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This week the Justice Department encouraged people sent to prison under tough old drug laws to apply for clemency. The Senate Judiciary Committee also advanced a bill that advocates call the biggest sentencing reform in decades. Justice correspondent Carrie Johnson speaks with NPR's Rachel Martin
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I recently was invited to testify before the PA House of Representatives Committee on Government Operations, which held a hearing Wednesday 7/17 on various proposed changes to the PA Right to Know law which permits citizens access to most government records. The proposed change would have barred anyone with a PA felony conviction from ever getting certain information under this law, and I offered the following, first pointing out that I was a private citizen and not a spokesperson for CRESC:
Testimony of James L. Cavenaugh on HB 480 Session of 2013 Amending the Right-to-know Law July 16, 2013
I am asking that the House State Government committee, as it considers HB 480, consider who is a felon and how the Commonwealth wants to treat these people. As an active member of the Capital Region Exoffenders Support Coalition (CRESC, details at http://www.reentrynow.org/index.html ) I have gotten to know many people who have felony convictions and yet have changed a great deal. They have become businesspeople, taxpayers, and leaders. In short, they are people who strengthen and improve our society. For example:
John W. Jackson has been home seven years. In that time he has found a good job, is active in his church and has founded a faith-based non-profit which raises money for scholarships so children in the Harrisburg schools may go on to higher
Vladimir Beaufils has been President of our Capital Region Exoffenders Support Coalition for several years. He is the founder and Executive Director of Sound Community Solutions (details at http://www.soundcommunitysolutions.org/ ) and serves as a
consultant to small businesses and nonprofits.
Marsha Banks is founder and Executive Director of Amiracle4sure (details at
http://www.amiracle4sure.org/) which helps women and men coming out of prison by mentoring them.
Laws like this proposal, to limit the rights of felons, are based on a view that says once you’ve been to prison you will never change for the better and you will
never reenter society. They arise from a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ mentality. The felons I know are ready to admit that they made mistakes in the past, and they have paid the penalty of incarceration, job loss, weakened family ties. They have worked hard, found strength through faith, and become people I am proud to know and consider a friend. They have changed their lives and are working to help others make those same changes.
But who among us has not made mistakes when we were young, mistakes that in some cases could have gotten us on the wrong side of the law.
Have we changed since those days? I think so. So each of us can support
the idea that change is possible.
Sadly, our prisons are overflowing because of the ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ approach to dealing with people who break the law. But since our commonwealth’s Secretary of Corrections has said repeatedly ‘we cannot build our way out of this,’ he clearly does not share that mentality. He is putting PA tax
money to work to help reentering exoffenders, and our coalition is proud to be
part of the effort to help these reentering citizens do so successfully. As
Sec. Wetzel has stated on many occasions, 95% of those incarcerated in PA will
be released. It is in our best interest that they reenter
When this happens, the result is less crime and more taxpayers – a result I think this committee can support.
There are many laws in existence that penalize felons regardless of the changes they may have made, and these make it difficult for people coming out of prison to find housing, find jobs, and a new life.
I ask that this committee not add to the burden these reentering citizens face by approving HB 480
The Papillon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity which helps indigent
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If we can assist your organization in furthering its mission, please add our
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PO Box 338
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Paul McEnroe published an article in Star Tribune of the Twin Cities. He found that "inmates who get regular visits are 13 percent less likely to wind up back in prison because of new felonies and 25 percent less likely to commit probation violations that would put them back behind bars." The frequency of visits is also associated with lower rates of recidivism. There are exception, however. Visits by ex-spouses are associated with higher rates of recidivism.
You can read the full article here.
When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade (Arizona Republic (9-15-2004)). Evidence shows that children who do not read by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, or go to prison. So many nonreaders wind up in jail that Arizona officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs.
Low literacy is strongly related to crime. 70% of prisoners fall into the lowest two levels of reading proficiency (National Institute for Literacy, 1998).
Low literacy is strongly related to unemployment. More than 20% of adults read as or below a fifth grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage.
