Children of the Incarcerated Face Multiple Traumas: Study

A West Virginia researcher calls them “prisoners of fate” and argues that “Family Impact Statements” assessing the health and psychological effect of a parent’s imprisonment should be mandatory in pre-sentencing reports.

Children whose parents are incarcerated are the “invisible victims of mass incarceration,” and judges and corrections authorities need to pay special attention to the emotional trauma and financial burdens they encounter, argues a new paper in the Maryland Law Review.

Amy B. Cyphert, author of the study, and a lecturer at the West Virginia University College of Law Lecturer, said research offered several pathways that provided a “ray of hope” for young people when one or both parents was behind bars.

Providing a more “positive experience”  during the visits of children to the facilities where a parent was held has also been shown to reduce recidivism rates among offenders, she wrote.  According to Cyphert, children often resist going to facilities because of the stigma involved.

Cyphert recommended that judges in the federal system order that “Family Impact Statements” be included into a defendant’s presentence report, using what she described as “a heretofore largely unused ‘catchall provision’ of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.”

The author admitted that such impact statements, which provide information that assesses  the “financial, social, psychological, and medical impact on the defendant’s family, especially any minor children,” have encountered resistance from some who might see them as a means of allowing offenders to escape responsibility for their crimes.

But she noted that “states that have adopted the practice, even on a trial basis, have reported encouraging results,” citing for example New York.

Cyphert said it was crucial to keep in mind that despite committing no crime, children of the incarcerated face deteriorating physical and psychological health, and problems at school, which are reflected in high rates of asthma, obesity, depression and anxiety.

More worryingly, childhood traumas may in turn lay the seeds for increased risk in adulthood for drug abuse, unemployment and involvement with the justice system itself.

Cyphert recommended that authorities consider extending visitation hours for children and partnering with nonprofit organizations to solve logistical issues like transportation to prison.

In a criminal justice system disproportionately represented by black, impoverished and minority groups, the statistics regarding their children are similarly disproportionate.

Between 1980 and 2000, the number of children with a father in prison rose by 500 percent, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation policy report in 2016.  This is consistent with the increase in prison population in the United States.

The statistics paint a bleak picture.  Black children are 7.5 times more likely, and Hispanic children 2.6 times more likely than white children to have a parent in prison, the study said.

Cyphert noted the “very obvious conclusion” that having an incarcerated parent negatively impacts all aspects of a child’s wellbeing and development. Often, a family’s finances suffer as well. The lost parental income, court-related fines and fees, and prison transportation costs create strains on families.

She wrote that there were rare cases in which a parent’s incarceration may be beneficial, for instance if they come from  homes where there is abuse or neglect.

Beyond the financial burdens, some children are separated from families when parental rights are terminated. One out of every five children entering the U.S. welfare system has an incarcerated parent.

“Although these children are blameless, policy makers, judges, and prison officials in charge of visitation policies have largely overlooked them,” Cyphert wrote.

The full article can be accessed here.

Lauren Sonnenberg is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Uphill Road to Prisoners’ Rights

Extralegal violence against inmates has diminished as prisoners gained standing under U.S. law, but courts, lawmakers and prison administrators have carefully limited civil rights of the incarcerated⸺ushering in what some advocates call the modern era of hygienic, systematized and lawful cruelty.

In the fall of 2010, a 12-year-old was in a fight at her middle school in northern Mississippi.

The police officer assigned to the school as a School Resource Officer arrested her for simple assault and brought her to the local juvenile jail. A guard there patted her down by hand, and then went over her with a metal detector wand.

Because she was booked for a “violent” offense, the jail’s rules also required a cavity search. The girl had to take off all her clothes, bend over, spread her butt apart, and cough, so the guard could check if she had contraband hidden in her rectum. The guard didn’t find anything.

In 2013, the girl’s mother sued the county over the cavity search, alleging it violated her daughter’s civil rights. She had a straightforward case: Cavity-searching children harms them psychologically—the girl had never even been naked in front of her doctor without her mother present, their lawyer said.

Considering the girl’s jailers admitted they didn’t suspect that she was hiding anything in her rectum, that harm seemed unjustifiable.

The notion that prisoners have rights is a relatively new development in the U.S. Until the 1960s, incarcerated individuals had effectively no constitutional protections. But over the ensuing two decades, extralegal violence against inmates began to diminish as prisoners gained standing under the law.

But courts, lawmakers and prison administrators have carefully limited inmates’ civil rights in the years since, ushering in the modern era of hygienic, systematized and lawful cruelty, as some see it.

The Mississippi county authorities argued they had the right to make and enforce the rules at their jail. After all, the cavity search wasn’t arbitrary or malicious. It was protocol for anyone detained on charges of violence, drug possession or theft. The jail dealt with dangerous people. The administrators had a responsibility to protect their inmates from themselves and each other.

“A razor blade is a razor blade is a razor blade, whether it’s concealed in the anus of an adult or whether it’s concealed in the anus of a child,” said the county’s lawyer. “That razor blade can still slash somebody’s jugular vein.”

Courts have a long tradition of hostility to prisoners’ rights.

In 1871, a court ruled that a citizen was a “slave of the state” for the duration of his or her prison sentence. Later rulings softened in tone, though not substance.

As a rule, judges refused to intervene in the affairs of prisons, and their various legal rationales were collectively known as the Hands-Off Doctrine. A judgment from 1951, for example, conceded that there was a good chance the old coal stove in the inmates’ dormitory of an Alaskan jail would set the building on fire and burn them alive. But it went on to dismiss the claim that the conditions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The judge justified his ruling, in part, by comparing the inmates’ circumstances to the suffering of American soldiers who were then serving in combat in Korea.

The broader civil rights movement spurred change, together with the activism, riots and lawsuits of people in prison. A seminal case in Texas, for instance, exposed heinous overcrowding and the torture of prisoners. Other cases rounded out prisoners’ rights to free speech, to practice their religion, and to access the courts, among other things.

But the progressiveness of those rulings was inextricable from the barbarity they were overturning, Lisa Kerr, an expert in prison law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. explained in an interview.

Almost as soon as medieval abuses, such as the dark, disease-ridden cells and the use of prisoners as guards, were uncovered, courts, lawmakers and prison administrators began building new ways to deny rights to people in prison.

In the Mississippi girl’s case, the county’s lawyer had a powerful argument grounded in decades of precedent: Courts owe prison administrators “wide-ranging deference.” People in cages may have rights, the principle goes, but only if they don’t interfere with administrators’ “herculean” work of maintaining order and encouraging rehabilitation.

Judges regularly imply that prison officials deal with monstrous people (read: jugular-slashing children with razors in their rectums). As a result, they give the officials special latitude to do their work—so long as they stay within a constitutional, rules-based “penal philosophy.”

