Why Do We Lie About Crime?

Observation Is dishonesty an inherent part of crime discussions? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ […]

Observation Is dishonesty an inherent part of crime discussions? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

The Ordeal of Gay and Transgender Prisoners

In most prisons in America, LGBTI inmates face systematic discrimination and cruelty. But the Stafford Creek facility in Washington has implemented model policies that address their special needs.

One day last year, when I was enrolled in a vocational program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Washington State, a classmate of mine disappeared.

The reason behind his vanishing act was strange and, to me, seemed to be nothing more than prisoner rumor-mongering.

Here’s the story. While working in the kitchen he went outside to dump the trash and then proceeded to climb the security fence that separated the kitchen area from the facility’s industrial complex.

He wasn’t trying to escape—he could only have gone from one part of the compound to another. Instead, it appeared to be an attempt at suicide-by-correctional officer.

Or a loss of sanity.

The rumors of his fence-climbing turned out to be true. When he was released from disciplinary segregation three weeks later, he was allowed to go back to school and he ended up seated next to me in the classroom. I couldn’t help but ask what led him to pull a stunt like that.

Voice tinged with sadness, my classmate quietly revealed to me that he was a “she”—that is, transgender. She had felt alone and depressed, and had long been struggling with her sexual identity.

That was the last thing I expected to hear that morning. But once I heard this, I realized that I understood just where she was coming from—at least with respect to feeling alone and depressed.

I have long known how cruel life can be for gay, bisexual and transgender prisoners.

It can be a miserable existence.

Over the 25 years that I have been confined, the treatment they often receive is amongst the foul things I have had to turn a blind eye to—and it haunts me.

Most prisons are “an all-male world shaped by deprivation” and it can be especially loathsome for a prisoner who is a “gal-boy,” according to prison author Wilbert Rideau. He recounts how such inmates of Louisiana’s Angola prison were often forced to serve as sexual outlets and “sold, traded, used as collateral, gambled off, or given away” by their “owners.”

Victor Hassine, an inmate in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Correctional Institution, recounts in his book, “Life Without Parole: Living in Prison Today,” incidents when (presumably homosexual) staff members in Graterford isolated, overpowered and raped openly gay prisoners; and in other instances, denied “entitlements, such as positive parole reports, until victims agree to have sex.”

Such is life for many gay and gender-nonconforming prisoners in America. It is a portrait of a world of depression.

From an evolutionary standpoint this is understandable.

In his book, “Origin of the Species,” Charles Darwin explains how depression “is well adapted to make a creature guard itself against any great or sudden evil.”

When depression is experienced by prisoners who are already at risk because of their sexual identity, life can be worse than it otherwise would be in a correctional facility. That’s because the behavior of depressed people can produce negative reactions from those around them and lead to rejection, according to research published by J. Strack and J.C. Coyne in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Other researchers have demonstrated that once feelings of rejection become the norm, those who are depressed will begin associating with people who reinforce their poor self-image.

These are the last people a “gal-boy” should be associating with if prison safety and security is taken seriously.

Maybe this factored into why Stafford Creek began implementing policies and practices embracing gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex prisoners.

It began last November when an LGBTI Support Group was formed with the blessing of the Associate Superintendent, Jeneva Cotton.

According to the original flyer, the purpose of the group was to foster “a supportive and educational environment” and “provide a safe platform for open dialogue about topics such as Gender Identity, Stigmas, Spirituality, Resources, Self-Acceptance [and] Incarceration.”

This group is now dubbed the “Community,” and one of the ground rules is to “Have Each Other’s Back.”

In the nine months since the Community began to meet regularly there have been noticeable changes throughout the facility.

LGBTI prisoners have been seen to wear pants so tight that—were any other prisoner wearing them—they would be rushed to the clothing room to receive pants that are looser fitting.

The appearance of some prisoners has been altered dramatically by the plucking of eyebrows and application of homemade rouge on cheeks.

Sports bras have been issued and some at times are obviously stuffed with…something.

And correctional officers can be made to perform “modified” pat searches if a prisoner proclaims her gender non-conformity.