Literacy statistics and juvenile court
The majority of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Furthermore, recent research demonstrates that many youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic victimization and exhibit symptoms of trauma. This webinar will summarize the current state of knowledge regarding this population. It will review:
The webinar, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, will be held from 2:00-3:00pm (ET) on Thursday, August 25, 2011. To register for the webinar, click here.
CSG Justice Center Releases Guide for Transforming Probation Departments to Focus on Recidivism Reduction
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced today the release of a guide for policymakers committed to reducing the likelihood that probationers will reoffend. A Ten-Step Guide to Transforming Probation Departments to Reduce Recidivism provides probation leaders with a roadmap to overhaul the operations of their agencies so they can increase public safety in their communities and improve rates of compliance among people they are supervising.
Click here to download the report.
The first section describes how officials can engage key stakeholders, evaluate agency policies, and develop a strategic plan for implementing reform; the second section provides recommendations for redesigning departmental policies and practices; and the final section includes steps for making the department transformation permanent. The report provides numerous examples of how these steps were used in one probation department in particular (Travis County, Texas). Since transforming its operations between 2005 and 2008, the Travis County probation department has seen felony probation revocations decline by 20 percent and the one-year re-arrest rate for probationers fall by 17 percent (compared with similar probationers before the departmental overhaul).
Geraldine Nagy, Director of Travis County’s adult probation department and one of the authors of the report, said, “Probation leaders across the country share the conviction that probation administrators play a key role in community safety. In Travis County, we’ve made preventing crime and reducing reoffending the focus of our mission statement. Everyone, at all levels of our agency, along with judicial leaders, sees recidivism reduction as our shared and topmost priority. The Ten-Step Guide captures the key lessons we learned in reforming our agency.”
While probation officials in every state are experiencing cuts to their budgets, the number of people they are supervising is increasing. According to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States, more than five million people are currently on probation or parole in the U.S., representing an increase of 59 percent over the past 20 years. Facing high expectations and intense public scrutiny, probation officials should revisit their agency’s goals, processes, and measures for success. The Ten-Step Guide is designed for these community corrections officials and policymakers responsible for funding and overseeing probation.
North Carolina State Representative David Guice (R-Transylvania County), who is a member of the board of the CSG Justice Center and worked as a probation officer for over 30 years, said, "As a member of my state’s General Assembly, I worked diligently with fellow lawmakers to author legislation to overhaul the probation system across North Carolina. I believe it's important to realize how state governments can position probation staff to go beyond 'trailing and nailing' probationers who don't comply with conditions of release, and actually work to change behaviors among this population so they commit fewer crimes. The Ten-Step Guide is a critical tool for any state lawmaker who wants to help accomplish these same goals in their state."
Work on the guide was supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project, Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Community Justice Assistance Division, and the Travis County (TX) Community Supervision and Corrections Department.
Download the report for free. It was produced under grant number 2009-DD-BX-K139 of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Additional resources can be found at www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org.
This is a National Reentry Resource Center Spotlight Announcement. This announcement is funded in whole or in part through a grant (award number: 2009-CZBX-KO01) from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this announcement (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).
Washington, DC—Senior officials from the Department of Justice, reentry experts, formerly incarcerated individuals, victims, and representatives of programs receiving federal funding through the Second Chance Act (Public Law 110-199) came together today for a three-day conference, convened by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, to share strategies that increase success rates for people released from prisons, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that more than 725,000 people were released from state prisons in 2009 alone (the most recently published statistics). Half of these individuals are expected to be reincarcerated within three years. One of the fastest growing categories of prison admissions consists of people who are already under some form of community supervision.
With support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice, this second annual national conference for Second Chance Act grantees has been convened to help frontline professionals learn from experts and peers. The conference, attended by more than 600 reentry practitioners and experts, will highlight best practices and promising approaches that help make a person's transition from a correctional facility to the community safe and successful.
“Nearly everyone in prison and jail will someday return to the community, and it is critical that we recognize and prepare for this reality,” said BJA Acting Director James H. Burch, II. “The justice professionals invited to this conference are on the cutting edge of our justice system's most significant challenge—to increase public safety, strengthen communities, and reduce costs by ensuring that those released from secure confinement do not reoffend and have every opportunity to succeed in the community.”