But that check on administrators, the requirement that they run their prisons constitutionally, is often meaningless. The courts weigh restrictions on prisoners’ rights against the need to run the prison effectively. But the deck is stacked: courts also justify those same restrictions based on the need to run the prison effectively.

It’s circular logic under which rights almost always lose out to restrictions.

Administrators also take matters into their own hands. In one notorious case, a California prison facing a lawsuit staged a riot during the judge’s tour of the facility, to encourage him to see it in a more terrifying light.

On a subtler level, prison officials often make it hard to assess whether their rights-restricting rules actually work, because they don’t keep records that would serve up measurable evidence. For example, it’s not an accident that there’s so little data on the effect solitary confinement has on safety in U.S. prisons.

When there’s no hard evidence, prison officials’ “expertise” reliably wins by default. Sometimes, even facing evidence that a prison’s rules aren’t justified, they still win.

F.T. Greem

F.T. Green

The cavity searches at that Mississippi jail had literally never turned up anything that a wand and a pat-down didn’t find, according to court records, which seemed to undermine the argument that they served a legitimate purpose.

But the court still ruled last year for the jailers, who now have a constitutional blessing to force 12-year-olds to strip, bend over, spread their butts, and cough.

American penal policies make sense if prisoners are monsters. If not, they’re just making monsters out of their jailers. History suggests it’s the latter.

Editor’s Note: Identifying details of the Mississippi school case have been omitted from the story to protect the girl’s identity.

F.T. Green is a reporter in Toronto. His website is ftgreen.xyz. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Taking a Leap’ to More Humane Incarceration

TRUE, a pilot program at a maximum security facility in Connecticut, offers prisoners a path back to normalcy, with educational programs and schedules they help devise. It’s one of several innovative experiments in changing correctional practices that reformers hope will change the face of U.S. prisons.

“We’re taking a leap,” said Scott Erfe, the warden of the super-max Cheshire Correctional Institution in central Connecticut.

The inmates seem to agree the leap is worthwhile.

In a live-streamed interview Wednesday, young men who have been living most of this year in a special, insular unit where they can choose their own clothes, prepare their own meals, develop case plans with goals for education and employment, and are encouraged to have visits and contact with family, said the program had given them new confidence and changed their lives.

“I want to make true changes in myself and help others make changes,” said Chris Belcher, one of the young men taking part in the TRUE program at Cheshire.

“A mentor once started crying when she was visiting, and it immediately just made me feel that someone actually cared about me. That makes a big difference. Being able to become vulnerable meant a lot to me. It helped me keep doing what I’m doing.”

A prison mentor, TRUE resident Jermaine Young, agreed.

“It’s about teaching (an inmate) to be a human being again….If you’re treated like an animal long enough, you’re going to start acting like an animal.”

The TRUE program, supported by the Vera Institute of Justice, is one of a handful of experiments around the U.S. to change correctional practices.

Dannel Malloy

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. Photo by Graham Kates/The Crime Report

“We tend to look at prison as a punishment vehicle and we should exact the highest possible price,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said at a John Jay conference Wednesday that featured the livestream broadcast from Cheshire.

“If we could change that dynamic in the United States, then we would have less crime, lower rates of recidivism, and we could really turn lives around.”

The conference was held to highlight a major report issued by Vera Wednesday, entitled “Reimagining Prison,” which called for transformative changes in both correctional practices and prison design.

“The fundamental experience of people who currently live and work behind prison walls remains one of isolation and hardship, of which the public is generally and wrongly tolerant,” said Nicholas Turner, Vera’s president.

“We’ve lost generations to a modern incarceration system, designed to degrade and dehumanize and to extend racial oppression. But a radical change is possible—and, in some places, it’s already here.”

In Connection, before being accepted into TRUE, many of the men, aged 18 to 25, lived 22 hours a day in their cells in a super-max long nicknamed “the Rock.”

When asked why Cheshire was chosen for the TRUE unit, co-developed and sponsored by the Vera Institute, one staffer said that family members being able to get to the prison, located in central Connecticut, was a factor. Some 58 men have participated, working with 12 mentors along with prison staff.

“Corrections is a black and white world,” said Erfe, the Cheshire warden. “TRUE is in the gray area.”

(L-R) inmates Jermaine Young, Chris Belcher, Cheshire Correctional Institution Warden Scott Erfe . Photo courtesy John Jay.

There have been no incidents of violence in the TRUE unit since it launched 18 months ago, and the program is expanding to a women’s prison in Connecticut and a jail with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts.

At the conference, Cheshire’s warden and other staff talked about the need to develop new ways to incarcerate people—and to change the sometimes toxic dynamic between staff and prisoners.

“I’ve seen for myself a staffer working 20 years, getting his retirement, but unable to even enjoy it because of all the deep stress,” said Erfe.

karol mason

John Jay President Karol Mason and Vera President Nick Turner. Photo courtesy John Jay

In her opening remarks, John Jay President Karol Mason praised the education emphasis in the TRUE unit and running through the Vera report.

In John Jay classes taught to prison residents, she said, when a teacher asks a question, “every hand goes up.”

The idea for TRUE was born from a visit to Germany by Connecticut correctional leaders and Vera Institute officials. They said they were struck by the fact that human dignity within the German prisons is paramount, often attributed to the country coming to terms with its creation and perpetuation of the Holocaust.

Recidivism rates are far lower in Germany than in U.S.

“Vera’s whole concept on how to reimagine prison was spurred by a trip we took to Germany,” confirmed Turner.

“We saw that their system was rooted in human dignity and not dehumanization. That came from confronting their original sin. We have to do that here. We haven’t.”

In the U.S., more than two million people are behind bars—the vast majority in state and local prisons.

The recent prison incident in South Carolina that left seven dead, as well as prison strikes across the country the 2016 and 2018 protesting inhumane treatment, serve as tragic wake-up calls that something is fundamentally wrong in American prisons,” according to the report, noting the historic timeline of an American prison policy that has been overtly built on slavery and the Jim Crow system.

For a summary of the report, please click here.

Nancy Bilyeau is Deputy Editor of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Teaching Inmates to ‘Be Human Again’

TRUE, a pilot program at a maximum security facility in Connecticut, offers prisoners a path back to normalcy, with educational programs and schedules they help devise. It’s one of a several innovative experiments in changing correctional practices that reformers hope will change the face of U.S. prisons.

“We’re taking a leap,” said Scott Erfe, the warden of the super-max Cheshire Correctional Institution in central Connecticut.

The inmates seem to agree the leap is worthwhile.

In a live-streamed interview Wednesday, young men who have been living most of this year in a special, insular unit where they can choose their own clothes, prepare their own meals, develop case plans with goals for education and employment, and are encouraged to have visits and contact with family, said the program had given them new confidence and changed their lives.