Make no mistake about it: This is a social experiment under the auspices of Stafford Creek Superintendent Margaret Gilbert.

While many believe these changes are predicated on the whim of highly-placed sympathizers within the state Department of Corrections (DOC), they’re actually rooted in pre-existing policies and legislative decrees.

One of the purposes of punishment in the State of Washington is to “offer the offender an opportunity to improve himself or herself.” The Legislature has also mandated that the correctional system should treat all prisoners “fairly and equitably.”

Over the years, such dictates have led to accommodations being made for prisoners besides those who are marginalized due to their sexual identity.

For instance, there was a time when African-American hair products were not sold within the DOC system, but the Black Prisoners’ Caucus successfully advocated for Afrocentric conditioners and hair grease.

Non-Christian faiths are given the freedom to practice their religions even when correctional officials have reason to believe the “religion” is simply a front for a security threat group

Muslim prisoners can even be seen every Friday at Stafford Creek wearing religious garb to their prayer service.

Ironically, many of the very prisoners who have the freedom to express their minority cultures and non-conventional religious ideologies are staunchly opposed to LGBTI prisoners having a Community with the stated vision of creating “A Positive, Pro-Social Environment that Nurtures Acceptance, Individuality & Equality.”

Grumbling aside, I seriously doubt that Associate Superintendent Cotton and other administrators at Stafford Creek are simply hell bent on enforcing political correctness. There is actually an argument to be made that such policies and practices further the goal of rehabilitation.

It all comes down to programming.

According to researchers Keith O’Brian and Sarah Lawrence of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, job training, vocation educational programs, and work release “produce modest but statistically significant reductions in recidivism.”

Yet as Michael Lovaglia notes in his book, “Knowing People: The Personal Use of Social Psychology, “Depression creates profound problems in the social functioning of those who suffer from it, more so than any other psychiatric disorders.”

My fence-climbing, transgender classmate’s experience demonstrates quite clearly how prisoners’ desire to take advantage of program opportunities can be inhibited when they feel alone, isolated, and are struggling with their sexual identity in a hyper-masculine subculture that views them contemptuously.

Without such programming (or the ability to do so effectively), there will not be “statistically significant reductions in recidivism” for prisoners who are marginalized due to their sexual identities.

The DOC in Washington State also has an avowed commitment “to non-discrimination in offender programming” and seeks to “prevent discrimination from occurring by identifying practices and procedures that could have the effect of discrimination and take steps to eliminate the potential for discrimination.”

So, for those who believe that allowing stuffed sports bras, plucked eye brows, and tight slacks is going too far simply to make some “weirdos” feel adjusted enough to program effectively—you should know that the DOC is directed to “positively impact offenders” and the Legislature believes “[a]ll citizens, the public and inmates alike, have a personal [ ] obligation in the corrections system.”

In light of all this, my suggestion to the dissenters inside prison is this: Bite your tongue and consider your acquiescence a fulfillment of your personal obligation to the correctional system.

If you feel differently, go ahead and say or do the wrong thing and I promise that you will feel the full wrath of bureaucracy.

Or maybe not.

Jeremiah Bourgeois

Soon there will be a new regime at Stafford Creek when Margaret Gilbert retires on September 15.

In Gilbert’s farewell message she wrote, “Every time you make a decision to do the right thing you’re creating a future. Every time you make a bad decision it affects someone else.”

Only time will tell what the future will bring for LGBTI prisoners at Stafford Creek.

Jeremiah Bourgeois is a regular contributor to TCR, and an inmate in Washington State, where he is currently serving 25 years to life for a crime committed when he was 14. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Judge Goes Easy on Rich Political Donor

     Multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal was charged with 45 felony counts for a vicious incident where he allegedly punched and kicked his girlfriend 117 times and attempted to smother her. After a judge ruled the video footage taken from Chahal’s bedroom inadmissible in court and Chahal’s girlfriend withdrew her testimony, he pleaded guilty to two charges–one of domestic violence battery and one of battery.

     His punishment was a mere 25 hours of community service, three years of probation and a 52-hour education course on domestic violence….Chahal is a prominent donor to Democratic causes and has visited the White House on two occasions since 2011 to meet with President Obama….

