of California inmates will eventually be released and become our neighbors. More than 10,000 offenders a month are released from overcrowded state prisons and return back to our local communities. At a time when the government cannot afford to expand programs to prepare prisoners for release, community and faith-based groups should be called on to help provide needed services at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

“Most corrections experts agree that a successful prisoner re-entry strategy must include a variety of components, including hands-on community supervision, access to substance abuse treatment, educational programs, and job training and placement. We are seeking coalition members who are willing to help released prisoners in communities across California by providing:
• Mentoring, to provide a strong support structure during the critical first six to 12 months after release.
• Job training and assistance in finding steady jobs.
• Substance abuse treatment services.
• Mental health services.
• Transitional housing.
• Help for the children of ex-prisoners, who face unique challenges at home, in school and in all aspects of their lives.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Destructive Narrative

The continued narrative emanating from the prison and capital punishment abolition movements (marking this recent article from the Los Angeles Times) is that three-strikes legislation fills prisons and bad social conditions cause crime.

The first is true—and has resulted in crime rates dropping—but the second is not and continues to hamper rehabilitative efforts by diverting focus on the true cause of crime, that criminals choose to become criminals.

Granted, there are certain social, familial, psychological and physiological conditions from which many criminals tend to come, though many within the same conditions do not choose to become criminals, so we are left with the one indisputable fact, crime is a matter of individual choice.

The best work in the arena of crime causation over the past several decades has been that done by James Q. Wilson and his collaborators, expressed magisterially in his two major works, as the co-author of Crime & Human Nature (1985) & as co-editor of Crime & Public Policy (2011).