“I want to make true changes in myself and help others make changes,” said Chris Belcher, one of the young men taking part in the TRUE program at Cheshire.

“A mentor once started crying when she was visiting, and it immediately just made me feel that someone actually cared about me. That makes a big difference. Being able to become vulnerable meant a lot to me. It helped me keep doing what I’m doing.”

A prison mentor, TRUE resident Jermaine Young, agreed.

“It’s about teaching (an inmate) to be a human being again….If you’re treated like an animal long enough, you’re going to start acting like an animal.”

The TRUE program, supported by the Vera Institute of Justice, is one of a handful of experiments around the U.S. to change correctional practices.

“We tend to look at prison as a punishment vehicle and we should exact the highest possible price,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said at a John Jay conference Wednesday that featured the livestream broadcast from Cheshire.

“If we could change that dynamic in the United States, then we would have less crime, lower rates of recidivism, and we could really turn lives around.”

The conference was held to highlight a major report issued by Vera Wednesday, entitled “Reimagining Prison,” which called for transformative changes in both correctional practices and prison design.

“The fundamental experience of people who currently live and work behind prison walls remains one of isolation and hardship, of which the public is generally and wrongly tolerant,” said Nicholas Turner, Vera’s president.

“We’ve lost generations to a modern incarceration system, designed to degrade and dehumanize and to extend racial oppression. But a radical change is possible—and, in some places, it’s already here.”

In Connection, before being accepted into TRUE, many of the men, aged 18 to 25, lived 22 hours a day in their cells in a super-max long nicknamed “the Rock.”

When asked why Cheshire was chosen for the TRUE unit, co-developed and sponsored by the Vera Institute, one staffer said that family members being able to get to the prison, located in central Connecticut, was a factor. Some 58 men have participated, working with 12 mentors along with prison staff.

“Corrections is a black and white world,” said Erfe, the Cheshire warden. “TRUE is in the gray area.”

There have been no incidents of violence in the TRUE unit since it launched 18 months ago, and the program is expanding to a women’s prison in Connecticut and a jail with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts.

At the conference, Cheshire’s warden and other staff talked about the need to develop new ways to incarcerate people—and to change the sometimes toxic dynamic between staff and prisoners.

“I’ve seen for myself a staffer working 20 years, getting his retirement, but unable to even enjoy it because of all the deep stress,” said Erfe.

In her opening remarks, John Jay President Karol Mason praised the education emphasis in the TRUE unit and running through the Vera report.

In John Jay classes taught to prison residents, she said, when a teacher asks a question, “every hand goes up.”

The idea for TRUE was born from a visit to Germany by Connecticut correctional leaders and Vera Institute officials. They said they were struck by the fact that human dignity within the German prisons is paramount, often attributed to the country coming to terms with its creation and perpetuation of the Holocaust.

Recidivism rates are far lower in Germany than in U.S.

“Vera’s whole concept on how to reimagine prison was spurred by a trip we took to Germany,” confirmed Turner.

“We saw that their system was rooted in human dignity and not dehumanization. That came from confronting their original sin. We have to do that here. We haven’t.”

In the U.S., more than two million people are behind bars—the vast majority in state and local prisons.

The recent prison incident in South Carolina that left seven dead, as well as prison strikes across the country the 2016 and 2018 protesting inhumane treatment, serve as tragic wake-up calls that something is fundamentally wrong in American prisons,” according to the report, noting the historic timeline of an American prison policy that has been overtly built on slavery and the Jim Crow system.

For a summary of the report, please click here.

Nancy Bilyeau is Deputy Editor of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Dignity Should Be Guiding Principle of a Revamped US Prison System, says Vera

The Vera Institute of Justice called Wednesday for  “a new and fundamentally different approach to incarceration” that prioritizes respect for human dignity in a groundbreaking report that recommends radical changes to U.S. correctional practices and prison design.

America needs “a new and fundamentally different approach to incarceration” that prioritizes respect for human dignity, says the Vera Institute of Justice.

In a major report entitled “Reimagining Prison” released Wednesday, Vera outlined a blueprint for correctional authorities that would dramatically transform prison practices and design, ranging from allowing inmates to choose their own clothes to providing better health care.

“Ongoing concern about reducing the number of people in prison has not been matched by an equally forceful focus on transforming incarceration itself—an experience that has become harsher and more onerous in direct response to decades of ‘tough on crime’ political sentiment,” the report said.

Vera said its 136-page study was intended to counteract the fact that most prison reformers don’t ‘do’ conditions of confinement—“as if the lives of people equal in number to the population of Philadelphia don’t merit it.”

“Over this country’s long history of using prisons, American values of fairness and justice have been sacrificed to these institutions in the name of securing the common good of public safety,” Nicholas Turner, Vera’s president, said in his introduction to the report.

“But the harsh conditions within prisons have been demonstrated neither to ensure safety behind the walls nor to prevent crime and victimization in the community.”

According to Vera, reimagining the nation’s prison system has taken on an even higher priority because the system has remained one of the major bastions of institutionalized racism.

“It is time to acknowledge that this country has long used state punishment generally—and incarceration specifically—to subordinate racial and ethnic minorities,” the report said.

“To take a truly decisive step away from the past, America needs a new set of normative values on which to ground prison policy and practice—values that simultaneously recognize, interrogate, and unravel the heretofore persistent connections between racism and this country’s systems of punishment.”

Recommendations include:

  • providing high-quality health care on-site at the prison, equivalent to what would be provided at a walk-in clinic or other comparable community-based location, and providing for swift transportation to local hospitals in the event of more serious health issues;
  • permitting incarcerated people to make individual choices about attire, either by allowing them to wear their own clothes or by offering variety in institutionally assigned clothing, while prohibiting any type of uniform that is intended to humiliate or degrade, such as pink boxer shorts or tight, white, transparent uniforms;
  • instituting meaningful protection from physical and emotional abuse within the prison, whether perpetrated by staff or other incarcerated people, including private reporting mechanisms, access to emergency medical care following a physical or sexual assault, and access to victim support groups and long-term medical and behavioral health care; and
  • encouraging corrections staff and incarcerated people to view each other as humans worth getting to know beyond the stereotypical guard-inmate paradigm

The report said ultimate reform requires a redesign of prison architecture.

“The architecture and design of a facility impacts how incarcerated people interact with each other and the relationship between staff and those held in prison,” the study said.

“We recognize that a wholesale and immediate redesign of America’s many prisons is economically unrealistic, but a prison system that prioritizes human dignity and seeks to encourage personal relationships could renovate existing spaces or, where old buildings are crumbling or unsafe.”

The report pointed to some examples of correctional reform that have already begun in the U.S., sparked by a visit last year by leading correctional administrators to Europe.