     The California girlfriend beater has given over $108,000 to Democratic campaigns and causes since 2011….Chahal made his millions through online advertising start-ups and is currently CEO of RadiumOne, a company that reportedly earns $100 million a year. He was once named one of America’s “most eligible bachelors,” and was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2008….

Scott Greer, “Major Democratic Donor Pleades Guilty to Domestic Abuse, Only Receives Community Service,” The Daily Caller, April 24, 2014 

     Multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal was charged with 45 felony counts for a vicious incident where he allegedly punched and kicked his girlfriend 117 times and attempted to smother her. After a judge ruled the video footage taken from Chahal's bedroom inadmissible in court and Chahal's girlfriend withdrew her testimony, he pleaded guilty to two charges--one of domestic violence battery and one of battery.

     His punishment was a mere 25 hours of community service, three years of probation and a 52-hour education course on domestic violence….Chahal is a prominent donor to Democratic causes and has visited the White House on two occasions since 2011 to meet with President Obama….

     The California girlfriend beater has given over $108,000 to Democratic campaigns and causes since 2011….Chahal made his millions through online advertising start-ups and is currently CEO of RadiumOne, a company that reportedly earns $100 million a year. He was once named one of America's "most eligible bachelors," and was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2008….

Scott Greer, "Major Democratic Donor Pleades Guilty to Domestic Abuse, Only Receives Community Service," The Daily Caller, April 24, 2014 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Can We Cut Probation Caseloads by 50 Percent?

Observations So the bottom line is that we can “manage” the probation population by limiting interactions. But unlike the advocates, I’m not going to tell you that it’s without a risk to public safety. The bottom line is that people caught up in criminal activity tend to continue their offending. The American criminal justice system […]

Observations So the bottom line is that we can “manage” the probation population by limiting interactions. But unlike the advocates, I’m not going to tell you that it’s without a risk to public safety. The bottom line is that people caught up in criminal activity tend to continue their offending. The American criminal justice system […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Breaking Good: How to Heal a Life Spent Behind Bars

Most prisoners on the verge of release focus on how to get back on their feet. But finding ways to contribute to the community matters much more—and ensures that they will never return to prison, writes a Washington State inmate on the eve of his parole hearing.

On August 15, I had my first parole hearing.

I have been confined since 1992.  At the age of 14, I murdered a convenience-store owner and wounded his business partner after one of the men finished testifying against my then-15-year-old brother.  Several months earlier, my brother had shot the man I later killed, along with another of the store’s co-owners.

In the 25 years since, I’ve obtained a college education, I have written in academic journals, and I am a regular columnist for The Crime Report.  I intend to earn my master’s degree if the parole board sets me free.  My brother (who spent four years in a juvenile detention facility for his crimes) is now a mortgage broker, a homeowner, a devoted father, and a little league coach.

Our lives illustrate that prisoners do not have to be defined by the commission of (even heinous) crimes.

As for the victims, there is no happy ending.

Those who survived the shootings were forced to abandon their convenience store. The American Dream that they pursued after immigrating to this country from war-torn Eritrea was gone.  While I was engaged in college studies, the murder victim’s family decided to return to East Africa rather than remain in America’s inner city.

Their lives powerfully illustrate victimization.

No matter my remorse and personal reform, I cannot undo this tragedy. This truth often brings the following question to my mind: What do I owe society in the event that I am freed?

I rarely hear this question posed behind prison walls.

I have watched countless men serve lengthy sentences, and the prevailing sentiment is that their imprisonment satisfies the “debt” owed to society. They believe that one’s loss of liberty serves to wipe the slate clean.

Typically, the most positive thing that I hear men express as their release dates approach is a commitment to be a “square” and make a living by working legitimately.

They pledge to forsake friends who are still “in the game,” and vow they’ll no longer abuse drugs—or rather, to only smoke marijuana occasionally.

They desire to have a relationship with a “solid female” and want to raise a family.

