More Good Stuff at The Crime Report
Links to important stories, such as this one documenting that substance abuse treatment is available to only 11% of inmates while incarcerated, this one from Florida finally recognizing that most of the recent sex offender legislation rammed through states actually did more harm than good in protecting children, and this one on Michigan’s re-entry program which has apparently reduced recidivism rates from 50% to around 33%. We have to keep in mind, of course, that the outcomes discussed here occurred BEFORE the current downturns in state budgets. What the numbers will look like in a few years (for example, Oklahoma has cut all non-federally funded drug treatment in its state prisons now) aren’t really “anybody’s guess.” We can all “guess” pretty well, can’t we? 02/26/10.
New Interactive Map and Other Stuff
Via the Sentencing
Law and Policy blog, we learn of a new website at The Sentencing
Project that, according to the blurb below, does the following:
“The Sentencing Project is excited to announce our new and improved Web site to help in your research and advocacy efforts for criminal justice reform.... Elements of the new site include:
Interactive U.S. Map -- A newly designed map provides access to comprehensive statistics, including total corrections populations, state corrections expenditures, racial/ethnic disparity in incarceration, number of juveniles in custody, and felony disenfranchisement. Users can also compare data for different states, side by side.
New Site Search -- We have enhanced our search engine which now enables users to search for keywords within PDFs and other documents....
New Race and Justice Clearinghouse -- The Sentencing Project is host to the first, online database of research and information on race and justice. Our exclusive resource contains more than 450 bibliographic references for books, articles and reports on the intersection of race and ethnicity with the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems.”
The interactive map is particularly cool for those needing comparative state correctional data on particular variables. Check it out and see if you agree. 02/24/10.
“Sometimes I Could Just Murder You”
Frequently said, more frequently thought, like up above when we heard you say “who’s Richard Widmark?” But what’s holding you back? That it’s illegal? Would you do it if you knew you could get away with it? That’s the premise behind this map of states where that question was asked and the states rated on a colorful spectrum of “yes” to “no.” Check your state out. Oklahoma is right in the middle (half of us would and half wouldn’t?). West of the Mississippi River seems a little more tempted by the concept, doesn’t it. And note how this map doesn’t really track well with incarceration rates. What does that mean? Seriously. Anyway, next we’ll wait for the map on that question in “City Slickers” where Billy Crystal gets asked, “If a space alien came down and told you . . . .” (Google it if you don’t know and then keep your answer to yourself, at least until the map guys come around.) 02/17/10.
Everything Old Is New Again
Because we in corrections and sentencing suffer the same historical amnesia in policymaking that most do, we probably don’t remember that there was a “Three Strikes” before there was “Three Strikes.” It was called Baumes Law, and it’s discussed well here, along with the writer’s description of how he was alerted to it by a Richard Widmark movie. And if you don’t remember who Richard Widmark was, just move along and don’t make us hurt you. 02/17/10.
How to Make Up Those Budget Deficits
Faced with the declining revenue
bases that most every government in the country is? Want a surefire idea to build them back up, maybe
even get into surplus? Just go here for
the details on this:
“A growing number of states and cities are cracking down on handicap parking scofflaws with stiffer fines and placards that are less susceptible to fraudulent use.”
From the people we’ve seen in Oklahoma parking lots, this could raise billions!!! OR, you could try what’s being recommended in Britain, really taxing the bejeesus out of alcohol:
“Last year, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer in England, touched off a storm of controversy with his call for a government-mandated minimum pricing schedule for the sale of alcohol.
Donaldson’s pricing plan would set a minimum of 50p per unit of alcohol, or roughly 80 cents. This floor on alcohol pricing would mean that a bottle of wine could not be sold for less than $7.20, a bottle of whisky for less than $22, or a six-pack for less than about $9.50. Such a measure would effectively double the price of the cheapest alcohol sold in some discount supermarkets. Sir Liam Donaldson and other health officials have pointed out that, while alcohol consumption in many European countries has fallen since 1970, consumption in England has increased by 40%.”
And don’t let the evidence discussed in the piece that this really won’t work dissuade you. It’s not like we let evidence guide anything else we do. Besides, if you want to raise revenue, you DON’T WANT it to work. No need to thank us. 02/04/10.
What Other States Are Doing
If you’ve been hankering for a comprehensive listing of what important legislation on sentencing and corrections is happening in your state and others, well, you’re strange. But you’re also lucky because you can find one here, courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Interesting stuff, probably to get more interesting if more federal stimulus money doesn’t come available fairly quickly. Hopefully they’ll update regularly. Enjoy, you wild and crazy one. (h/t Sentencing Law and Policy) 02/01/10.