The Missouri River Correctional Center in North Dakota, mostly used for minimum security inmates, has housing units that include up to 36 private rooms, each with toilets, showers, desks, real mattresses, and bulletin boards. Incarcerated people are free to close and lock their doors and wear civilian clothes

Pennsylvania has launched new transitional housing units where residents are given access to enhanced reentry services, more individualized need-based support, and specialized vocational programming in high-demand fields.

Since 2017, inspired by a German model, the Cheshire Correctional Institution in Connecticut has introduced the T.R.U.E. program for young adults, where cel ldoors are left open for 13 hours each day, and residents are allowed free reign to use the common space, a dedicated outdoor area, or one of many converted cells within the housing unit that serve as a library, study room, meeting room, and quiet space. At the same time, they are provided a “heavily structured” program that includes therapeutics essions, school, and life-skills programs. The program has received support from Vera.

“Prison in America continues to be a place of severe hardship for those held there—a degree of hardship that is largely inconceivable to people who have not seen or experienced it themselves or through a loved one,” said the report, arguing that it is time for a “dramatic reconsideration” of corrections.

“(The report) articulates a view that is sure to be alien to many,” the study said. “Yet we need not accept as a given the way we do things now, and we encourage you to envision a different path.”

The full report is available here, and a summary can be  downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Criminal Justice and the Supreme Court: What’s Ahead?

As President Trump prepares to announce Monday his nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, The Crime Report asks legal scholars around the country for their views on the criminal justice challenges the next Court will face.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce his nominee to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court at 9 pm (Eastern) Monday.

The new justice will have the opportunity to influence a host of criminal justice issues that have been at the center of national debate for decades—as well as some emerging ones. The Crime Report spoke with legal experts and scholars around the country to get their assessments.

Gun Rights

The Court has taken up relatively few gun cases, but judging from its rulings so far, a conservative-leaning nominee is likely to shift the majority towards a broad reading of the Second Amendment.

A nominee who is a “a very strong proponent of vigorous gun rights” makes it likelier that the Court will hear more cases that address the scope of permissible gun control, said Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown University Law School.

Three current justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito—have unsuccessfully sought to rule on more Second Amendment cases in the past. But with an amenable Trump nominee on the bench, the group would satisfy the “rule of four,” which permits four of the nine justices to grant a writ of certiorari, and would be able to add gun control cases to the docket.

One issue that the Court has left open is whether the right to bear arms extends outside the home. Barnett and Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, had little doubt that the nominee would vote against gun control measures in such cases.

“It’s safe to say that whoever is replacing Justice Kennedy is going to be very supportive of the individual right to keep and bear arms,” Barnett said.

Winkler said that the Court will soon be asked to rule on discretionary permits for concealed carry, which limit who may carry a concealed weapon in public, and on the lawfulness of bans on military-style rifles.

He predicted that the Trump nominee would vote against both measures.

If discretionary permitting were struck down, it would have a significant impact on large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, where concealed carry is under stringent restrictions.

“It would mean that a city like Los Angeles would go from about 500 people with permits to carry guns to 300,000 people with permits to carry guns,” Winkler said.

Whether a majority of justices would favor such a ruling is unclear.

“We don’t really know what Chief Justice [John] Roberts thinks about many of these issues,” said Winkler. “But Roberts has been a reliable vote in favor of a broad reading of the Second Amendment that grants an individual right in previous cases.”

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA), which is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate and would force states to honor the concealed-carry permits, or lack of permitting, of any other state, will lend deeper insight into the Trump nominee’s jurisprudence if it is voted into law and taken to the Court.

“I think the CCRA would put a Trump nominee somewhat in the crosshairs,” said Winkler. “On the one hand, it’s someone who’s probably a strong proponent of gun rights. On the other hand, it’s someone who’s likely to be an opponent of expansive federal power.”

“It’s just not certain how a Supreme Court justice would vote.”

See also: Will a Shifting Supreme Court Change the Consensus on ‘Common Sense’ Gun Laws?

Searches and Seizures

Tracey Maclin, a law professor at Boston University School of Law, expressed concern that the confirmation of Trump’s nominee might put in peril the exclusionary rule, which makes all evidence obtained by searches and seizures that violate the Fourth Amendment inadmissible in court.

Though Kennedy himself was no supporter of Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the case which applied the exclusionary rule to the states, Maclin worried that the political leanings of the new nominee, whom he was confident would oppose the exclusionary rule, might signal to prosecutors that Mapp is prime to be overturned.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if prosecutors start making arguments that Mapp should be reconsidered or Mapp should be overruled,” he said. “This would be a momentous issue. And I think there are already five votes.”

Maclin said that overruling Mapp would give law enforcement officers implicit permission to violate the Constitution in order to collect evidence.

“If you look at prior to Mapp, prior to 1961, sure, the Constitution applied to state police officers, but they were like, ‘Who cares? The evidence is coming in anyway, so we’ll do what we want to do,’” he said.

“Do we want the Court to announce rules that will incentivize police to follow the Constitution, or don’t we care about the Fourth Amendment? That’s something that could be very much on the horizon, and if it does arise, it’s going to be a big deal.”

On questions of surveillance, the new justice’s stance is more difficult to predict, according to Daniel Epps, associate professor of law at Washington University Law School.

“It’s possible that the new justice could look more like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was very deferential to government interests in the criminal sphere almost across the board,” he said. “If it’s someone like that, then unquestionably the justice will be more tolerant of government surveillance and things like that than Justice Kennedy was.”

A stauncher originalist in the mold of Justice Gorsuch, however, would be more likely to curtail surveillance in the name of privacy.

Sentencing and the Death Penalty

Trump’s nominee will likely be less receptive to Eighth Amendment challenges to harsh sentencing and the death penalty than Kennedy was.

According to Brandon Garrett, the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, Kennedy’s retirement represents a missed opportunity in terms of limiting acceptable forms of punishment.

During his tenure, Kennedy spoke out in favor of dignitary concerns—specifically, redefining rights to protect the “dignity” of persons or groups— on multiple occasions. He concurred in multiple rulings limiting the scope of the death penalty, as well as a case that granted sentencing reductions after federal sentencing guidelines changed.

“On those issues involving mass incarceration, life without parole, solitary, Kennedy was a really important voice, and there is no comparable voice on the court right now,” Garrett said.

“It’s a safe assumption that no new appointee is going to come before Congress in the confirmation hearing and say, ‘Yes, I agree with Justice Kennedy that the death penalty stands on shaky ground today in this country,’” he said.

“I just can’t imagine a Trump appointee saying that.”

The new justice will have opportunity to rule on an Eighth Amendment question in Timbs v. Indiana, an upcoming case that will resolve whether the clause of the Eighth Amendment banning excessive fines governs the states as well as the federal government.