All of this is a perfectly fine strategy for not becoming a recidivist. But why should crime desistance be the sole measure of rehabilitation and successful reintegration?

Why do so many prisoners give little heed to the notion of restoration?

It is true that making amends to the victims of violent crimes is—all too often—impossible to achieve.  Still, there are countless ways in which we can try to improve the communities where we caused so much pain and suffering.

Last year at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Matthew Emerzian, the founder of a California-based not-for-profit group called Every Monday Matters, illuminated ways that people can make positive changes in their community. He has carried his message of achieving positive change by setting goals every Monday of the year (“52 Mondays”) across the country to get citizens involved in his cause.

But this was the first time he had relayed it to a group of people locked away in a penitentiary.

After receiving a poignant letter from a prisoner at Stafford Creek, Emerzian pulled the necessary strings to give a presentation about his life and his program to approximately 100 men seated attentively in the visiting room.

I was among them.

On that day, we learned that the mission of Every Monday Matters is to get people to take “personal responsibility to make a difference. To matter—one day, one action at a time,” Emerzian explained.

He also summarized the 2007 book he co-authored with Kelly Bozza, which highlights “the benefits of your actions and the collective actions of many” and provides “a specific plan for exactly what you can do and where you can go to make a difference.”

Emerzian had never been imprisoned.  Still, his personal narrative on how his wealth and success could not inoculate him against depression, and that his efforts to make a difference brought new meaning to his life, was certainly compelling.

However, I must admit that I felt his message was empty rhetoric in the confines of a prison environment. In my experience, prisoners who seek to change this community find themselves transformed for the worse. They become consumed by frustration and despair.

As I sat quietly in the room, I began to feel unease when I saw the enraptured looks on the faces of the prison administrators who were listening.

I saw how easy this program could be hijacked—if Emerzian was seduced by the DOC—and morph into something purported to be reformative but devoid of transformational qualities.

This is no conspiracy theory.

Behind the pretense of rehabilitation, the object of prison is retribution and incapacitation, both of which are accomplished through coercion and compulsion. I wasn’t the only one who was skeptical.  As one commentator on the restorative justice concept noted, there are reasons to doubt whether a “constructive ethos” can be integrated “within a punishment-based social institution such as a prison.”

Such projects are often a foil “used to add legitimacy to an institution which remains essentially punitive,” according to Odillo Vidoni Guidoni, who was involved in creating a restorative justice program at a prison in Italy.

With such thoughts running through my mind as I listened to Emerzian and bore witness to administrative glee, I decided to tune out the subsequent brainstorm session on ways to transform Stafford Creek into a community where, hereto, “Every Monday Matters.”  The entire notion seemed pretentious and ridiculous.

I was having none of it.

A year later, Emerzian’s creed has come back to me and I now see the importance of his message.

My change of heart was prompted when a member of the parole board asked me during my hearing, “If you could say anything to the son of the man that you killed, what would you tell him?”

The question shook me.

I doubt that I will ever forget the feelings of self-loathing and grief that flooded me as I answered the question.

These are the emotions that I have tried mightily to subsume despite my remorse for my crimes.

As these feelings overwhelmed me I came to see why prisoners readily accept the proposition that one’s loss of liberty sets things right, for embracing this fiction is nepenthe to relieve the troubled psyche.

Pragmatically, I agree that it seems sensible for prisoners on the verge of release to focus their attention on how to get back on their feet, rather than bettering their community given the impediments to reentry.

But staying free and making a difference are not mutually exclusive.

Nor is devoting oneself to being a “square” from here forward the sole prescription for avoiding recidivism.

It may not be a novel concept, but I have come to believe that developing a social conscience can go a long way towards reducing the risk of re-offending. In fact, putting it into practice is not as difficult as it may seem.

Emerzian and Bozza highlight “52 Mondays to make a difference” by doing things as simple as donating blood, planting a tree, or treating the homeless with dignity. Some might think this is corny, but it’s a useful way to avoid  the mindset that leads two out of three former prisoners to return to the penitentiary.

When one endeavors to do something positive for society it inculcates morality. In so doing, a former prisoner’s likelihood of reoffending diminishes because he or she sees the value of being a benefit to his community.