Good Data = Smart Prison Reform?
Si, da, yes, claro que si. That’s what a New Hampshire state senator
is saying here. Here’s part of her argument:
“Justice Center researchers have found that community-based treatment is generally more effective than prison-based treatment in preventing recidivism. What does this mean for how we allocate state dollars to get the most for our money?
My fellow lawmakers and I see a big potential payoff if we can find more effective ways to target our money. Some money must continue to go to our prisons because society still needs to be protected from violent predators and other dangerous criminals. But can we do a better and more cost-effective job of treating other offenders and thus keep all of us safer and better able to lead productive lives?” 01/11/10.
War on Drugs Old, War on Guns New?
According to this article, we in corrections should be seeing more offenders convicted through the latter and fewer through the former. Attacking the gun guys is seen as having a bigger impact on violent crime, given the years of drug policy we’ve had. How do you think that will change our offender mixes and what we do, if at all? 01/11/10.
Ignition Interlocks in MA
Report here on
initial recidivism numbers from introduction of ignition interlocks for
second-time DUIs in Massachusetts. Here are some details:
“Under the interlock program, those who have been convicted of a second offense must have the device installed in their cars once they seek to have their licenses reinstated, or if they received a license immediately under a hardship appeal.
Of the hundreds of drivers who have completed the minimum two-year program, only 30 have been arrested and convicted a third time, the statistics show, a recidivism rate of less than 2 percent.”
Of course, the research astute among you will notice the lack of a matched control group and the small number of (selected???) offenders. Still, the defense bar there seems to have accepted the legitimacy of requiring the device as a punishment, with a quibble or two:
“James M. Milligan, a Norwell defense lawyer who handles drunken-driving cases, said the devices have become an integral part of the state’s judicial system. He said defense lawyers continue to question the overall accuracy of the devices, noting that different substances have been known to trigger false readings. He said the devices should be reserved for the most serious of repeat offenders.
But Milligan also said the devices have become an appropriate measure of the justice system, allowing defendants to have their licenses reinstated while assuring they stay sober.” 01/08/10.
That’s what faces our next Oklahoma governor, according to this story. Want a quick overview of what the current candidates planning right now, this is the place to go. 01/04/10.
Let’s end this year on a good note. Impressive results from an
Illinois program that keeps youthful offenders in the community rather
than sending them off to the state. How impressive? Well:
“A pilot program through the Illinois Department of Human Services aimed at keeping youth out of prison saved the state more than $2.3 million and kept 48 young people out of prison from 2005 to 2007 in 12 Southern Illinois counties.”
Impressive enough? Here’s how they do it:
“Redeploy Illinois, which launched as a pilot program in 2005 in Macon, Peoria and St. Clair counties, as well as the 12 counties of the 2nd Judicial Circuit (Crawford, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jefferson, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, Wayne and White), aims to keep youth in their home communities where they will receive help, guidance and probation rather than being sent to one of the state's youth camp facilities, including those in Murphysboro and Harrisburg.”
They’re expanding the program statewide now so hopefully the news coverage will continue so we’ll hear of future outcomes. Still, a nice way to put a period on what hasn’t been the best year ever, isn’t it?
Have a Happy New Year. We’ll see you on Monday. 12/31/09.
As the States End the Year
more look at the fiscal mess they’re facing for the rest of this
FY and going into the next one. No, not a good look. Here’s
the punchline, but you need to read the whole thing for the context:
“While the recession appears to have ended during the summer, government revenues are expected to continue to be weak. State and local governments employ 15% of American workers outside of agriculture.
Twenty-two states -- including Connecticut, Illinois and Oregon -- saw third-quarter revenues decline more than 10%. Alaska saw the biggest percentage decrease in revenues -- 65% -- a decline that reflects falling energy prices. Several other energy-heavy states saw big decreases in tax revenue: Wyoming, Texas and OKLAHOMA saw overall tax revenues decline between 19% and 26%. Only three states -- Nevada, New Hampshire and Rhode Island -- saw quarterly increases.” 12/31/09.
Predicting Crime Levels in a Couple of Years?
Then you might want to take note of news stories like these that point out some variables that pop up when you start cutting state budgets deeply, like:
- losing 9 of 13 sex offender treatment staff
- not having enough DAs to handle caseloads
- having to depend on the feds just to keep parole going
- or just "streamlining" parole
We may not be seeing crime increases from the economic problems right now, but it's hard to believe that the budget cuts won't come home in a few years and we'll ask exactly how much did we save after all? 12/28/09.