Prison Reform

According to Washington University’s Daniel Epps, with the appointment of a Trump nominee, the Supreme Court would more frequently strike down court-mandated prison reform.

Garrett, however, had less confidence in the nominee’s potential to help or harm that cause.

“I think most of what is happening in prison reform and happening in criminal justice reform is happening at the state and local levels,” he said. “The Supreme Court has not been that relevant to many of the changes that have occurred in our criminal justice system.”

“The people who are changing the ways that prisons are run are at the local and state level, and if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the lead on some of these important criminal justice issues, then others will, and have.”

Going Forward

A number of upcoming cases will provide greater clarity about the new justice’s legal philosophy.

In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court will choose whether to overturn a long-standing doctrine permitting the federal government and state governments to each try a defendant for the same offense without violating the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“It could be really interesting to see how the new justice approaches that question,” Epps said.

Epps also expected to see challenges to qualified immunity, which governs when plaintiffs can sue police officers and other officials for violating their constitutional rights, in the near future.

“The Court has been very aggressive in limiting the ability to sue there, and there’s some good arguments that the Court has gone well beyond the original understanding of the Constitution,” he said.

“That could be very interesting and important, and a chance to see if this justice someone who is just voting reflexively in favor of law enforcement interests, or someone who has a more originalist approach that might cut in a different direction.”

All five sources were confident that the nominee would be confirmed in advance of November’s midterm elections, claiming that the perfect unity among Democrats and two Republican defections necessary to stall the confirmation hearing were unlikely.

Still, Barnett cautioned against ascribing undue influence to the likely new justice, noting that the Court’s swing vote has merely shifted from Kennedy to Roberts.

“The Supreme Court isn’t going to go any further right than Justice Roberts would have us go, and we all know that Justice Roberts is not the most conservative member of the Court,” he said.

“The court is not necessarily going to reflect the new justice’s views, because it will reflect John Roberts’ views.”

Elena Schwartz is a news intern with The Crime Report. Readers’ views are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Criminal Justice and the Supreme Court: What’s Ahead?

As President Trump prepares to announce Monday his nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, The Crime Report asks legal scholars around the country for their views on the criminal justice challenges the next Court will face.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce his nominee to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court at 9 pm (Eastern) Monday.

The new justice will have the opportunity to influence a host of criminal justice issues that have been at the center of national debate for decades—as well as some emerging ones. The Crime Report spoke with legal experts and scholars around the country to get their assessments.

Gun Rights

The Court has taken up relatively few gun cases, but judging from its rulings so far, a conservative-leaning nominee is likely to shift the majority towards a broad reading of the Second Amendment.

A nominee who is a “a very strong proponent of vigorous gun rights” makes it likelier that the Court will hear more cases that address the scope of permissible gun control, said Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown University Law School.

Three current justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito—have unsuccessfully sought to rule on more Second Amendment cases in the past. But with an amenable Trump nominee on the bench, the group would satisfy the “rule of four,” which permits four of the nine justices to grant a writ of certiorari, and would be able to add gun control cases to the docket.

One issue that the Court has left open is whether the right to bear arms extends outside the home. Barnett and Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, had little doubt that the nominee would vote against gun control measures in such cases.

“It’s safe to say that whoever is replacing Justice Kennedy is going to be very supportive of the individual right to keep and bear arms,” Barnett said.

Winkler said that the Court will soon be asked to rule on discretionary permits for concealed carry, which limit who may carry a concealed weapon in public, and on the lawfulness of bans on military-style rifles.

He predicted that the Trump nominee would vote against both measures.

If discretionary permitting were struck down, it would have a significant impact on large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, where concealed carry is under stringent restrictions.

“It would mean that a city like Los Angeles would go from about 500 people with permits to carry guns to 300,000 people with permits to carry guns,” Winkler said.

Whether a majority of justices would favor such a ruling is unclear.

“We don’t really know what Chief Justice [John] Roberts thinks about many of these issues,” said Winkler. “But Roberts has been a reliable vote in favor of a broad reading of the Second Amendment that grants an individual right in previous cases.”

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA), which is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate and would force states to honor the concealed-carry permits, or lack of permitting, of any other state, will lend deeper insight into the Trump nominee’s jurisprudence if it is voted into law and taken to the Court.

“I think the CCRA would put a Trump nominee somewhat in the crosshairs,” said Winkler. “On the one hand, it’s someone who’s probably a strong proponent of gun rights. On the other hand, it’s someone who’s likely to be an opponent of expansive federal power.”

“It’s just not certain how a Supreme Court justice would vote.”

See also: Will a Shifting Supreme Court Change the Consensus on ‘Common Sense’ Gun Laws?

Searches and Seizures

Tracey Maclin, a law professor at Boston University School of Law, expressed concern that the confirmation of Trump’s nominee might put in peril the exclusionary rule, which makes all evidence obtained by searches and seizures that violate the Fourth Amendment inadmissible in court.

Though Kennedy himself was no supporter of Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the case which applied the exclusionary rule to the states, Maclin worried that the political leanings of the new nominee, whom he was confident would oppose the exclusionary rule, might signal to prosecutors that Mapp is prime to be overturned.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if prosecutors start making arguments that Mapp should be reconsidered or Mapp should be overruled,” he said. “This would be a momentous issue. And I think there are already five votes.”

Maclin said that overruling Mapp would give law enforcement officers implicit permission to violate the Constitution in order to collect evidence.

“If you look at prior to Mapp, prior to 1961, sure, the Constitution applied to state police officers, but they were like, ‘Who cares? The evidence is coming in anyway, so we’ll do what we want to do,’” he said.

“Do we want the Court to announce rules that will incentivize police to follow the Constitution, or don’t we care about the Fourth Amendment? That’s something that could be very much on the horizon, and if it does arise, it’s going to be a big deal.”

On questions of surveillance, the new justice’s stance is more difficult to predict, according to Daniel Epps, associate professor of law at Washington University Law School.

“It’s possible that the new justice could look more like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was very deferential to government interests in the criminal sphere almost across the board,” he said. “If it’s someone like that, then unquestionably the justice will be more tolerant of government surveillance and things like that than Justice Kennedy was.”

A stauncher originalist in the mold of Justice Gorsuch, however, would be more likely to curtail surveillance in the name of privacy.

Sentencing and the Death Penalty

Trump’s nominee will likely be less receptive to Eighth Amendment challenges to harsh sentencing and the death penalty than Kennedy was.

According to Brandon Garrett, the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, Kennedy’s retirement represents a missed opportunity in terms of limiting acceptable forms of punishment.

