Archive for Humane Exposures

Montana ACLU and Department of Corrections Settle Women’s Prison Lawsuit

Idaho State Penitentiary Womens Ward

Idaho State Penitentiary Womens Ward (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Under a settlement announced recently in a discrimination lawsuit Montana’s Department of Corrections will offer boot camp for female prisoners and cancel a mandatory treatment program that was criticized as being degrading. The state also agreed to pay $50,000 in legal costs and a combined $12,000 to the seven current and former prisoners named in the case.

Montana’s Department of Corrections will offer boot camp for female prisoners and cancel a mandatory treatment program that was criticized as being degrading. The state also agreed to pay $50,000 in legal costs and a combined $12,000 to the seven current and former prisoners named in the case.

The lawsuit began last year with a complaint filed in federal court by one of the plaintiffs, Susan Fish, who initially represented herself in the case. It targeted the prison’s six-year-old “Right Living Community” program and the lack of a boot camp for women as an alternative to prison.

Fish and the others alleged they received little training and were forced to sing and participate in children’s games such as “Duck Duck Goose.” The plaintiffs also said the program established a prison hierarchy in which high-ranking inmates could take away privileges of lower-ranked fellow inmates.

ACLU attorney Anna Conley said:

It ended up being degrading, non-rehabilitative and served no purpose at all but to create problems among prisoners They had to participate in this whether they wanted to or not. If you refused to participate in this model, you would go to solitary confinement.

Regarding Right Living, Corrections attorney Ira Eakin said a review of the program undertaken after a new warden was hired at the Women’s Prison in the spring determined it was not as effective as more “traditional” rehabilitation programs. Whereas the discontinued program awarded privileges to prisoners based on their participation, the traditional approach offers privileges based on prisoner behavior.

The settlement calls for the department to offer boot camp for women prisoners beginning Nov. 1 at Deer Lodge. Such a program is already available to male defendants and is based on a military-discipline format.

Completion of boot camp can mean a chance for a reduced sentence, an option that had been denied women prisoners since the cancellation of female boot camp last decade.

One of the plaintiffs, Tasha Rainey, remains incarcerated at a pre-release center in Billings two years after a male co-defendant convicted of similar crimes was released on probation after successfully completing boot camp.

“In order to give female offenders who wanted to participate in boot camp the same opportunity, we agreed to bring back the boot camp for females,” said Eakin, who helped negotiate the settlement. He said up to four slots for women were planned, with the possibility of expanding that number in the future if demand is sufficient and the Legislature is willing to pay for it.

The prior cancellation of boot camp for women followed low participation and logistical problems stemming from having both males and females at the same facility in Deer Lodge.

At one point, The Corrections department sought to have Fish’s case dismissed on the grounds that she had not followed proper legal procedures, but the move was denied by U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby.

The settlement releases the state from any future liability in the case.

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The War Against the Homeless (Infographic)

War Against the Homeless
Source: War Against the Homeless

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South Dakota, Which Used to Lock up Youths at the Highest Rate, is Now Rolling Out Statewide a Successful Juvenile Detention Alternatives Program

Map of USA with South Dakota highlighted

Map of USA with South Dakota highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A program in two South Dakota counties to help juvenile offenders stay out of detention is poised to expand statewide. South Dakota’s two-year-old Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) provides substitutes for detention. Rather than being locked up for offenders who qualify can opt for such measures as daily reporting or electronic monitoring.

Since JDAI was introduced in them, Pennington and Minehaha counties have enjoyed reductions in the average number of youngsters in their county detention centers by more than half.

Recently the state court system accepted a $100,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to fund a statewide program coordinator, and the agency intends to ask legislators to make the position permanent. Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s administration and the state court system support the shift in thinking on juvenile justice, and expansion of JDAI statewide.

Jim Seward, the governor’s attorney and an architect of the adult criminal justice reform passed by lawmakers earlier this year said:

We support the concept of detention alternatives, and we’ve cooperated with the transition, knowing this would be going statewide.

Officials say the program’s goals of trimming the number of youths in lockup and reducing incidents of juvenile crime through the use of less-restrictive alternatives is a model that can be valuable throughout the state.

