Another Failed Government Reentry Program

An Ex-Offender Reentry Program was evaluated by the Department of Labor, as noted in an article from The Daily Signal:

An excerpt.

The Department of Labor has released the results of its two-year evaluation of the federal program Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO), designed to help ex-offenders find employment and reduce recidivism.

The evaluation provides evidence that the RExO grants are ineffective. While disappointing, the results are not surprising: Failure is the norm for federal social programs.

The program began as a combined initiative of the U.S. Departments of Labor and Justice and other federal agencies in 2005. It provides grants to local organizations to administer employment-focused prisoner re-entry programs.

The rigorous multi-site experimental evaluation, recently finished, assessed the effectiveness of federal grants to 24 local employment-based re-entry programs.

Almost 4,700 former prisoners were randomly assigned to program and control groups.

While members of the program group were more likely to receive employment and mentoring services than their counterparts in the control group, these services had only a slight effect on employment and earnings, while having no impact on criminal justice outcomes.

Retrieved August 28, 2015 from http://dailysignal.com/2015/08/25/evaluation-shows-yet-another-government-program-is-failing-to-produce-results

From the Evaluation:

RExO had no effect on recidivism. (p. ES-3)

There was little evidence that RExO affected an array of other outcomes. (p. ES-3)

Retrieved August 28, 2015 from http://wdr.doleta.gov/research/FullText_Documents/ETAOP_2015-04.pdf

Bible Translations

This is why I collect Catholic Bible translations

From the Knox Translation, a favorite of Bishop Sheen, Pope Benedict XVI and many others, to the New American; from portents and signs, to nothing.

That should not be happening in Holy Scripture, that something in there for millenia, is just suddenly deleted.

From the Knox Translation:

[Genesis 1: 14] Next, God said, Let there be luminaries in the vault of the sky, to divide the spheres of day and night; let them give portents, and be the measures of time, to mark out the day and the year;

Retrieved August 25, 2015 from http://www.newadvent.org/bible/gen001.htm

From the Douay Rheims:

[Genesis 1:14] And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: Retrieved August 25, 2015 from http://www.drbo.org/chapter/01001.htm

From the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition:

[Genesis 1:14] And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,

Retrieved August 25, 2015 from http://jmom.honlam.org/rsvce/

From the New American:

[Genesis 1:14] Then God said: Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the seasons, the days and the years,

Retrieved August 25, 2015 from http://usccb.org/bible/genesis/1

All Catholics Have Apostolates

A wonderful column from Catholic World Report reminding us of this fact.

An excerpt.

In the prayer of the faithful said at Mass in my parish day after day we regularly ask God for “an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.” Sometimes “lay ministry” gets added to the list.

When we pray for these things, I’m happy to join in the response—“Lord, hear our prayer”—because I share the hope that they increase. At the same, though, I feel a twinge of regret. Not for what the prayer says, mind you, but for what it leaves out.

If you think that’s odd, consider a fundamental fact: everybody has a vocation. This is his or her particular role in God’s plan, that life of “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2/11).

Thus it seems to me that before praying for vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and lay ministry, it would make sense to pray that everyone discern his or her particular calling from God, accept it, and start living it out.

But wouldn’t that mean shortchanging vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and lay ministry? Not really. For if more people started thinking and praying about their own vocations, more than now presumably would discover that their vocations include a calling to one of those three. In other words, a win-win situation.

As matters stand, the practice now prevailing in my parish (and, I suspect, many others) reflects the old-fashioned way of thinking about vocation that more or less equates it with what is commonly called a state in life.

It’s customary to speak of four of these: the clerical state (deacons, priests, bishops); consecrated life (for the most part, religious women and men); matrimony; and the single lay state in the world. (Consistency would seem to dictate praying not just for the first two but for vocations to matrimony and the single lay state as well—but that’s another matter.)

The trouble with thinking about vocation this way is that it ignores the reality of personal vocation. And although word about personal vocation is starting to get around, it’s mighty slow and by no means everyone has gotten the message.