During his tenure, Kennedy spoke out in favor of dignitary concerns—specifically, redefining rights to protect the “dignity” of persons or groups— on multiple occasions. He concurred in multiple rulings limiting the scope of the death penalty, as well as a case that granted sentencing reductions after federal sentencing guidelines changed.

“On those issues involving mass incarceration, life without parole, solitary, Kennedy was a really important voice, and there is no comparable voice on the court right now,” Garrett said.

“It’s a safe assumption that no new appointee is going to come before Congress in the confirmation hearing and say, ‘Yes, I agree with Justice Kennedy that the death penalty stands on shaky ground today in this country,’” he said.

“I just can’t imagine a Trump appointee saying that.”

The new justice will have opportunity to rule on an Eighth Amendment question in Timbs v. Indiana, an upcoming case that will resolve whether the clause of the Eighth Amendment banning excessive fines governs the states as well as the federal government.

Prison Reform

According to Washington University’s Daniel Epps, with the appointment of a Trump nominee, the Supreme Court would more frequently strike down court-mandated prison reform.

Garrett, however, had less confidence in the nominee’s potential to help or harm that cause.

“I think most of what is happening in prison reform and happening in criminal justice reform is happening at the state and local levels,” he said. “The Supreme Court has not been that relevant to many of the changes that have occurred in our criminal justice system.”

“The people who are changing the ways that prisons are run are at the local and state level, and if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the lead on some of these important criminal justice issues, then others will, and have.”

Going Forward

A number of upcoming cases will provide greater clarity about the new justice’s legal philosophy.

In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court will choose whether to overturn a long-standing doctrine permitting the federal government and state governments to each try a defendant for the same offense without violating the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“It could be really interesting to see how the new justice approaches that question,” Epps said.

Epps also expected to see challenges to qualified immunity, which governs when plaintiffs can sue police officers and other officials for violating their constitutional rights, in the near future.

“The Court has been very aggressive in limiting the ability to sue there, and there’s some good arguments that the Court has gone well beyond the original understanding of the Constitution,” he said.

“That could be very interesting and important, and a chance to see if this justice someone who is just voting reflexively in favor of law enforcement interests, or someone who has a more originalist approach that might cut in a different direction.”

All five sources were confident that the nominee would be confirmed in advance of November’s midterm elections, claiming that the perfect unity among Democrats and two Republican defections necessary to stall the confirmation hearing were unlikely.

Still, Barnett cautioned against ascribing undue influence to the likely new justice, noting that the Court’s swing vote has merely shifted from Kennedy to Roberts.

“The Supreme Court isn’t going to go any further right than Justice Roberts would have us go, and we all know that Justice Roberts is not the most conservative member of the Court,” he said.

“The court is not necessarily going to reflect the new justice’s views, because it will reflect John Roberts’ views.”

Elena Schwartz is a news intern with The Crime Report. Readers’ views are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

After Prison, Coming Home Can be the Toughest Ordeal of All

Prison is often just a stop along the road for individuals who have been struggling with victimization all their lives, says Bruce Western, author of a new book exploring returning inmates’ experiences. That’s why the justice system should rethink its approach to who it punishes—and how—he argued during a talk in New York Thursday.

Prison is often just a stop along the road for individuals who have been struggling with victimization all their lives, says Harvard sociologist Bruce Western.

Western, author of the recently released Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison, said he was shocked by the findings of his own research showing the amount of violence many inmates had experienced long before they were incarcerated.

homeward bound“In a world that is so saturated with issues of moral complexity, our criminal justice winds up piling punishment upon people who are the most disadvantaged and have very serious histories of victimization,” Western said.

Western, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy at Harvard University and a co-director of the Columbia Justice Lab, was speaking at a discussion of his book Thursday.

He was joined by Khalil Cumberbatch and Vivian Nixon, two former inmates who are among the leaders of the prison reform movement. Both said that the help available to them immediately after their release was crucial to their successful reentry to civilian society.

Vivian Nixon

Vivian Nixon

“I have a wonderful career that I love now, but it’s because I had that support when I got out,” said Nixon, executive director of the College and Community Fellowship.“And I attached that support to opportunity.”

She considers herself lucky to have had family support after serving a four-year sentence, but added it still took her 18 months to find work after being released.

Khalil Cumberbatch, associate vice president of policy at the Fortune Society, served a 6 ½ year sentence and took advantage of in-prison programs offered before release.

Bruce Western

Bruce Western

“People told me, ‘If you wait until the day you get out of prison to talk about your game plan, you’ve already lost,’” Cumberbatch said. “The real ‘game’ begins after you are released.”

According to Western, returning inmates faced systemic disadvantages that often imperiled their ability to lead productive lives. His research, conducted in the Greater Boston area, focused on men and women leaving state prisons in Massachusetts.

But he found that economic security was crucial to their ability to stay out of future trouble with the law, noting that many individuals were simply “leaving prison for poverty.”

He argued that the criminal justice system needed to be more conscious of the life experiences of offenders before and after their prison term. Although in the popular mind there was a clear line between victims and perpetrators of violence, many individuals experienced both roles.

“It always boggled my mind that the rest of the world didn’t know how poor people lived, and especially how poor black people lived,” said Nixon, who grew up in a housing project in Long Island.

Khalil Cumberbatch

Khalil Cumberbatch

“Violence was the norm, frailty was the norm, and constant discrimination was also the norm. Even though it was common to me to understand this was how we lived, not everyone grew up like that.”

Western, one of the nation’s foremost scholars on incarceration issues, said he had once thought statistics on incarceration, reentry and recidivism would speak for themselves in arguments for justice reform.

He said he wrote his new book to bring the human cost of incarceration closer to home.

Nixon agreed.

“The way we use mega-data in our society dehumanizes us all,” she said. “We can all fit into some category of mega-data, whether positive or negative, and that does not tell the entire story of who we are.”

Marianne Dodson is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why America’s Prisons Need ‘Systemic Change’

On the 10th anniversary of the Second Chance Act, veteran corrections administrator and researcher Stefan LoBuglio says attitudes towards prisoner reentry have undergone a “sea change” since the 1990s. But in an extended chat with TCR, he warns of a retrenchment in programming that threatens the overall functioning of the U.S. corrections system.

Last month marked the 10th anniversary of the federal Second Chance Act, which has provided aid for state and federal prisoner reentry programs. President Trump declared April “Second Chance Month” to bring attention to programs that “provide opportunities for people with criminal records to earn an honest second chance.”

To assess the state of prisoner reentry in 2018, The Crime Report spoke to Stefan LoBuglio, who recently completed a three-year stint as director of the National Reentry Resource Center at the Council of State Governments Justice Center. LoBuglio, a former corrections administrator in Massachusetts and Maryland, will speak in Kigali, Rwanda, next week at the Eighth International Conference on Human Rights and Prison Reform.

