Evidence-Based Sentencing & Liberal Politics

The current trendy terms, “evidence-based sentencing” and “mass incarceration” are two of the propaganda tools used by progressive/liberal criminal justice advocates to abolish the wide-spread and very effective use of prisons.

That would be a huge mistake, something this post from the Crime & Consequences Blog notes.

An excerpt.

We are frequently lectured that the country should adopt “evidence-based” sentencing. What that language always turns out to be is code for reduced prison terms (or, for many crimes, none at all, see, e.g., Prop 47).

Still, no sensible person can deny that sentencing should, in fact, be based on evidence — that is, we need to look honestly at what’s happening in the world and make our decisions in light of what we see.

If we do that, two facts stand out. First, since the evidence shows that increased incarceration has helped bring about a huge decrease in crime (crime rates are 50% lower than they were when “mass incarceration” took off 25 years ago), we should build upon that success rather than cash it in. You change what’s failing, not what’s working.

Second, the evidence about what criminals do after release must also inform our thinking, and it is far more depressing. As last week’s BJS report recounts (admittedly down in its seventh paragraph), slightly more than three-quarters of prisoners recidivate within five years of release, almost 30% for a violent crime.

In other words, our efforts to rehabilitate have been as much of a failure as our efforts to incapacitate have been a success. (Not that this is new).

What to do?

My answer, with apologies for “going soft” in my old age, is that we have to treat inmates much, much better than we do now.

Probably the first thing to come to terms with — as my libertarian friends (and adversaries) understand so well — is that there is a limit on what any government program can do. Prisons could provide educational opportunities on the level of Princeton and Stanford, and it wouldn’t do any good unless the inmate has decided on his own that he wants to change.

When he makes that decision, many things are possible. Until he does, nothing is. You can lead a horse to water, etc.

Retrieved September 28, 2015 from http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2015/09/what-evidence-based-reform-wou.html#more

The Holy Father Speaks to Prisoners

From the Vatican Information Service, a beautiful, wonderful talk.

It is painful to see prison systems that do not care for wounds, soothe pain or offer new possibilities: the Pope to inmates at Curran-Fromhold penitentiary

Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – After addressing the visiting bishops, the Pope transferred by helicopter to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Philadelphia’s largest male prison, which holds 2,800 inmates. Francis met with one hundred of them, along with the directors of the Centre, who awaited him in the gymnasium.

After hearing greetings from some of the detainees and receiving a gift that they had made for him, a chair, Francis thanked those present for welcoming him and giving him the opportunity to share this moment in their lives. “It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society ‘condemned’ to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection”.

The Pope spoke about the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. “This was something his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told him: ‘You will never wash my feet’. In those days, it was the custom to wash someone’s feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of His disciples, then and now”.

“We all know that life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us”, said the Pope. “We also know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, He doesn’t question us what about we have done. Rather, He tells us: ‘Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me’. Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that He can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realise that we have a mission, and that confinement is never the same thing as exclusion”.

“Life means ‘getting our feet dirty’ from the dust-filled roads of life and history”, he continued. “All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us. Myself, first and foremost. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, Who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us He stretches out a helping hand. It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognise that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: He washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which He wishes no one to be excluded. The table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited”.

“This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community and society. I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who in any way are part of this institution. May you make possible new opportunities; may you blaze new trails, new paths. All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. All of us. May the knowledge of this fact inspire us all to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others”.

“Let us look to Jesus, Who washes our feet”, concluded Francis “He is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change, the lie of thinking that no one can change. Jesus helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfilment. May the power of His love and His resurrection always be a path leading you to new life”.

Retrieved September 28, 2015 from http://www.vis.va/vissolr/index.php?vi=all&dl=8e1baf47-de6a-8fd8-ead0-560932d92460&dl_t=text/xml&dl_a=y&ul=1&ev=1

The Holy Father Speaks to Abuse Victims

From the Vatican Information Service, a beautiful, wonderful talk.