In Case You Hadn’t Heard
“The Oklahoma Legislature will have $1.3 billion less, a drop of 20 percent, to spend in the next fiscal year, according to figures released Monday by State Treasurer Scott Meacham.” Anything more need to be said? 12/22/09.
Over at Sentencing Law and Policy
Links to a couple of novel stories involving corrections. This one gives us a Wisconsin case that sentenced a teenager to probation with a condition that he not date females for three years. Good luck to the P&P officer who gets that case. And this one adds on to the stories about prisons and jails cutting back to 2 meals a day with something potentially far worse—no more coffee in Cleveland’s county jail. Refresh yourself on your department’s procedures for handling riots. 12/22/09.
We’re Number One!!
But not necessarily a good thing. In case you didn’t hear over
the weekend, Oklahoma has jumped to the top of the list of states with
budget shortfalls, edging out No. 2 Arizona and running away from No.
3 Illinois. Details:
“Through the first five months of the current fiscal year, Oklahoma's general revenue fund receipts are 28.5 percent below the same period a year ago and 24.3 percent below projections — a shortfall of $577.5 million.
At that rate, general fund revenues will fall more than $1.1 billion short of projections.
Officials announced Tuesday that December's general fund allocations would be 10 percent less than budget amounts — a figure double the 5 percent cuts already in place.”For more comparisons and what you can expect from the legislature and governor, go here. 12/21/09.
Speaking of Budgets and Corrections
article discusses predictions that 2009 will be the first year
of prison population reductions nationally since well before Oklahoma
built its last public prison (extra points if you know when that was). Why
the declines? The major factor seems to be the kind of budget
stress almost all states are having. Here’s what’s happening
in a few of them:
“In Texas, parole rates were once among the lowest in the nation, with as few as 15 percent of inmates being granted release as recently as five years ago. Now, the parole rate is more than 30 percent after Texas began identifying low-risk candidates for parole.
In Mississippi, a truth-in-sentencing law required drug offenders to serve 85 percent of a sentence. That has been reduced to less than 25 percent.
California's budget problems are expected to result in the release of 37,000 inmates in the next two years. The state also is under a federal court order to shed 40,000 inmates because its prisons are so overcrowded.”
For those statistically obsessed or just wanting more details, hit the link. (h/t The Crime Report) 12/21/09.
Executions Up, Death Sentences Down
The US executed 52 convicted offenders in 2009, 15 more than 2008 and 10 more than 2007. However, the number of offenders convicted to execution dropped for the seventh straight year, down to 106, compared to 328 in the peak year of 1994. Texas has really backed off, due in part to recognition of the many false convictions that we are discovering, according to former DA there. You can get the full story and charts here. (h/t The Crime Report) 12/18/09.
Effect of Crim Just Reforms in Texas
Good post here on
a recent report outlining the initial findings of the impact of Texas’
recent reforms diverting offenders from prison and probation supervision
in an effort to get prison bedspace under control. This will give
you a taste, but the post and its links will get you to the guts. So
“In the big picture, these data tell us that Texas' probation reforms have been partially successful. Enacted to prevent exorbitant new prison spending, they were premised essentially on two goals - reducing revocations and reducing probation caseloads. It's the latter goal where the state has most obviously failed, with the felony direct supervision caseload rising instead of falling after reforms were enacted. The number of Texans on felony probation is still expanding wildly - increasing more than 10% since the 2004-'05 biennium. Given that trend, over time, even with reduced revocation rates, the prison population will rise again if more is not done.” 12/07/09.
For Your Viewing Pleasure
A couple of crim just-related meetings you can
attend, in person or online, especially if you’re in Oklahoma. A friend has reminded
us of the “OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM SYMPOSIUM / LEGISLATION PREVIEW”
being held by Senator Constance Johnson and Representative Sue Tibbs
December 15-17, 9-12, 1:30-4:30 in the Senate Chamber, 4th floor, at
the state capitol. Here’s the brief agenda if you’re interested:
1. DAY ONE, December 15
2. DAY TWO, December 16
Barriers to Reintegration
Gov-X: Removing the Governor from Parole Process
3. DAY THREE, December 17
Actual Innocence Project
Abolishing the Death Penalty
4. Other Business
But if you can’t make that (you out-of-state readers, and we do appreciate
you), here’s an NIC
broadcast on the latest on H1N1 in corrections if you think that
might help your operations:
“Even before the peak of the flu season, the H1N1 influenza has resulted in lock downs of some corrections facilities and restrictions for visitors. A National Institute of Corrections live satellite/internet broadcast on December 9, 2009 will discuss the current status of the H1N1 pandemic and how institutional and community corrections agencies can prepare for, and respond to, outbreaks of the flu. The three-hour broadcast Locking Up H1N1: CDC and Criminal Justice Join Forces will begin at noon Eastern Time. Link here to register and see instructions for viewing the broadcast, and download the broadcast flyer.” 12/03/09.