The U.S. Department of Justice continues to make reentry—and collaboration among reentry partners—a high priority. Attorney General Eric Holder recently convened a cabinet-level Reentry Council, with the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, and the Interior; as well as the heads of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Social Security Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The department's Bureau of Justice Assistance also oversees the grant programs that provide technical assistance, practical resources, and direct support for individuals and agencies committed to the safe and effective reintegration of people leaving prisons and jails to their communities.
The reentry conference is designed to build the knowledge base of what works to reduce crime and help returning individuals remain contributing members of neighborhoods and families. Information exchanges will help grantees make the most of the federal investment in their programs by highlighting accountability issues and key practices. Among the topics that will be addressed are properly assessing an individual's risk for committing future crimes, designing data-driven programs, and effectively allocating limited resources for people returning from prisons and jails. Special attention is paid to sharing strategies that meet the unique needs of youth returning to schools and families after detention in a secure facility in an effort to interrupt the cycle of crime and incarceration.
“With states facing intense budget cuts, we simply cannot afford to invest in the status quo, in which people cycle in and out of prisons and jails without positive effect,” said CSG Justice Center board member Michael Lawlor, Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning at the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. “The Second Chance Act reflects the commitment of leaders in Congress and the Department of Justice to foster new thinking in local, state, and tribal governments about how to break this cycle and get people back on their feet. This conference provides the ideal forum for these ideas to be heard by the front-line practitioners who will make a difference in our communities.”
The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry. The NRRC is coordinated by the CSG Justice Center, with support from BJA. For more information, visit www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org. For more about the CSG Justice Center, see www.justicecenter.csg.org.
The NRRC was established by the Second Chance Act, which was signed into law on April 9, 2008. The Act was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. This first-of-its-kind legislation authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce recidivism. For more information about the Act, seehttp://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/about/second-chance-act.
The NRRC's work also is guided by the Justice Center's key project partners: the Urban Institute,Association of State Correctional Administrators, American Probation and Parole Association, and Shay Bilchik, research professor/center director, Georgetown University Public Policy Institute. Additional guidance is provided by advisory committees that include representatives of nearly 100 leading nonprofit organizations and service providers in the reentry field.
CRESC held a strategic planning session Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 from 8am to noon at the CMU 1100 South Cameron St.
The session was recorded with a LiveScribe Pen (visual notes and synchronized audio). You can access the transcription and listen to the audio online.
The Planning Session took place in two parts. The first part included introductions and group work to identify critical topic areas for the Strategic Plan. The second part included further group work and report out about priorities and next action steps.
January 10, 2011
Letter from the Chairman
To Whom It May Concern;
The recent events in Arizona are causing some to reflect on the state of affairs in our great land. People are now asking, “How did we get to such a place of hate and evil intent?”
Representative Tim Holden has an article asking all of us to be more civil. I applaud him for that and certainly agree that is something we must do.
I also have to ask why we are not more forgiving as a people. Which of us has not needed or asked for forgiveness at some point in our matriculation through life? Which of us had anything to do with where we were born or to whom we were born? Of course none of us had any say. Nevertheless, we find ourselves looking down our noses at some that are different than us.
Ladies and gentlemen I submit we have to be more civil, we have to be more forgiving and we have to be more understanding of persons different than us.
When it comes to the ex-offender that has paid his or her debt to society, the question remains, how long must they keep on paying?
When will the slate be wiped clean, the past forgotten so that society can move forward collectively? We must understand that we are as weak as the weakest link. Therefore, it behooves us to pull everyone up and not let anyone get left behind.
Together we will all overcome or together we will all fail at this thing called “living in peace” with one another. We can do it; we all have to realize the benefits in seeing things the way they ought to be seen. Yes we punish crime, but when the punishment is duly administered and the sentence served is the individual then welcomed back into the fold? If not, why not? We must understand that with recidivism, we all lose. Let’s get this thing right so we can all move forward!!!
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