Francis meets with the victims of sexual abuse: perpetrators will be held accountable

Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – The final day of the Pope’s apostolic trip began yesterday with his meeting at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary with victims of sexual abuse perpetrated when they were minors by members of the clergy, or members of their families or teachers. The group was composed of five adults – 3 women and 2 men – accompanied by Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, instituted by the Pope, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Bishop Michael Joseph Fitzgerald, head of the diocesan office for the protection of minors in the same diocese.

During the meeting, which lasted half an hour, Francis listened to their accounts of their experiences, addressed them as a group and then greeted each one individually. He prayed with them and manifested his participation in their suffering, his pain and his shame for the harm caused by members of the clergy or ecclesiastical collaborators.

“Thank you for corning here today”, he said. “Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

“For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

“We are gathered here in Philadelphia to celebrate God’s gift of family life. Within our family of faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame. As we anticipate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, your presence, so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced, reveals the merciful heart of Christ. Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of the hope that comes from the Lord’s promise to be with us always.

“It is good to know that you have brought family members and friends with you today. I am grateful for their compassionate support and pray that many people of the Church will respond to the call to accompany those who have suffered abuse. May the Door of Mercy be opened wide in our dioceses, our parishes, our homes and our hearts, to receive those who were abused and to seek the path to forgiveness by trusting in the Lord. We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.

“When the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognised that He was the Risen Lord, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the Church, and that together, as pilgrims on the journey of faith, we might find our way to the Father”.

Retrieved September 28, 2015 from http://www.vis.va/vissolr/index.php?vi=all&dl=6aa18f72-b91d-2ecc-2417-5609313e67f3&dl_t=text/xml&dl_a=y&ul=1&ev=1

Prison does not Protect the Innocent from the Aggressor

One of the reasons Catholic leadership is giving for abolishing capital punishment is that the current penal technology is sufficient to protect the innocent from the aggressor, but, as we see from this article from the New York Times, that is not the case.

An excerpt. 

ATLANTA — Twelve people were indicted this week on suspicion of having roles in crime rings that the authorities said relied on cellphones that were smuggled into Georgia prisons and allowed inmates to order killings, sell drugs to customers hundreds of miles away and try to steal identities.

To law enforcement officials here, the indictments were troubling reminders of how cellphones have complicated and deepened their struggle against prison contraband, which they said can produce danger well beyond the walls of state penitentiaries. 

“Prisons serve to punish and to rehabilitate convicted offenders and to deter crime, not to enable it,” John A. Horn, the United States attorney in Atlanta, said Thursday. “The indictments today allege that, after being placed in prison to protect society from their ongoing criminal behavior, these inmates capitalized on the ready access to cellphones and other contraband to further victimize citizens outside prisons.”

A federal grand jury returned the charges Tuesday, and the indictments were unsealed Thursday. The indictments named, among others, seven current or former inmates and two former prison workers. It was not immediately clear whether any of those charged had lawyers in their federal cases.

In the indictments, officials described cellphone smuggling operations at two state prisons, one near Atlanta and another near the Florida border. At both prisons, the indictment said, inmates used phones to conduct criminal activity elsewhere.

From the Valdosta State Prison near Florida, for instance, a convicted murderer oversaw “a network of illegal drug suppliers and couriers,” the federal authorities said, and used an illicit cellphone to promote that clandestine business.

“We have good prices and good product,” the inmate, Donald H. Hinley, said in a recorded telephone call, the indictment said.

In another instance, the federal authorities said, Mr. Hinley called an inmate at another facility and sought the killing of a prisoner who was cooperating with prosecutors in a case that involved Mr. Hinley’s girlfriend. He also, according to the indictment, ordered the inmate, if he was released from prison, to “shoot every one” of the expected witness’s family members.