Pope St. John Paul II was a powerful exponent of personal vocation, and the idea is central to much of his writing. His landmark document on the role of the laity, Christifideles Laici, declares the discernment and acceptance of one’s personal vocation the “fundamental objective” of the formation of lay people. And it adds this:

From eternity God has thought of us and has loved us as individuals. Every one of us he called by name….However, only in the unfolding of the history of our lives and its events is the eternal plan of God revealed to each of us…day by day (Christifideles Laici, 58).

Retrieved August 22, 2015 from http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/4107/on_praying_for_all_vocations_priestly_consecrated_lay.aspx

Government Funding for Nonprofits

Many nonprofits rely on government funding and it is usually a steady check, but it can lead to serious problems, as this article from City Journal reports.

An excerpt.

FEGS, or Federation Employment and Guidance Service, began life in 1934 as a small Jewish charity in New York. Over 80 years, it grew into a sprawling, $230 million social-services nonprofit, helping welfare recipients find jobs, housing people with disabilities, and offering home care for the poor. Its sudden collapse earlier this year—it filed for bankruptcy in March, owing $2.3 million to the New York State Office of Mental Health and another $12 million in construction loans—illustrates how government money has transformed religious and mutual-aid philanthropic organizations and the risks that such groups take when they chase public funding.

FEGS’s messy collapse marks an inglorious end to an institution that began by using charitable money to provide vocational services to Jewish immigrants. This task grew broader and more urgent with the flight of Jews from Europe to America during the late 1930s. During World War II, FEGS, then called Federation Employment Service, expanded its mission to run recruiting drives for local manufacturers contributing to the war effort. After the war, FEGS helped place veterans in jobs.

Like many charities, FEGS’s mission began to change more dramatically with the rise of government-funded social services, starting with President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. By the late 1960s, FEGS was operating federally funded Youth Corps summer-employment programs. In the 1970s, it took on government-financed programs to serve meals to the elderly and counsel troubled youths. By then, FEGS was part of a broader network of some 130 New York Jewish philanthropies with a collective budget of $200 million, over half of which government supplied.

Today, FEGS is essentially a government contractor—in some ways, virtually indistinguishable from government agencies. The organization’s 2013 IRS filing, for instance, lists $227 million in total revenues—including $93 million in government grants and $119 million in program revenues, much of it from providing services funded by public-sector programs like Medicaid. By contrast, fund-raising events and nongovernment grants and contributions brought in just $1 million and $4.3 million, respectively.

FEGS’s evolution is fairly common among many other nonprofits that got their start as charities. A 2014 examination of the funding sources of 3,600 Jewish nonprofits by the Forward estimated that 79 percent of the $5 billion that these groups generated for spending on social services came from government grants and program services. Just 15 percent originated from private contributions. Decades ago, these groups largely relied on private contributions and grants from organizations like UJA-Federation.

Jewish groups aren’t alone in their reliance on government funding. During the late 1990s, Catholic Charities USA opposed congressional efforts to slow federal welfare spending by instituting work requirements for recipients. At the time, the Catholic philanthropy was receiving almost two-thirds of its revenues from government to run social-services programs, prompting Senator Rick Santorum to observe that the organization “can do little that is uniquely Catholic. They have to do what the government dictates.” (See “How Catholic Charities Lost Its Soul,” Winter 2000.)

Retrieved August 18, 2015 from http://www.city-journal.org/2015/25_3_snd-charities.html

Facing East During Mass

This wonderful article in Catholic World Report by Cardinal Sarah reminds us of the ancient reason for priest and laity facing East during Mass.

An excerpt.

Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI, will the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy finally be read? Sacrosanctum Concilium is actually not just a catalogue of “recipes” for reform, but a veritable Magna Carta of all liturgical action.

In it the Ecumenical Council gives us a magisterial lesson in methodology. Indeed, far from being content with a disciplinary, external approach to the liturgy, the Council wishes to have us contemplate what it is in its essence. The Church’s practice always results from what she receives and contemplates in revelation. Pastoral ministry cannot be detached from doctrine.

In the Church “action is directed to contemplation” (cf. no. 2). The conciliar Constitution invites us to rediscover the Trinitarian origin of the liturgical work. Indeed, the Council determines that there is a continuity between the mission of Christ the Redeemer and the liturgical mission of the Church. “Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also He sent the apostles,” so that “by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves” they might “accomplish the work of salvation” (no. 6).