At least that’s my theory. I hope to one day practice what I’m preaching.

The parole board will determine my destiny by September 15, 2017.  If given the opportunity to be freed, I will indeed make Every Monday Matter.

Jeremiah Bourgeois

It is the least I can do for society.

For my humanity.

I have left many victims in my wake. As have countless others behind bars. We all have a moral imperative to try to forge justice from the injustices we commit.

A weekly activity aimed at making “a difference in a small but significant way” can accomplish more than Emerzian originally conceived.  For someone like me, it is one of the few ways to make amends for all my wrongdoing.

Jeremiah Bourgeois is a regular contributor to TCR, and an inmate in Washington State, where he is currently serving 25 years to life for a crime committed when he was 14. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Timothy Tyler’s Small Crime, Big Sentence

    In 1991, 22-year-old Timothy Tyler, an avid user of the hallucinogenic drug LSD, was a so-called “Deadhead” who traveled the country attending Grateful Dead concerts. That year, while en route to a rock concert in California, DEA agents a…

    In 1991, 22-year-old Timothy Tyler, an avid user of the hallucinogenic drug LSD, was a so-called "Deadhead" who traveled the country attending Grateful Dead concerts. That year, while en route to a rock concert in California, DEA agents arrested Tyler on the charge of conspiracy to possess LSD with the intent to distribute.

     Tyler, from his home in Florida, had mailed an out-of-state friend five grams of the drug. As it turned out, the friend had become a DEA snitch. Tyler had been arrested twice before on LSD charges. On both of these occasions the judge had sentenced him to probation.

     In 1986, five years before Tyler's third LSD arrest, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act that contained a "three strikes and you're out" provision. Under the new federal sentencing guidelines, judges, without regard to a defendant's age, lack of violent crime record, mental state, or drug addiction, were required to impose a sentence of life without parole on a defendant's third drug conviction.

     Under the 1986 Anti-Drug Act, prosecutors were supposed to use the law to bring down major drug traffickers. Instead, as could be predicted, prosecutors went after low-level drug offenders like Timothy Tyler. Federal prosecutors did this because it was easy, and made them look like real crime-fighters. (The three strikes and you're out sentencing provision is no longer in effect.)

     The federal prosecutor in Florida offered Tyler a plea bargain. If he agreed to testify against his co-defendants, Tyler would go to prison for ten years. Since his father was one of the co-defendants in the case, Tyler turned down the deal. Unfortunately for  him, his public defender attorney failed to inform him of the mandatory life without parole sentence for three-time losers. Tyler pleaded guilty, but refused to testify against the others. When he learned of the mandatory life sentence law, he tried to withdraw his guilty plea but it was too late.

     In 1992, a federal district judge imprisoned Tyler to life without parole. His father was handed a lesser sentence and died in prison on April 2001. Tyler is currently serving his time at the federal prison in Waymart, Pennsylvania in the northeastern corner of the state.

     On April 23, 2014, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole announced proposed changes to the presidential clemency criteria. Pursuant to the new policy, clemency could be granted to persons who meet the following conditions: The clemency applicant must be a low-level, nonviolent offender without a significant criminal history. If convicted today for the same offense, the modern sentence would be shorter than the one imposed. To be eligible for clemency under the new policy, the applicant must also have served at least ten years of his sentence, and his prison record must reflect good conduct.

     The clemency policy announcement has given Timothy Tyler some hope that he might not spend the rest of his life behind bars for mailing five grams of LSD in 1991.

   

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Ban the Box Isn’t Working for Ex-Offenders

Observation Ban the box isn’t working, but few want to train offenders for employment self-sufficiency or issue them certificates of rehabilitation. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s […]

Observation Ban the box isn’t working, but few want to train offenders for employment self-sufficiency or issue them certificates of rehabilitation. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Ending ‘Death Culture’ for Prison Workers

Employees of the nation’s prisons and jails face significant physical and mental health issues. Experts gathered for a second time at a national symposium to collect more data and develop solutions for worker problems.

In 2003, Mike Van Patten had come to the end of his road. His marriage of 19
years was over.