The Crime Report: Prisoner reentry became a public issue in the 1990s when then-Attorney General Janet Reno called attention to the fact that more than 600,000 prisoners are released back into society every year. What is your recollection of that era?

Stefan LoBuglio

Stefan LoBuglio

Stefan LoBuglio: There were earlier milestones in this field. One was the early-1970s publication of the review by sociologist Robert Martinson, declaring that “nothing works” in inmate rehabilitation. In the 1970s, we saw suspicion of the corrections system amid the large growth of in-prison population that continued roughly until the year 2000. There has been enormous energy, research and support of the prisoner reentry field, starting at least with Jeremy Travis at the National Institute of Justice near the end of the Clinton administration, and continuing through the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. When I began working in corrections in 1992, the job was usually defined by the mantra “care, custody and control.” When you asked a corrections administrator about recidivism, you’d be told, “That is not my responsibility.”

In the 25-plus years since then, there has been a sea change. When you go to meetings of corrections administrators now, there is talk about adding “community” to the mantra, and there are hundreds of programs under the Second Chance Act and other laws to improve prisoner reentry. It was once called “reintegration,” but the lexicon did change to “reentry” in the 1990s. One question people were asking is why inmates should have the opportunity to get things like college degrees when people in free society didn’t have that access? Reentry was framed not as a question of what inmates deserved but of necessity—they were going to be released and we had to prepare them.

 TCR: Another, different, anniversary related to the issue of prisoner reentry was marked this year: the “Willie Horton episode,” which many observers at the time believed was a factor in Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis’ loss to Vice President George W. Bush in the 1988 presidential contest.

Editor’s Note: William Horton, then serving a life sentence for murder, failed to return from a weekend furlough from Massachusetts during Dukakis’ term, and later was convicted of a 1987 rape, robbery and assault in Maryland, where he remains in prison. He was used then, and occasionally even now, as a potent symbol for those arguing that corrections reforms can endanger public safety.

LoBuglio: Horton was a violent and horrible case that had wide repercussions for the field and led to the retrenchment of programs and facilities that allowed individuals to be released gradually back into the community. There was widespread support at the time for such opportunities for people who were soon to be released. Horton was in a furlough program, but there were also many “work-release” programs that were very popular.

Inmates could get jobs, reengage with their families, and seek the support of those community institutions of interest to them. Those programs had become part of the corrections infrastructure, but they disappeared overnight in 1988, and even 30 years later, they are still absent. For 11 years, I worked in the corrections department of Montgomery County, Maryland,, where we ran such programs, and demonstrated the ability to transition violent and non-violent offenders back into the community for those who were soon-to-be released. In corrections, we are not making the sentencing decisions, but rather dealing with the reality that most individuals will leave at some point after serving their court imposed sentence.

campaign button

A campaign button from Michael Dukakis’ doomed 1988 presidential campaign. Photo by palemon escobio via flickr

More recently, in following this area for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, I was struck by how few jurisdictions maintain these release-transition programs. Thirty years after the Horton case, with our better technology and communications, we should be rethinking how to incorporate work-release for the people who are coming back to the community.

 TCR: Were laws like the one that allowed Horton’s furlough common?

LoBuglio: Such programs were not unusual back then. What was so dramatic about the Horton case was that he was a convicted first-degree murderer. After it happened, there were wholesale cancellations of prison systems’ contracts with halfway houses, and those programs that remained were tightly restricted. The debate shouldn’t be focused on transitioning the most heinous criminals but rather whether the vast majority of people in the corrections system have the opportunity to be housed in places like work-release centers.

In my three years at the Council of State Governments, it was clear that programs in prison to prepare inmates for release are not yet robust. Our national conversation on reentry is focused on community corrections, probation and parole. We haven’t really talked much about re-instituting work-release programs in prison. Remember that well over 90 percent of state and federal prisoners are released at some point, and between nine and 12 million people cycle in and out of jails each year.

More people should have the opportunity to use community resources before their release, under strict supervision. Even programs that purport to provide pre-release service don’t. Years ago, I visited the Baltimore pre-release center that housed about 300 people, but only about 30 or 35 were going out on a regular basis for jobs.

TCR: We hear about prisoners who finish their terms just being loaded on a bus. Is that what really happens?

LoBuglio: It used to be predominantly true, and it still is too often true. They might be given just $40 in “gate money.” Much of the support for better reentry procedures in the early 2000s came from reports that people in solitary confinement literally went from being in shackles and chains to being released into the community. In a good corrections system, you want people to be properly classified, for example starting in medium security general population and being able to have their security classifications “stepped-down” to minimum, and to be placed in work-release programs as they neared their release date.

The retrenchment in pre-release centers and the use of halfway-house beds has had an effect of constipating the overall functioning of the corrections system, and having too many individuals “stuck” at medium classification. There should be opportunities for people in prison to behave well, and that if they play by the rules, they should get commensurate privileges. Behavioral change is most likely to happen when you have a clear set of rules to go by.

Years ago, economist Anne Morrison Piehl of Rutgers University interviewed inmates at the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center and found that most all of them could recite from memory what actions they needed to perform to even receive small benefits. Her paper for the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute called the “Powers of Small Rewards” is a reminder that good corrections involves setting up a clear and fair system of rewards and sanctions to encourage behavioral change. If you have the possibility of getting work-release status for a person serving, say, five to seven years, that is a powerful inducement.

Studies of causes of disturbances in prisons have put lack of programming and lack of fairness for inmates at the top of the list. We’re not running correctional institutions as safely as we could. Doing it well provides an element of safety for corrections officers as well as for inmates.

TCR: We’ve mentioned the Second Chance Act. Some people may not realize that it was proposed and signed by President George W. Bush and was pushed by conservatives such as the late Charles Colson.

Editor’s Note: The late Charles Colson, an aide to President Richard Nixon, served seven months in prison in the Watergate scandal and later founded the Prison Fellowship.

LoBuglio: Yes, the Second Chance Act was a bipartisan measure that was co-sponsored by Vice President Mike Pence when he was in Congress in 2008. The main sponsors were Republican Rep. Rob Portman, later director of the Office of Management and Budget and now a U.S. Senator, and Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont. There was a remarkable bipartisan consensus for Second Chance, supported also by faith-based organizations.

The law was an acknowledgement that the federal government has a role in determining what works to reduce recidivism. There was a recognition that recidivism rates of people who had been in prisons and jails was too high. Also, states and localities didn’t have the ability to do the research and development. The Second Chance Act helped establish research in this area. The correction system consumes an enormous part of state and local budgets, and almost all of that goes to staffing, building and health care.