Retrieved September 25, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/25/us/12-indicted-in-georgia-in-crime-rings-run-with-cellphones-from-prisons.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150924&nlid=21745381&tntemail0=y&_r=0


Non-Violent Prisoner Myth Re-Surfaces

One of the persistent criminal justice myths of the liberal anti-everything-that-works movement is that most prisoners are non-violent drug offenders, which one candidate in last night’s Republican debate again floated, as this article from Slate Magazine reports.

An excerpt.

Criminal justice came up for only a few minutes during Wednesday night’s GOP debate, but the discussion lasted just long enough for Carly Fiorina to utter one of the most persistent and dangerous myths about the country’s mass incarceration problem: that most of the people in American prisons are there for nonviolent offenses.

“We do need criminal justice reform,” Fiorina said. “We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug-related. It is clearly not working.”

Though Fiorina was correct that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world—no other country comes close—the rest of her statement was false. In fact, when you look at the roughly 1.5 million people currently doing time in state and federal prisons, only about 300,000 of them are there primarily because of drug offenses, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. About half the state prison population—which, at 1.3 million people, represents the lion’s share of the country’s prisoners—is made up of individuals who are classified as violent offenders. (According to research by Fordham Law School professor John Pfaff, the percentage of drug offenders in state prisons peaked in 1990 at 22 percent and has been in decline since—meaning that, even when the percentage of drug offenders in state prisons was at its peak, roughly 4 out of 5 inmates were there due to a non-drug offense.)

The reason Fiorina’s misstatement matters is that it makes it seem like ending mass incarceration will be a lot easier than it actually will be. She is far from alone in perpetuating this idea—President Obama has done it too, along with just about every other mainstream politician who has expressed support for criminal justice reform in recent years.

Retrieved September 17, 2015 from http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/09/17/gop_debate_carly_fiorina_is_wrong_about_how_to_solve_america_s_mass_incarceration.html

Drug Smuggling

Powerful prison gangs have long been involved with Mexican drug cartels.

The Crime and Consequences Blog reports on the increased heroin smuggling by the cartels and its connection to illegal immigrants from Mexico.

An excerpt.

Flood of Illegals Fueling Heroin Epidemic: A heroin epidemic is sweeping the country causing widespread suffering, crime and death, and it is largely fueled by the flood of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. through the southern border, where  most heroin is smuggled into the country. Ethan Barton of the Daily Caller reports that according to president of the Laredo, Texas, chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, Hector Garza, “every single illegal alien that comes into the country goes through the hands of a drug cartel,” regardless of whether or not they want help, and are often given a backpack filled with heroin before they cross into the U.S. Given the well-documented link between drug trafficking and human smuggling/trafficking, border officials agree that increased manpower and up-to-date technology is needed to secure the border, which would then stifle the flood of drugs and illegal immigrants.

Retrieved September 16, 2015 from http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2015/09/news-scan-2006.html

Work is the Best Charity

Work is the best remedy for those in poverty, especially the homeless, as this article from Philanthropy Magazine reports.

An excerpt.

The U.S. is the richest nation in history. To see members of our society languishing in poverty, therefore, is distressing. Many of our official responses to low income, unfortunately, offer only short-term help—and even make problems worse in the long run. Government offers checks and food stamps. Charity offers hot meals and shelter and donated goods. These efforts meet temporary needs. But they seldom lead to lasting improvements in the lives of strugglers, and short-term aid can become a trap.

What if we’re looking in the wrong place for cures to poverty? If we search out what it is that banishes need and fills wants for most people, the answer is obvious: Work. That is the poverty solution that happens all around us, every day. That’s why The Philanthropy ­Roundtable has just created a guidebook to help charitable providers lead people who are currently living at the economic margins into mainstream success and happiness through work.

Of course, work is much more than just a mechanism for reducing poverty. More than any other nation on Earth, the United States has a rich tradition of insisting that hard work is ennobling. In our country, even the most mundane occupations have been viewed as bringing honor to the laborer. And this wholehearted embrace of work has helped every succeeding generation of Americans enjoy a brighter economic future than the one before it.