South Dakota state court administrator Greg Sattizahn said:

We’re going to use this grant to take it statewide, because the successes in Minnehaha and Pennington counties have been significant.

The shift toward alternatives to juvenile incarceration is particularly significant in light of the state’s history. South Dakota has been re-evaluating its juvenile programs for years, since the death of 14-year-old Gina Score at a Department of Corrections boot camp prompted the creation of a corrections monitor for the state.

Change has not come quickly, however. In 2006, the Casey foundation said that South Dakota locked up youth at a higher rate than any other US state.

The JDAI concept turns on the evidence-based theory that detention can be reduced without increasing juvenile crime. Now that Minnehaha and Pennington counties have seen that happen, prosecutors statewide are more likely to accept the program.

 

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D.C. Meeting and NSC Juvenile Justice Report Focus on Cost-saving Alternatives to Youth Incarceration

English: Front of the Robert F. Kennedy Depart...

English: Front of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington DC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three members of the National Research Council’s Committee on Assisting Juvenile Justice Reform presented the report’s findings on July 26, 2013. The report stressed that, “To effectively meet the challenges of juvenile offending and reduce recidivism, states and localities must move away from a justice model focused on punishment and instead adopt a model that acknowledges the changes that youthful offenders are undergoing and fosters positive development and accountability.

Dr. Robert L. Johnson, Committee Chair and Director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Rutgers University—New Jersey Medical School, said, based on his 40 years working with youth in trouble with the law, that the “juvenile justice system as it now exists does not respect human development and it often makes these kids worse.”

The frontal lobe, which is home to judgment, impulse control, emotions, reasoning and problem-solving is the last part of the brain to mature, usually at about 24 years old. As a result, Dr. Edward Mulvey, Director of the Law and Psychiatry Program at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said:

 Adolescents differ from adults in three important ways: they have trouble regulating their feelings in emotionally charged situations, they have a heightened sensitivity to contextual influences in their environment, such as peer pressure. and they are less able to understand the future implications and impact of their decisions and judgments.

“To support positive development, adolescents need a strong, caring parent or parent figure, positive peers and opportunities for positive decision-making and critical thinking. Interventions that hold offenders accountable for their actions will promote healthy moral development and legal socialization, if youth perceive them to be fair. Conversely, interventions that youthful offenders perceive to be unfair will foster further social disaffection and antisocial behavior.

Gladys Carrion, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, believes that in many cases, juvenile justice does not have access to important supports found in the mental health, substance abuse treatment, education, developmental disabilities and housing systems—and this needs to change.

During her six years as head of New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services, her agency has closed 21 facilities. It costs her state $262,000 a year to house a child in the juvenile justice system, so the savings have been substantial. Now only the children who pose a risk enter the juvenile justice system. The state has used the savings to fund alternatives to detention, develop improved assessment tools, improve conditions of confinement for those youth in the system and streamline probation. New York has additionally shortened the length of stay in confinement for youth and has hired therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists to work with them..

In another meeting, on September 6, 2013 Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) hosted “States’ Innovations in Juvenile Justice: Investing in Better Outcomes for Our Communities.” Leaders from Connecticut, Texas and Ohio, and federal juvenile justice leaders discussed recent bipartisan reforms that have improved outcomes for kids involved with the juvenile justice system and for youth who are removed from their schools for disciplinary reasons, and who are therefore at risk of becoming involved with the justice system.

Mike Lawlor, Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning in Connecticut, described legislation that greatly reduced the number of youth confined in juvenile justice facilities, developed new community-based supervision and treatment programs and raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18.

Texas State Senator John Whitmire detailed a new law prohibiting the use of confinement for youth adjudicated for misdemeanor offenses. He also explained a new incentive program for counties to place youth in local evidence-based programs, rather than in state-operated correctional facilities. Texas redirected $57.8 million that would have been used to house juveniles for misdemeanors in secure facilities into community-based programs.