Carrying out the liturgy therefore is the same as accomplishing the work of Christ. The liturgy is essentially “actio Christi”: “the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God” (no. 5). He is the great high priest, the true subject, the true protagonist of the liturgy (cf. no. 7). If this vitally important principle is not accepted in faith, we run the risk of making the liturgy a human work, the community’s celebration of itself.

On the contrary, the Church’s real work is to enter into Christ’s action, to join in the work for which He has been commissioned by the Father. Therefore “the fullness of divine worship was given to us,” because “His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation” (no. 5). The Church, the Body of Christ, must therefore become in turn an instrument in the hands of the Word.

This is the ultimate meaning of the key concept of the conciliar Constitution: “participatio actuosa”. For the Church, this participation consists of becoming the instrument of Christ the Priest, for the purpose of participating in His Trinitarian mission. The Church actively participates in Christ’s liturgical work insofar as she is the instrument thereof. In this sense, language about the “celebrating community” has its ambiguities and requires true caution (cf. the Instruction Redemptoris sacramentum, no. 42). Therefore this “participatio actuosa” should not be understood as the need to do something. On this point the Council’s teaching has often been distorted. Instead it is a matter of letting Christ take us and associate us with His sacrifice.

Liturgical “participatio” must therefore be understood as a grace from Christ who “always associates the Church with Himself” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). He is the one who has the initiative and the primacy. The Church “calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father” (no. 7).

The priest must therefore become this instrument that allows Christ to shine through. As our Holy Father Pope Francis recalled recently, the celebrant is not the host of a show, he must not look for sympathy from the assembly by setting himself in front of it as its main speaker. To enter into the spirit of the Council means, on the contrary, to be self-effacing, to refuse to be the center of attention.

Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, and quite in keeping with the conciliar Constitution, it is altogether appropriate, during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic prayer, that everyone, priest and faithful, turn together toward the East, so as to express their intention to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of celebrating could possibly be implemented in cathedrals, where the liturgical life must be exemplary (cf. no. 41).

Of course, there are other parts of the Mass in which the priest, acting “in persona Christi Capitis” [“in the person of Christ the Head”] enters into a nuptial dialogue with the assembly. But the only purpose of this face-to-face is to lead to a tête-À-tête with God which, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will become a heart-to-heart conversation. The Council thus proposes other means of promoting participation: “acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes” (no. 30).

Retrieved August 21, 2015 from http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/3947/silent_action_of_the_heart.aspx

Being a Prison Chaplain

This is an interesting article from the Atlantic Magazine.

An excerpt.

Before she became a prison chaplain, Kelly Raths was in school to become a massage therapist. She had gotten a degree in divinity from Harvard and had spent time working on kids’ programs at a Methodist church in Montana—“they prepared me well for working with inmates,” she said. Life intervened, and now, eight years later, she is an administrator in the Oregon Department of Corrections, working on inmate advocacy and community-building. For more than half a decade, though, she helped provide the spiritual-support system for the men in two medium- and maximum-security penitentiaries.

“In a prison setting, the way that people come to their faith—it’s kind of like whatever in any other context is normal, but it’s where you take all the dials and turn them up, kind of like a 1980s radio set,” she said. “There is an intensity to what is normal human behavior and interaction.”

When someone goes to prison, their life “on the outside” doesn’t stop. Moms still die. New nieces and nephews still get born. Raths said she often talked with inmates about these kinds of big life events, the stock-in-trade for pastors and rabbis and imams—only in prison, they come with extra baggage.

“I’ve had people start throwing up and pass out in my office, or [stay] very stonefaced,” she said. When prisoners get a call from the outside, sharing news of a death or break-up or other important life changes, their relationship with the person on the other end of the phone “is usually full of unspoken things,” she said. “It may knock them out, to think that I now have to deal with the reality of why I’m here, that I too may die here.”

For religious leaders, the job is often about creating a space for people: helping them find solace after loss, helping them figure out how they want to live. But Raths, who will be featured in a documentary about chaplains later this year, said that’s a very different process in prison. “My impulse, when someone in front of me is grieving deeply, my impulse is to touch, to console, maybe to embrace, to offer tea or phone calls. But in the commerce of the place I am at, I am not to touch, I am not to offer.”….