He was sitting on the floor in his kitchen, a partly empty bottle of gin by his side, tears
running down his face and a loaded 9 mm Smith & Wesson pistol in his hand.

He was ready to end his life as a longtime corrections officer at the Oregon State
Penitentiary in Salem. He believed he could no longer cope with the intense, daily challenges of his job and the failures of his personal life.

Had his 17-year-old son Trevor not walked into the house and found his father about to
shoot himself through head, Van Patten would not be the model corrections officer he is today.

He is a sergeant working at a minimum-security prison who has helped design
programs for his peers that include exercise, openly talking about stressful events and treating inmates with more respect.

“I’ve developed a program for department coordinators to help the staff,” Van Patten
said. “If we can save one person [from suicide], we have done what we could….If we make this stuff stick, they will do all right.”

Ann Jacobs, director of the Prison Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice, emphasized that while suicide is an attention-getting issue for thousands of corrections officers in the United States, managers of corrections institutions must detect many other problems long before suicide becomes an apparent choice.

High Stress Jobs

Mental and physical health problems among corrections officers span the spectrum from mild depression to suicide and high blood pressure to heart attacks because dealing with inmates is intense work that can require exceptional people skills. Moreover, such demands as mandatory overtime cause additional stress on officers and their families.
Yet no one in the field of corrections seems to know the extent of the problems, nor does much rigorous research data exist.

Nine years into his second marriage, Oregon’s Van Patten said he and his wife have learned to talk about issues he brings home. Trevor, his son from his first marriage, has followed his father into corrections.

“He and his wife openly discuss his issues and his work,” said Van Patten, who said he
never talked with his first wife about the stressful events that happened in his days at the
penitentiary.

Van Patten told his story to a reporter after a version of it was shown on a video screen to about 50 state corrections officials and officers, federal officials and scholars at the second National Symposium on Correctional Workers Health. The video was one of the more compelling moments of the symposium.

The session was held at the St. Louis University Law School in advance of the annual conference of the American Correctional Association (ACA), which concludes Tuesday in St. Louis.

“The ACA conference is how we spread the word” about the necessity of finding ways to
counter the mental and physical health issues that corrections officers face, said Colette Peters, director of the Oregon Department of Corrections since 2012.

Organizers said the symposium’s intent was to build awareness among corrections
professionals about the mental and physical health issues that confront corrections officers in daily contact with inmates.

In an interview, Peters said her agency has been working for several years to create a different culture among its 4,500 employees, administrative as well as
front-line corrections officers.

Words like “offender,” “inmate” and “prisoner” are not used.

Instead, the man or woman in prison is an “adult in custody.”

“We hire corrections professionals,” she said. “Guards stand in the corner. We want our
corrections offices to follow the three Rs: be a role model, reinforce positive behavior and
redirect negatives.”

A litany of common problems cited by corrections officers was recited by several speakers. They include high blood pressure and hypertension, obesity, depression, inability to communicate with spouses and partners, and inability to communicate with peers, superiors and “adults in custody.”

Caterina Spinaris is a clinical psychologist who founded Desert Waters Correctional Outreach, a non-profit corporation that promotes “the occupational, personal and family well-being of the corrections workforce” through “evidence-informed resources, solutions and support.”

In an interview, she termed prison environments throughout the United States a “death
culture” for employees.

“Desensitized to Death”

“They are almost desensitized to death,” Spinaris said. “There is a culture of ‘toughness.’
It’s a culture of false resilience and of avoidance and denial. There is a relative lack of effective coping skills,” meaning corrections officers often are not trained to function in a healthy manner in their jobs.

That problem is compounded, she said, when prisons are located in rural areas where both jobs and professionals who can help corrections officers are scarce.

Many corrections officers have large gun and knife collections in their homes, which makes firearms easy to use if an officer feels he has reached the end of the road and has no way out except to take his own life, Spinaris said, adding that, “Some have guns in every room.”

She developed and expanded her interest and research in the mental and physical
health of corrections officers because they kept coming into her office for counseling.