And After Furloughs???
STATELINE has a comprehensive overview of where states are going and likely to go after the “furlough option” for dealing with the massive cuts hitting them has lost its effectiveness. Lists of states with their furloughs and those already just letting people go entirely. You might want to start saving these lists for future comparisons. And here you see what happens to probation and parole services in a state, Washington, when the cuts get made. Finally, if you thought Oklahoma was escaping it, here’s the latest story on what’s happening here. 12/02/09.
TWO Hots and a Cot?
USA TODAY has discovered the time-honored budget-cutting technique of moving to two prison meals a day, right now in Indiana. Will they still cover it when 10-20 states are doing it two years from now? 11/23/09.
OK DOC Furloughs
Looks like they’re on the way, starting in March 2010, unless something
dramatic happens to the state budget by then. According to Director
Jones, as quoted here,
“Employees making $50,000 a year or more will take 12 furlough days between March and June, Jones said. Employees making less than $50,000 a year will be required to take 10 furlough days.
State agencies have been told to cut their budgets by 5 percent through the end of the 2010 fiscal year, which is June 30.
That means about $2 million a month to the Department of Corrections at a time when the agency has seen more than 370 additional inmates since July 1, Jones said.
"By state statute, we can only do 23 furlough days in any 12-month period," he said. "We have to reserve furlough days for the 2011 budget, also."
Hit the link to get the full details. 11/10/09.
Speaking of Good Reports
The Council of State Governments has a report out for fed actions on
children with incarcerated parents. Here’s a
link and a blurb:
“Over 1 million children have incarcerated parents, finds a new study “Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers,” but there is little coordination or practices on how to deal with this growing problem. Children whose parents are behind bars tend to live in poverty and suffer poor school performance and behavioral and emotional problems. The connection with their incarcerated parents is hindered by long distances and expensive communication options.
The Council of State Governments examines these issues in this report and provides recommendations on taking steps towards solutions.
Read the study here.”
Up to you to read them. 10/30/09.
OK House Hears Budget News
Story here on
the current and future state fiscal situated as presented to the Oklahoma House
of Representatives yesterday. Obviously, if it’s making a story, it’s
not good news. And FY 2011 doesn’t look better right now:
“The budget outlook for the 2011 fiscal year appears uncertain.
The state has used most of its available cash reserve funds for this year’s budget and to help meet revenue shortfalls at the beginning of this fiscal year.
Low natural gas prices and the corresponding reductions in drilling and production are blamed for the continued slump in state revenue, House Republicans were told. Low output from the state’s energy sector has a significant ripple effect on other business activity, resulting in severely reduced revenue from income and sales taxes, as well.”
Read the whole story . . . but don’t eat first. 10/20/09.
Another One Bites the Dust
Missouri has been seen as a model for the last several years for both cutting
crime and prison populations through sentencing guidelines and better information
systems. But this
story indicates those days are blowing by and they’re not really sure
why or what to do:
“Steady growth in prison populations was the norm for several decades in Missouri as lawmakers passed increasingly tough sentencing laws.
But that slowed after a 2003 Missouri law lowered the maximum prison sentence for some felonies, including drug possession, and gave judges greater discretion to order treatment programs or short-term shock sentences. The Department of Corrections also has placed a greater emphasis on programs that prepare soonto-be-released offenders to re-enter society, resulting in a decline in the recidivism rate for parolees.
After opening nine prisons between 1994 and 2004, the state closed the 1,000-bed Central Missouri Correctional Center in June 2005 because of budget cuts. That prison remains closed, and Lombardi said there are no immediate plans to reopen it despite the recent growth in the inmate population.” 10/20/09.
Alternatives Don’t Come Cheap
Treatment and rehab services get touted often as low cost options to incarceration, and, of course, they generally do cost less than putting people behind bars, at least in the aggregate. But that doesn’t mean they come cheap, as this article on concerns in Oregon discusses as they ramp up services during the same budget hardships that most of the other states face.