In books and movies and television shows, there’s a certain stereotype about religion in prisons—that people often find God from their cell. There have been a handful of high-profile cases of this in recent memory, like Karla Faye Tucker and Kelly Renee Gissendaner. The stereotype, Raths said, isn’t entirely untrue. “Finding your God or goddess isn’t uncommon,” she said. But “one of our concerns was: Are you swapping out this religious experience for some other kind of addictive behaviors or avoidance behaviors? When given this kind of opportunity to build those relationships with folks, those are the kinds of things I would hopefully gently start to pry at.”

Although many prisoners may experience these kinds of religious awakenings—or at least, spiritual strugglings—a lot of others don’t, Raths said: “Prison is a hard place to become really vulnerable.” For people who have been convicted of a crime, and particularly violent crimes, the question of forgiveness is huge, and daunting. “There’s a physical body that experienced the harm that this person caused,” she said. “People who come to custody in prison, while they have been the offender, they almost without fail have also been the victims themselves.” Understanding that often has to come first, Raths said, but “the real, challenging question was: Can I forgive myself?”

Retrieved August 18, 2015 from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/08/helping-people-find-god-in-a-prison-cell/401414//

Second Chance Commutation

A very nice tory in the New York Times about a man whose sentence was commuted by President Obama.

An excerpt.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Rudolph Norris walked out of Morgantown federal prison two weeks ago carrying a duffel bag like no other. First, he had spent six months hand-stitching it himself from dozens of mottled leather scraps, symbolizing the shards of his life he longed to piece back together. Then he unzipped it and pulled out his invitation to try.

“Dear Rudolph,” the letter began, “I wanted to personally inform you that I have granted your application for commutation.”

It was signed “Barack Obama.”

Mr. Norris’s 22 years behind bars over with the stroke of the president’s pen, he showed off the letter to his receiving crowd of siblings, in-laws and, mostly, his all-grown-up daughter, Rajean, who had wondered if she would ever again see her father out of an orange jumpsuit. (“That’s my daddy!” she said as he came into view, sounding like the 8-year-old she had been back when he was sentenced.) Mr. Norris hugged and cried and fist-bumped.

Then the former inmate, a newly minted symbol of second chances, rode the family’s rental van from West Virginia back to Maryland….

Walking toward his family in the parking lot, Mr. Norris wore heavy gray sweatpants and heavier gray whiskers, some pounds having migrated from his barrel chest to his belly, but still with the muscular shoulders of his distant youth. (His brother-in-law remarked, “Man, he looks good.”) Mr. Norris’s younger son, Raymond, who could not travel to the reunion from New Mexico, received Mr. Norris’s first phone call and a promise: “It’ll be my last game of basketball — I’m going to show you what Daddy’s got left and then retire.”

The five-hour ride home, during which he took 34 calls on six different family cellphones, included crucial stops for a Wendy’s chocolate Frosty and some outlet-mall sneakers. Having never used a cellphone, he officially entered the 21st century when spotty reception on Interstate 68 caused him to plead, “Can you hear me now?”

Family members fought over who would buy him a wallet, a watch and a jersey of his beloved Washington Redskins.

“Don’t buy anything for me — wait till I work, I’ll buy it for myself,” Mr. Norris pleaded. “I don’t want to be no burden. I been y’all’s burden for 25 years.”

Retrieved August 14, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/us/with-clemency-from-obama-drug-offender-embraces-second-chance.html

St. Maximilian Kolbe

The stories of the saints are a deep treasure of spiritual knowledge and the story of St. Maximilian, who gave his life for another (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciszek_Gajowniczek ) in the Nazi concentration camps, is another in the incredible litany.

An excerpt from Franciscan Media.

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Retrieved August 14, 2015 from http://hub.franciscanmedia.org/Home/pfSaint?sid=1107

 

St. Hippolytus.

August 13th was his feast day and he is prominent in Lampstand because of his connection with the first reformed criminal who became Pope, Callistus.

An excerpt from Franciscan Media.