These twin benefits of the American work ethic—material betterment and a sense of personal value—have sometimes been lost sight of in recent years and are no longer experienced by all of our citizens. Amid new ideas of entitlement, guaranteed outcomes, and expanded notions of retirement and disability, there are large and growing pockets where the virtues of work are no longer understood or appreciated, or where residents have become entangled in dribbling payment programs that make active employment almost impossible. Moreover, specific jobs used as steppingstones by many people in the past have disappeared because of technological change or economic globalism. There are spatial mismatches, skill gaps, and missing habits, attitudes, and experiences that separate workers from work.

Of the 26 million persons of working age (18-64) who fell below the poverty line in 2013, nearly two thirds didn’t hold a job for even one week during the year. So simply going to work is the first step they (and their dependents) most need. Among the 11 million prime-age persons who were poor though they did work, some lacked the requisite skills to support themselves, but most put in too few hours to sustain a household.

Diligent work is not something innately wired into human beings. It must be taught, cultivated, and practiced. It is a skill set, like any other, that must be pursued. Offering employment tools and productive attitudes toward work and self-support is a fertile field for donors.

Good charitable organizations do a better job at linking the disadvantaged with careers than government agencies. They are more personal and less bureaucratic. They have no guaranteed budgets and only survive if they produce results. They often look far beyond initial job offers to seek ways of life that will be durable for the people they help.

Unlike government agencies, private civil-society groups are free to address issues of character, personal behavior, virtue, and habit without risking a lawsuit. Many of these organizations bring moral insights to their job training as well as community values and faith angles, knowing that they have no coercive powers over clients who voluntarily choose to participate. Their offerings are often about a renewed life, a second chance, days of purpose—not just a job.

Retrieved September 12, 2015 from http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/economic_opportunity/why_work_is_the_best_charity_for_the_poor

Pray for Our Jewish Brothers & Sisters

A must-read (as is all her writing & get her book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East) column by Caroline Glick.

An excerpt.

As we approach Rosh Hashana, the people of Israel need to recognize how lucky we are.

True, today, we find ourselves largely alone, set apart from our traditional partners in the Western world. But standing alone isn’t always the worst option. Today it is certainly not the worst option.

Over the past several years, we have witnessed the growing radicalization and fragmentation of the societies of neighboring lands. Sunnis fight Shi’ites and one another. Minority populations are slaughtered, enslaved and oppressed. Regimes fall, rise and fall again. Today, every Arab society is either in danger or at war. And in almost every case, it isn’t good fighting evil but varying degrees of evil and barbarism fighting one another.

From the PLO to Islamic State, through Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Assad regime in Syria, the ayatollahs of Iran, Hezbollah, the Erdogan regime in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and every single actor in the region resorts to some degree of torture and oppression.

And all do so while quoting the Koran.

Israel has responded rationally to the carnage at our doorstep.

We help where we can. For instance, we are assisting the Egyptian regime in its war against jihadist forces in Sinai. We support the Hashemite regime in Jordan. We provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the bloodbath in Syria.

And we are securing our borders.

After we finished building the border fence with Egypt, we built one along the Syrian border. Now we are fencing off the border with Jordan.

These fences may not make good neighbors. But they do keep the bad ones at bay.

Similar rationality is in short supply today in Europe and among the smart set in America. Westerners are increasingly at a loss in the face of the break-up of societies throughout the Arab world.

Consider for instance Europe’s disoriented, confused response to the massive wave of refugees from Syria now washing onto its shores. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the unfolding drama is that it appears the Europeans only just realized that Syria has fallen apart.

The war in Syria broke out nearly five years ago.

Hundreds of thousands have already been killed in the conflict. Ten million people – nearly half of Syria’s pre-war population – have been displaced. For the past four years, millions of Syrians have been living in refugee camps in neighboring states – first and foremost in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Most of the refugees now arriving in Europe are coming from these camps, rather than directly from Syria. Rather than help them either resettle in the lands to which they fled, or take action on the ground in Syria to enable them to return to their homes, the Europeans largely ignored them.