“Gov. Ted Kulongoski created a Re-entry Council two years ago to identify the barriers inmates face and coordinate programs to help them. A similar approach is being tried in several other states.
The Oregon Department of Corrections recently unveiled an online wiki to help offenders learn about jobs and other resources. Inmates leaving state custody now get help obtaining state DMV identification cards before they are released. They also get a 30-day supply of their medications when they get out.
A pilot program in Eugene started by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken gives former inmates a team to help with the transition from prison. The judge who handled the case, attorneys for both sides and treatment providers monitor inmates closely. Participants agree to sanctions for their mistakes, but in exchange get a relationship that is more supportive and less adversarial.
"We need to get a handle on this in a more cost effective way or we are going to pay the most expensive way, which is a prison bed," Aiken says. "We're recycling people. It's been just catch and release and catch."” 10/08/09.
Don’t Really Want to Know What “Stuff”
Looking at more mundane realities facing state corrections, here’s a piece on the $2m.+ cost to California corrections from inmates stuffing stuff in their commodes while the state is in the fiscal hell it finds itself. Good thing inmates haven’t figured out that, when a state doesn’t have money to breathe, they don’t have to riot to get leverage on conditions, they can just big time mess stuff up . . . oops. (You think maybe we should start planning, too?) 10/08/09.
An Oklahoma House committee is planning hearings to figure out how to curb the growth of “shake and bake” meth production in the state, which is becoming a big problem here and elsewhere around the nation. Since Oklahoma led other states in developing the restrictions on cold/allergy medications, maybe there’s hope that the ideas from these efforts will give us a new hammer to get the production back down until the producers figure out a way to get around the new idea. Any time bought would be helpful. 10/01/09.
Cool Census Data Map
USA Today has up a neat interactive map of the US that you can use to check out where your state is on census data concerning population, household income, housing affordability, health insurance, even foreign born and multiple marriages. You can compare with other states as well. Corrections increasingly has to look at other, external variables these days, particularly when considering reentry planning, so this might be a useful tool for a while. And it’s fun and interesting and can be considered “work” when you’re bor . . . researching. 09/22/09.
Where Does Your State Rank
on this measure of economic distress right now? The Kaiser Foundation has a table up combining the standings of the states on foreclosures, unemployment, and food stamps which has some interesting stats just in general and may be relevant in specific ways to you. Oklahoma at the moment of the stats was tied for 41st with Louisiana and Connecticut (which was good but before budget hooey started meeting fan here). The worst two states at that moment? Nevada and Florida. The best? Nebraska and Iowa. Granted, hard economic times don’t always directly impact our correctional populations, but the budget gyrations they cause do. (h/t The 13th Floor, GOVERNING’s daily blog). 09/17/09.
The Way to Lower Prison Populations
Get mothers good nursing care during their kids’ first two years after birth. Not the answer you came up with? Well, there’s tons of evidence to support it, including this piece, which will lead you to another piece, which will lead you to researchers who prove it. And it also has the effect of reducing other public service costs as well. Win-win-win. 09/15/09.
Speaking of Data Reports
Stateline has an interactive doodad up allowing you to track individual states on the impact of the fiscal downturn from 2007 when it began to the present, if you’re into that sort of thing. Just don’t have a lot of sharp instruments around you. 09/14/09.
Swift and Certain or Just Severe?
Criminologists have always argued that the effectiveness of punishment depends
more on how quickly it occurs after the offense and on the certainty of it
more than on how severe it is. That’s also the idea underlying Hawaii’s
HOPE program, part of the topic discussed in this
post at GOVERNING’s blog, along with a notice of a book emphasizing the
ways that communities could reinforce the swiftness and certainty, meaning
more public safety at less cost than harsh sentences. Clearly has implications
for future corrections policies. Here’s a bit of the post, but you need
to get the details, especially if you’re interested in the coming book:
“In place of the current high severity "lock-em-up and throw away the key approach," he advocates "swift and certain" but less severe punishment. Judge Alm's approach in Hawaii illustrates the idea perfectly: People on probation in the HOPE program are warned that violations of probation will result in swift and certain punishment. They are subjected to frequent randomized drug testing. If they fail or skip an appointment, they are quickly apprehended and remanded to jail - but only for a few days. The result has been a dramatic improvement in compliance.
More surprisingly, it hasn't been hard to enforce. Once probationers accept that the threat of apprehension is real and punishment certain, most - even substance abusers - stop violating. . . .” 09/02/09.