As a priest in Rome, Hippolytus (the name means “a horse turned loose”) was at first “holier than the Church.” He censured the pope for not coming down hard enough on a certain heresy—calling him a tool in the hands of one Callistus, a deacon—and coming close to advocating the opposite heresy himself. When Callistus was elected pope, Hippolytus accused him of being too lenient with penitents, and had himself elected antipope by a group of followers. He felt that the Church must be composed of pure souls uncompromisingly separated from the world: Hippolytus evidently thought that his group fitted the description. He remained in schism through the reigns of three popes. In 235 he was also banished to the island of Sardinia. Shortly before or after this event, he was reconciled to the Church, and died with Pope Pontian in exile.

Hippolytus was a rigorist, a vehement and intransigent man for whom even orthodox doctrine and practice were not purified enough. He is, nevertheless, the most important theologian and prolific religious writer before the age of Constantine. His writings are the fullest source of our knowledge of the Roman liturgy and the structure of the Church in the second and third centuries. His works include many Scripture commentaries, polemics against heresies and a history of the world. A marble statue, dating from the third century, representing the saint sitting in a chair, was found in 1551. On one side is inscribed his table for computing the date of Easter, on the other a list of how the system works out until the year 224. Blessed John XXIII installed the statue in the Vatican library.

Comment: 

Hippolytus was a strong defender of orthodoxy, and admitted his excesses by his humble reconciliation. He was not a formal heretic, but an overzealous disciplinarian. What he could not learn in his prime as a reformer and purist, he learned in the pain and desolation of imprisonment. It was a fitting symbolic event that Pope Pontian shared his martyrdom.

Retrieved August 13, 2015 from http://hub.franciscanmedia.org/Home/pfSaint?sid=1106

Police Technology

License plate readers are a tremendous police tool, but unfortunately, some states are trying to stop them from being used, as this story from Governing Magazine reports.

An excerpt.

Police have a new set of eyes called automated license plate readers, and they’re growing in popularity — and controversy.

Automated license plate readers are mounted either on a police car or a fixed position like a bridge. As their name suggests, they read the numbers and letters on license plates — even when vehicles are moving at high speeds — and tag the time and location. Then another program compares the data with a list of license plates associated with criminal activity.

The entire process takes just seconds and can automatically check tens of thousands of plates in just one hour. That’s why cops love them, said David Roberts, senior program manager for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

“The old practice involved driving around and checking license plate numbers on suspicious cars against a hotlist typed on sheets of paper. [Automated license plate readers] can do in minutes what it took a cop to do in an entire shift,” he said.

The technology not only makes police more efficient, it’s been shown to increase arrests of car thieves and deter auto theft, according to a 2010 study of large and small police departments across the U.S.

In 2007, 17 percent of America’s police departments had automated license plate readers, according to the Rand Corporation. By 2012, that number had jumped to 71 percent.

Meanwhile, the cost of the technology has dropped. Today, installing the readers in every police car costs departments between $10,000 and $25,000. But hardware and software costs are only a portion of the overall expense. Police departments sometimes overlook the labor costs associated with running one of these systems. Depending on its size, the technology can require one — if not more — full-time administrators to maintain and repair the cameras, update the lists of stolen and suspect vehicles, and upgrade the software.

Despite their benefits, automated license plate readers aren’t technologically flawless.

Bad weather, poor lighting, the speed of the vehicles, dirt on plates and even background colors can affect how well a camera “reads” a license plate. Under good conditions, the technology can accurately read over 90 percent of the plates they scan. But when conditions are less than ideal, performance can drop — below 80 percent, according to some reports — potentially triggering false matches. In 2009, for example, police detained a person in San Francisco after her car was mistakenly identified as stolen because the system misread her license plate. The driver later sued the police department, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the biggest issue with the readers is privacy. Some worry that police will use the technology to track just about anyone who drives a car.

In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) studied 600 state and local police departments’ use of automated license plate readers. The ACLU acknowledged the technology has a legitimate law enforcement purpose but was alarmed at the lack of rules about its use. According to the ACLU, departments keep the records anywhere from 48 hours in Minnesota to five years in New Jersey. “Too many police departments are storing millions of records about innocent drivers,” the organization concluded.

Retrieved August 12, 2015 from http://www.governing.com/columns/tech-talk/gov-automated-license-plate-readers-police.html

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