Monday, October 29, 2012

"A Better Way. . ." Continued

My theory goes like this . Let's say a person gets a 50-month sentence. He will get roughly 8 months off, or "good time," if he commits no rule violation while in prison. If he successfully completed the Residential Grug Treatment Plan, he can earn up to another 12 months off, so goes from 42 to 30 months. Now, if he is rule-follower, he can get another six months of halfway house, so he is down to 24 months in prison.

Clearly, these incentives may make someone think twice before he breaks a rule in prison, and if he re-offends when he gets out, he loses all of these sentence "credits." Talk about motivation!

Let's take this one step further. What about community college prison outreach, certificate programs in green energy jobs, carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, and the like being a way to earn sentence credits? It gives the non-drug using prisoner an incentive to improve their minds, learn a skill, and do something positive with their time.

Let's all to that one month credits for other courses, such as typing on keyboards, computer usage, and other self-improvement programs. Let's identify faith-based organizations who can mentor prisoners on simple interview techniques, and other job skills that they can put to use after they are released.

If the prisoner re-offends, he loses all of the above benefits, on top of any new sentence he obtains. How's that for motivation?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

There's Got To Be A Better Way . . .

What is the purpose of putting people in jail? In the case of violent crimes, clearly, it's public safety. It seems to make sense to punish people who cause physical pain and injury to others. However, except in the most extreme cases, even violent offenders have "out dates," when they are released back into society.

What becomes of them, and the non-violent offenders when they are released? Are they ready? Who is held responsible if they are not?

The American correctional system holds the released criminals responsible for their own behavior, and if he "messes up" and re-offends, "Oh, well!" In other words, we expect people who were guilty of misbehavior before, confine them with other criminals, give them no incentive to improve themselves, and act surprised when they commit new crimes after release.

I have some suggestions, none of which are particularly original, but one that has a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement. It make the prisoner responsible for his own behavior, and is a correctional variant of the old "broken window" school of law enforcement. The theory on that is if you restrain and/or punish simple crimes, you avoid the natural progression to bigger, more serious crimes.

More to come. . .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halfway Houses: Key to Prisoner Reintegration

Build more prisons, says the BOP. Overcrowding is at an all-time high, stressing prisoners,staff, and aging facilities. Thousands of convicted felons col their heels in county jails, in deplorable facilities meant for short- term stays. The solution is more money, right?

Not so fast. What about the high recidivism rate, 70% or less, depending upon the level of security the prisoner is released from? Sorry, not much money for that. It is the law enforcement equivalent of telling an automobile owner that he should buy a new car instead of trying to maintain and repair the old one. Why spend money educating a prisoner when he is coming back anyway?

That's where a well-functioning halfway house comes in. It has resident assistants, employment counselors, and drug and alcohol specialists who can make the difference between a successful re-entry back into society.