Possible Special Session
The Oklahoma legislature may be meeting again soon if the governor and legislative leaders can work out the details of a special session to address the sudden revenue shortage facing state government here. Here’s a bit of a longer article you obviously need to read completely:
“Legislative leaders, the governor’s office and budget officials have been in talks to decide how to deal with the revenue shortfall and the likelihood that tax collections will continue to come in below what legislators budgeted to fund state agencies.
Legislators have several options. They could use some of the Rainy Day Fund, which has nearly $600 million. The state constitution allows up to three-eighths of the fund, or $223.7 million, to be used upon a revenue shortfall declaration by the state Board of Equalization. The other 37.5 percent can be used to stabilize the budget in another fiscal year; the remaining 25 percent may be spent on projects labeled as emergencies.
Lawmakers could use some of the approximately $600 million in federal stimulus money still available. The governor’s office and legislative leaders had set aside that money to use for the next fiscal year.
Or they could make budget cuts to state agencies.” 08/20/09.
Maine Releases the Terminally Ill
Details of a new
law in Maine that allows release of terminally ill inmates demonstrated
to no longer endanger public safety. Given that most states are faced
with similar concerns, you might find some useful info here. What, you
intelligently ask, about their costs and care when early released?
“Sheriff Ross says there's always the question of how and where terminally ill inmates will be cared for after release, but the Volunteers of America, he says, have been a help.
"Here in Penobscot County we have a contract with Volunteers of America for release of inmates back into the community," he says. "And so that's a supervised community confinement program, basically, where we have somebody checking in on them. But we can set up conditions on inmates that are released to hospitals, or to homes and have them checked on by our VOA staff."” 08/20/09.
can find the latest award winners among criminal justice programs that you
might be interested in, courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Association. This
will give you a taste:
“. . .The Berks County, Pa., Community Reentry Program was cited for helping offenders, reducing the recidivism rate, and increasing public safety. The Iowa Jail-Based Substance Abuse Program was honored for treating problems “associated with both substance abuse and criminal thinking.” More than 90 percent of participants had not been arrested after a year.
Harriet’s House Transitional Housing for Female Ex-Offenders in North Carolina was praised for helping 128 women obtain and maintain permanent, safe, and affordable housing. The Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Washington State got an award for helping victims of domestic abuse and their children. . . .”
And here’s a program that didn’t get an award but is getting a story in Washington state that you also might find useful:
““The state Department of Natural Resources last year cut funding for an inmate
firefighting crew based at Belfair's Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.
Fifty of the approximately 180 inmates at Mission Creek were left with a lot
more time on their hands.
"It was a struggle to think, 'what are we going to do with 50 women?' " said Wanda McRae, Mission Creek's superintendent.
They then looked locally.
Mission Creek officials had already established a community-service crew, so they basically expanded it, McRae said. And the partnerships have blossomed.
In one of the most successful partnerships thus far, inmates have teamed up with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, which works to restore salmon habitat.
Each Monday, groups of eight women are taken to rivers and streams around the Hood Canal, where they work all day spraying knotweed, a noxious weed that can destroy salmon habitat.””
Click on the link for details. Speaking of saving food, here’s a story on the use of inmates to go into harvested fields to retrieve edible crops for food banks. Finally, here’s an op-ed from GOVERNING describing efforts to bring wiki and social communication tech to public info campaigns that you might be able to adapt to your department or unit:
“But many state and local government agencies are still strangers to wikis and blogs and social media sites, though some government leaders and agencies are jumping on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. They're using them to publicize state and municipal happenings, receive comment from residents and sometimes just toot their own horns.
Some critics say those sites were not built with government in mind and that governments aren't looking for "friends," but to engage civic-minded people in serious discussions. Others say governments should use whatever social networking sites work, and use as many as possible. After all, they're free. Of course, there's always a danger that a few opinionated people could dominate the discussions. But that's true in person as well.
The advantages of electronic participation over town hall meetings are many. It's a greener alternative than requiring people to drive to a central place to participate in government. It also allows shift workers and others who can't attend a meeting to offer their insights. And it provides a "safe" environment for those too nervous to stand up and speak. "Citizens hate to get up and look stupid," says Kim Patrick Kobza, president and CEO of Neighborhood America, which provides enterprise "social software." "We're all afraid of public speaking or looking uninformed."”
Again, the whole article is worth your time. 08/19/09.
Want Some More Depression?
Then read this story on the impact the closing of state prisons has on the communities that they leave. And obviously more than one state is covered. 08/18/09.