Asked how long it takes to change the culture of a prison work force, Spinaris referred to
a lack of objective data that was theme throughout the symposium: More hard data, gleaned through research and supported by federal and foundation grants, are needed for the professionals to be able to make long-term, concrete proposals to create positive results for corrections employees.

In a 28-page brochure published in 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center stated: “There is very little research on the prevalence and effectiveness of correctional officer wellness programs. Both the American Correctional Association and the National Institute of Justice have published guidelines for the development of [correctional officer] wellness programs but neither is evidence-based.”

No one ventured a guess as to how long it would take to change the work environments
and cultures of hundreds of prisons and jails in the United States. “I know of a small probation office where it took 10 years,” Spinaris said.

Repps Hudson is a veteran newspaperman and freelance writer in St. Louis who is an adjunct at local universities. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Governors Face Up to Criminal Justice Reform

The DOJ’s “Face to Face” program launched Monday will bring governors and other top state officials together with inmates and corrections officers. The program, organized by the Council of State Governments Justice Center is aimed at encouraging criminal justice policy makers to talk directly to those affected by their actions.

Critics say that criminal justice policy often is made without much regard for some of the people who will be affected by it.

Some politicians call for “tough on crime” sentences, for example, with no apparent recognition that those convicted of crimes will end up serving long terms behind bars with little real hope of rehabilitation.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG) has started a project to remedy that aspect of policymaking.

With the help of a U.S. Justice Department grant, CSG is arranging for governors and other top officials in states, where most criminal justice policy originates, to meet with inmates, correctional staff members and crime victims.

The “Face to Face” project starts Monday with events involving three governors. They will be joined between now and Aug. 23 by five other governors, a lieutenant governor and a state attorney general.

Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), who has led an extensive criminal justice reform effort in his state, said in a statement issued by CSG, “I have learned through my own experience that criminal justice policy decisions are best made when they prioritize the needs and challenges of the people they ultimately impact.”

Then-President Barack Obama took part in a similar activity in July 2015, when he visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma, where he spoke to inmates. He apparently was the first chief executive to tour a federal prison.

Another participant in the CSG project, Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT), suggested that if more officials spoke directly with inmates, they would not take “a distant and hard line approach with respect to corrections and public safety policy.”

Malloy urged “a more thoughtful approach to criminal justice policy that focuses not only on data and numbers but also the people behind those numbers.”

The project is issuing a list of “potential action items” for officials to pursue after they meet with inmates and corrections officers. They include things like eliminating occupational licensing restrictions for those with criminal records and addressing the well being of corrections system employees.

The Association of State Correctional Administrators, the organization of state prison directors, is taking part in the project. Its director, Kevin Kempf, said, “The job of a corrections professional is immensely challenging, and often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Other organizations taking part include the National Reentry Resource Center, JustLeadershipUSA, and the National Center for Victims of Crime.

JustLeadershipUSA was founded by Glenn E. Martin, who served six years in a New York prison. He said, “Incarcerated people and those returning from prison or jail face statutory and practical obstacles that are often misunderstood. There’s no better way to inform our leaders of these issues than connecting face to face.”

The events scheduled so far by the project are these:

Monday

  • Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT) meets with advocates for victims of crime and ex-inmates.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) meets with former prisoners now in a “transitional house.”
  • Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) works with corrections officers in a prison.
  • Attorney General Mike DeWine (R-OH) visits a mental health facility in a maximum security prison.

Tuesday

  • Attorney General DeWine visits women in a pre-release program, and volunteers.
  • Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) meets with inmates in an employment-focused reentry program.
  • Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) meets with incarcerated women and prison staff.

Wednesday

  • Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) meets with incarcerated women.
  • Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R-WI) meets with inmates.

Friday

  • Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) has lunch with former inmates and their families.

August 23

  • Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) speaks about his interactions with parolees at the premiere of a film on the challenges of serving on community supervision.

For more information, see the project’s website .

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Matters and Washington bureau Chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Top Months for Violent and Property Crime

Subtitle June and warm weather months have the most crime. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. […]

Subtitle June and warm weather months have the most crime. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. […]

from http://www.crimeinamerica.net