Part of the reason Europe has ignored Syria, of course, is indifference. So long as it’s happening “over there,” the Europeans really couldn’t care less.

But indifference alone does not explain how Europe has been taken by surprise by a humanitarian disaster of the magnitude now unfolding at its borders.

Identity politics have played a key role in shaping Europe’s failed Middle East politics – in Syria and throughout the increasingly destabilized Islamic world.

Identity politics distinguish between various groups based on how they fall on a spectrum of “oppression.”

Retrieved September 11, 2015 from http://www.jpost.com/landedpages/printarticle.aspx?id=415903

A Saintly Life

A good reminder, as all of the stories of the Saints are, from Franciscan Media.

An excerpt.

St. Thomas was from Castile in Spain and received his surname from the town where he was raised. He received a superior education at the University of Alcala and became a popular professor of philosophy there.

After joining the Augustinian friars at Salamanca he was ordained and resumed his teaching–despite a continuing absentmindedness and poor memory. He became prior and then provincial of the friars, sending the first Augustinians to the New World. He was nominated by the emperor to the archbishopric of Granada, but refused. When the see again became vacant he was pressured to accept. The money his cathedral chapter gave him to furnish his house was given to a hospital instead. His explanation to them was that “our Lord will be better served by your money being spent on the poor in the hospital. What does a poor friar like myself want with furniture?”

He wore the same habit that he had received in the novitiate, mending it himself. The canons and domestics were ashamed of him, but they could not convince him to change. Several hundred poor came to Thomas’s door each morning and received a meal, wine and money. When criticized because he was at times being taken advantage of, he replied, “If there are people who refuse to work, that is for the governor and the police to deal with. My duty is to assist and relieve those who come to my door.” He took in orphans and paid his servants for every deserted child they brought to him. He encouraged the wealthy to imitate his example and be richer in mercy and charity than they were in earthly possessions.

Retrieved September 10, 2015 from http://hub.franciscanmedia.org/Home/pfSaint?sid=1134

America’s Mayor on New York Homeless

Superb article (a must read) from the New York Post.

An excerpt.

A  city with homeless on its streets is a city that has no love of its people.

The so-called “progressive” view, that people have a right to live on the sidewalk, is not only legally devoid of any merit but is inhumane, indecent and dangerous. As is the case in many other policies — redistribution of wealth, social engineering, weak national defense — it’s a contradiction to describe this stance as progressive. It should properly be regarded as retrogressive.

People living on the street, urinating and defecating there, marked the Dark Ages of Western civilization. In a humane, decent and civilized city, the problems of the homeless are dealt with through intervention rather than denial.

My analysis of social policy always begins with how I would treat my child, sister, brother or friend if they fell on hard times. Suppose I found someone I loved living on the streets. What would I do? Let him remain there because he wants to and claims some fictitious legal right to do so? Or would I find out what was wrong and intervene, even if a bit of tough love was necessary?

When family members aren’t around or can’t handle the problem, it falls to the government. Under my hypothetical situation, I would find out why he is on the streets. Is he without funds to pay rent? Is he drinking too much or taking drugs or suffering from mental illness? In any one of those situations, I would suggest and then, if necessary, exert pressure on him to get appropriate help.

If it’s simply a lack of housing, I would find him a place to live and as soon as possible find him a job so he could regain the self-respect to care for himself and his family.

If he is an alcoholic or drug addict or suffers from mental illness, then I would bring him to appropriate programs — many of which have great success in dealing with these afflictions using therapy and medications.

Under no circumstances would I leave him an option that does not and should not exist in a loving city — a right to live on the streets.

This approach is not hypothetical. As mayor, I utilized it and was able to successfully remove the vast majority of homeless from the streets, providing humane and effective solutions for many of their problems. This should be at the core of a city’s program for the homeless.

Retrieved September 6, 2015 from http://nypost.com/2015/09/06/giuliani-to-de-blasio-the-citys-homeless-crisis-needs-tough-love/




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