That’s the estimated cost to California of its recent prison riot. Details here. TIME also covers the riot, noting that California’s real costs will come when the results of all the cuts it is making in its rehabilitation efforts come due. Shouldn’t have to wait that long. 08/14/09.
Making Executions Scientific
Article here on
Ohio’s efforts to bring professionalism and science to their methods of execution
in the late 19th-early 20th century. Interesting stuff if you’re into
correctional history, especially how yesterday feeds into today’s practice. Here’s
just a bit to get you to hit the link:
“"Professionals influenced the execution in two distinct – if ultimately inseparably linked – ways," Linders states in the paper. "First, because they were middle-class, they infused the understanding of executions with a new emphasis on propriety, dignity and decorum. And, second, because they were professionals, they expected executioners to be competent, the equipment to work, and the proceedings to be efficient. In combination, these two elements, which we might call taste and efficiency, were key components in the production of the modern, rational execution event where speed and efficiency are of essence and mishaps, visible signs of pain, and emotional outbursts in the audience are signs of failure," writes Linders.” 08/13/09.
Assistant DOC Deputy for Energy Conservation?
Maybe a more common position in the future as we all search for the savings in our correctional budgets. Maine’s already testing it out, and here’s a little on what they’re trying (but you know you want to read more):
“Some of those initiatives are run-of-the-mill and include switching out light
bulbs for more energy-efficient ones, she said. But others would help the state
reduce its dependence on foreign oil by using more homegrown alternatives,
such as heating with wood pellets instead of or in addition to heating oil.
The state is now completing a contract to use wood pellets at the Mountain
View Youth Center in Charleston, Lord said.
"Improvements will be good for our state's economy and for our environment," said Commissioner Martin Magnusson of the Maine Department of Corrections in a press release.
Corrections officials also see the chance to swap out oil for wind energy, at least at the Charleston Correctional Facility.
"It's the only one located in an area where we think there's sufficient wind to justify an investment," Lord said.
She said that the department is working with Unity College now to estimate wind power potential in Charleston.
The state also is looking into ways to "significantly reduce" the use of water for laundry, Lord said, which some other correctional facilities have done using new technology.” 08/13/09.
Quote of the Day
really bad that we have to legislate logic."
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who pushed a measure signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn prohibiting motorists from sending text messages while driving. 08/13/09.
More on State Prison Budget Pictures
You may have already seen on some other sites the Stateline story on the 23 states that are cutting correctional spending this year, and premonitions about what that number will be for FY 2011, but here it is if you haven’t. You may not have seen this post that gives you a couple of more juicy morsels to add to the picture (not sure what metaphor is being mixed there). You can find out the percentage of state spending is going to corrections in your state and how much it’s grown over the last two decades as well as the percentage of total correctional spending in your state is picked up by the state. All compared to the states that you feel legit for your state to be compared to (follow that?). 08/12/09.
Here’s a money-making
opportunity for states, at least those able to empty some prison beds
in the last few years, such as New York or, in this case, Michigan. Pennsylvania’s
looking for a place to put some of its inmates, and it’s willing to pay. As
soon as Michigan takes all it can, the story makes clear, from California
and the feds. Elsewhere, work is being done to determine the most cost-effective
way to deliver desired levels of public safety. Via a friend who sent
this along, this
Canadian study replicates the great work of the Washington State Institute
for Public Policy on the best “return on investment” of public spending for
reducing crime and victimization. Like the Washington study, this study
finds substantial benefits over costs by investing in correctional program
areas, almost three dollars for every dollar spent, with the exception of
education and employment program areas. And here we
hear of a crime victim in Massachusetts who became disillusioned with the
impact of a special law passed after the death of her daughter. Like
most specially passed legislation, the impact on actual crime reduction was
minimal. The mother is now working with the Rand Corporation to get
funding raised for a foundation “to study the issue of recidivism the way
scientists study disease: objectively and with an eye toward prevention.
The goal is to provide research based on scientific evidence that would guide
policy makers and community activists as they draft legislation or strategies
to deal with violent perpetrators.” Here’s a little more:
“Through the partnership, Casanova said she hopes to provide a clearinghouse that will disseminate reliable research to both legislators and other citizens who want to know whether the laws in their own state or county are effective.
Greg Ridgeway, RAND’s director of safety and justice research, said the plan is to raise about $2 million a year to analyze existing research and conduct new research. The Ally Foundation will help raise funds and raise awareness about the effort.