The federal system used to be the gold standard in corrections systems, and one part of that was setting the bar high. The National Institute of Corrections [in the Justice Department] plays a role in raising the professionalism in the field. In 2008, there was a recognition that states and localities didn’t have enough information, knowledge and resources to do the experiments to figure out what works in corrections. The legislations provided the funding mechanism for the federal government to seed prisoner reentry of different types across the country. More than 800 programs have been funded.

About $500 million has been spent under the law since 2008. To help create and spread new knowledge, the National Reentry Resource Center was created in the Council of State Governments Justice Center, which has run it since 2009. The spending under the law is a relatively small figure, but it is significant because corrections is an $88 billion annual enterprise – this part of it represents the R&D. Without it, there would be nothing. The law plays the role of a catalyst in reentry. There are about 5,000 total correctional institutions in this country including 3,000 county and municipal jails. Not many states have had a major commitment to rehabilitation. In some states there has been a tradition of good corrections systems. Many states have not been able to keep up.

The federal prison system used to be known as the gold standard in corrections. It’s quite startling to see now how denuded the system has become. That has been true in state after state – a wholesale retrenchment in programming. We now have the ability to rebuild the programming infrastructure based on sound evidence. We are much smarter in 2018, knowing much better what we should see in corrections.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center held a “50-state summit” on corrections last November, when Georgia Supreme Court Justice Michael Boggs talked about significant reforms that the state has taken through Justice Reinvestment but he recognized that almost all of them to date dealt with nonviolent offenders. He explained that the next chapter of this work will need to address violent offenders. In 2018 we should be talking about what we can be doing regarding interventions with violent offenders who will be released. That subject needs a dramatic review. We are risk-averse because of Willie Horton-type cases.

As corrections populations nationwide have declined, we need better research to develop a full panoply of correctional innovations, especially because a large proportion of inmates in some correctional facilities are higher-risk people. Those people present generally more complex and more challenging cases.

TCR: The overall recidivism rate is often summarized as two-thirds to three-fourths of former inmates being rearrested in the three years after they are freed. Do we know if that general picture has changed?

LoBuglio: Some states have been able to reduce their recidivism rates. One way it happens is through changes in sanctioning policies so that there are intermediate steps before someone on probation winds up in custody. We have demonstrated that we’re able to reduce recidivism first and foremost through administrative action (changing revocation policy), but also through behavioral change.

Possibly the best study was done by the Urban Institute of Allegheny County, Pa., which found that participation by one group of inmates in a reentry program reduced recidivism by 30 percent.

What concerns me is that the national evaluations have not been very helpful in providing us with good advice. The challenge is to determine whether there are programs with sufficient quality and substance to make a difference. It is very challenging to maintain high quality programs with sufficient dosage. Some discussions with inmates, for example, may devolve into rap sessions. There are many implementation challenges. It’s difficult to give a probationer or parolee sufficient content to make a difference. People have many demands on them, such as maintaining a family. It’s much easier to help them if they are in a correctional setting.

TCR: Some experts have suggested that we should start preparing inmates to leave prison on the day they enter custody. Is that a worthy goal, and does any place actually try to do it?

LoBuglio: I agree with the theory. Some people even say that reentry preparation should begin when someone is arrested. Ideally, there should be a risk-need assessment of someone as soon as they enter custody and a programmatic plan developed. The best implementation of this that I’ve seen was done by Michael Ashe when he was sheriff of Hampden County, Massachusetts.

There used to be a belief that you can’t start the rehabilitation of individuals until 10 or 15 years down the line. Others say you can’t do much if the person is going to be in jail for only a week. What is the ideal period? This used to be referred as the Goldilocks problem: Is the period to short or too long for rehabilitation, and what is the “just right” period? Well, the answer is “do something” in every case, and recognize that it will be necessarily different based on resources and time remaining.The answer is an individualized treatment plan that takes into consideration sentence length and victims. Some people might have 10 years remaining to serve, but need lots of education and substance abuse treatment. You might have only 50 slots in a program and have to choose between a prisoner who has 20 years to serve and one with six months.

TCR: Where would you say that the U.S. stands generally on prisoner reentry?

LoBuglio: There has been dramatic change in some corrections systems that are paying attention and are focused on change. There have been great gains in the reduction of jail populations, but that can mean more challenges dealing with the people who remain in custody, who are much more difficult to deal with. We shouldn’t be surprised if those people have high rates of failure.

I think we need to look at systemic changes rather than programmatic ones.

We need to change the conditions of confinement, for example, so that some people don’t need to stay in prison so long on the front end, and we can focus on the high-risk individuals who remain there. We need a new type of facility that will wrap in medical and mental health treatment, and we must improve the collaboration between other agencies. We need more businesses as stakeholders. More businesses are rethinking their policies and hiring ex-offenders. It’s new and different to have them at the table—an important part of the conversation on reentry.

We also have more formerly incarcerated people taking part in reentry programs, bringing a level of reality to them.

There are many social service providers involved in prisoner reentry, but the quality of services is very uneven. If there were a rating service like “Yelp” in the social service area, that would be very helpful. It would be good to strengthen the social service community with a smaller number of providers with better quality services.

 TCR: Have programs funded under the Second Chance Act been evaluated?

LoBuglio: The National Institute of Justice has published some, including one on recidivism last year, an October, an evaluation of seven programs.

TCR: What do you make of the Trump administration’s interest in prisoner reentry?

Ted Gest

Ted Gest

LoBuglio: They changed the name of the interagency council established during the Obama administration, to add the term “crime prevention.” It makes sense to have federal agencies working in concert on this issue. The important thing now is for Congress to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, which I’m hoping will happen with all of its bipartisan support.

Ted Gest is Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report and president of Criminal Justice Journalists. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Kushner Heads to Texas to Promote Prison Reform Bill

Presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner will tour Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution outside Dallas Friday to promote the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation modeled after successful reforms in Texas and other states to help ex-offenders reenter society.

White House adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, will travel to Texas on Friday with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a chief sponsors of prison reform legislation aimed at reducing recidivism and rehabilitating low-risk offenders, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Kushner will tour Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution outside Dallas. Joined by federal Bureau of Prisons director Mark Inch, they will get briefings on the prison’s community reentry and residential drug treatment programs.

The trip is aimed at promoting of the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation modeled after successful reforms in Texas and other states to help ex-offenders reenter society. The legislation, which was approved this week by the House Judiciary Committee, mirrors previous corrections legislation sponsored by Cornyn that he said can reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars, and cut crime.

Prison reform has been a priority for Kushner, who has become the face of a White House-backed bill that is advancing despite internal GOP differences over sentencing reforms that are favored by Democrats but opposed by Trump. Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, is expected to be a key negotiator in moving the bill forward.

See also: Kushner Push on Reform Gets Resistance, and Key Conservative Tells Congress: Pass Sentencing Reform

 

from https://thecrimereport.org