“They are an unusual victim’s family, in that they recognize that there are serious problems in the system and they simply didn’t want another piece of legislation with Alexandra’s name on it that solves one little loophole,’’ said Ridgeway. “They wanted to do something bigger. They noticed there are tens of thousands of families like them, and they want to do something broader, that has an impact.’’” 08/12/09.
Do We Need a Commission to Study Commissions?
Although boards and commissions are popular state policy tools and can frequently
lead to good outcomes, they have their critics. For example, GOVERNING
has a column this
month on a move to reduce their prevalence. Here’s a bit of the logic
to tempt you to read the whole thing:
“Over in the state of Washington, the governor’s staff was checking out the state’s 470 boards and commissions to see if there was any potential to save some money by eliminating any that were no longer needed. They found, among other things, a great deal of duplication. Five different commissions were all dealing in some way with pesticide-related issues. “The governor was pretty clear in saying ‘Do we really need 470 boards and commissions to help us run state government?’” Robin Arnold-Williams, director of the governor’s Executive Policy Office, told us.
Arnold-Williams says it’s important to realize that there are lots of indirect costs of commission activities. “We’re hoping to help people to understand that it’s not the cost of travel, per diem and refreshments. It’s the human-capital cost. It’s the indirect cost, which is the staff preparation that goes into preparing for the meeting and getting the materials out.” . . .
Even when ineffective commissions don’t actually cost money, there’s a symbolic expense. When an entity is set up and continues to exist—even if its state of activity approaches zero—it sends a message to everyone and anyone involved in its mission: Government really isn’t in the business of solving problems—it’s just pretending to do so.”
What this says for the future of sentencing commissions and criminal justice advisory councils isn’t definite, but in these tough fiscal times, some unease for those involved might be warranted, like in Washington state. Of course, some states will use a commission to study the question. 08/10/09.
National Directory of Programs for Women Offenders
The National Institute of Corrections and the Women’s Prison Association have
combined on a new
document that you should find helpful. We’ll let them tell you about
“The National Institute of Corrections, in partnership with the Women's Prison Association, has developed an online directory of programs for women offenders. This nationwide resource provides profiles of programs and services for women at all stages of criminal justice involvement, both in correctional facilities and in the community. Link here to view the National Directory of Programs for Women with Criminal Justice Involvement. Click on the "Contact" tab on any page of the Directory for a form to recommend additional program listings.” 08/07/09.
States Dealing (and Not) with Their Fiscal Problems
Tough times bring out a wide range of ideas, don’t they? Definitely true right now in corrections. Here’s a story on how some states are trying out charging their wealthier inmates for their keep. Yeah, most inmates aren’t going to be able to pay much or anything, but there is that Madoff guy. OTOH, Texas has doubled down on its treatment spending and has now managed to eliminate its waiting lists, in case you’re wondering how you could do the same. OTOH OTOH, Michigan’s politics is raising its successful prison pop reduction efforts to a controversy over public safety even as crime rates there go down. And Illinois is considering how that $20 m. cut to counties to pay for probation supervision might affect its public safety. Finally, an article from California challenging the prediction made here yesterday that the state would take its federal defeat on prison funding to the US Supreme Court and win. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. 08/06/09.
One More Unplanned Correctional Expense
Turns out that when non-profit shelters for sex
offenders close down, you and your department may end up getting to pay
for them even though they’ve done their time. That’s what’s happened
“Now, the DOC will be forced to go to the families of sex offenders and ask them to take these men in. If that doesn't work they will be forced to put them in motels.
Hand said the Dept. of Corrections will have to look at their budget because the money comes out of their general fund and they were not prepared for Crossroads' closing.
In response to questions regarding tracking men under their watch, Hand said all 70 sex offenders registered at Crossroads had some form of electronic monitoring device.” 08/05/09.
Courts and California’s Prisons
If you’re in this field, you’ve probably already heard about the federal court telling California to release over 40,000 inmates over the next two years because crowded prisons deny protected health care rights. Not headlining or making a big deal of it here because it will go to the US Supreme Court and who’s really betting that California won’t win there? The real question is, how much authority will federal courts have after that coming decision to even intervene in any way with how any state or local government operates, not just corrections? 08/05/09.
Something Unusual in Journalism
A long and thoughtful article on why and how the corrections folks in New Hampshire have gone about developing and implementing plans to reduce their prison populations in these difficult fiscal times. Unusual because journalism doesn’t really pay that much attention to us unless something bad has happened and because the piece is long and thoughtful. Might give you some ideas, confirm some you’ve had, just generally provide some helpful info. Check it out. 08/03/09.