Linda Teodosio, of the Summit County Juvenile Court in Ohio, explained how the RECLAIM Ohio (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors) funding initiative has expanded dispositional options for youth and community-based alternatives while creating financial incentives for counties to keep youth out of confinement. In fiscal year 2012, these county subsidies for juvenile justice programs totaled approximately $47.3 million, serving 600 programs and 110,000 youngsters across Ohio. The funds received through RECLAIM can be used for a vast array of treatment, intervention, diversion and prevention programs, such as treatment, alternative schools, intensive probation, electronic monitoring and residential treatment.

Panelists also focused on significant reforms in their states and at the local level that reduce the impact of harmful school discipline policies which push youth into the juvenile justice system. These reforms include reducing the number of exclusionary policies and school-based referrals to law enforcement. The three featured states have saved millions of dollars from reduced incarceration and cut back on harmful, ineffective policies such as the over-confinement of youth for low-level offenses, while improving outcomes for youth and keeping communities safe.

Senator Murphy stated:

In Connecticut, it costs about $14,000 a year to educate a student, while it costs $270,000 a year to house a child in custody. In a time of tight budgets, it makes absolutely no sense to continue to house as many kids as we do in prisons when it costs about 10% of that amount to keep the kids in school and in communities.

“But we’re moving in the right direction. Over the last decade, 10-15 states have figured out that there are steps to divert kids out of incarceration. By reinvesting funds back into other juvenile justice prevention and intervention practices proven to work, states can realize additional cost savings, reduce recidivism and help youth become productive adults.

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Oxytocin, the “Love Hormone,” Shows Signs of Benefitting Incarcerated Women

imageOxytocin can benefit incarcerated women by reducing the stress one experiences in uncomfortable circumstances. Humane Exposures founder, writer Susan Madden Lankford, contends that this is a normal “clutching together” of the women who end up in prison open dayroom or patio experiences.

Oxytocin, sometimes called “the love hormone,” has been shown to aid maternal bonding, increase social recognition, raise trust and empathy within groups, affect generosity and inhibit tolerance to opiates, cocaine, alcohol and other addictive drugs, while reducing withdrawal symptoms. It may also be an effective treatment for autism, by reducing repetitive behavior.

Madden observes that women “really bond together in prison units, over their disdain regarding guards and other staff at the facilities, over their physical conditions, over being mothers deprived of their children and so on. Oxytocin is such a strong hormone that women actually do not fear returning to jail, thereby aggravating our recidivism rates in local and state facilities,” she notes. There is evidence that oxytocin may actually aid in increasing women’s health while they are incarcerated.

Dr. Shelley E. Taylor, a research professor at the UCLA Psychology Department, [please link to: has written:

Socioemotional resources, including optimism, mastery, self-esteem and social support have biological and psychological benefits, especially in times of stress. Our research program of the last 25 years has explored these resources and documented their many benefits, and, as such, attests to the powerful ability of the human mind to construe threatening events in ways that are protective of health.

“Our current research assesses whether oxytocin acts roughly as a social thermostat that is responsive to the adequacy of social resources, that prompts affiliative behavior if those resources fall below an adequate level and that reduces biological and psychological stress responses, once positive social contacts are reestablished.

Female rats given oxytocin antagonists after giving birth do not exhibit typical maternal behavior. In contrast, virgin female sheep show maternal behavior toward foreign lambs upon cerebrospinal fluid infusion of oxytocin, which they would not do otherwise.

Taylor adds:

There is some evidence that oxytocin promotes ethnocentric behavior, incorporating the trust and empathy of in-groups with their suspicion and rejection of outsiders. Furthermore, genetic differences in the oxytocin receptor gene have been associated with maladaptive social traits such as aggressive behavior.

Because oxytocin is destroyed in the stomach, it is generally administered by nasal spray. Several female prison medical staff have been experimenting with oxytocin, and the results are favorable so far.

“Models for Change” System Aims at Needed Juvenile Justice Reforms

Behind Bars, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Behind Bars, Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photo credit: Scott (Double Beard) Savage)

The John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, which has already funded $150 million in juvenile justice reform research and programs over nearly two decades, just pledged another $15 million to establish a Models for Change Resource Center Partnership.

“Right now there are no go-to places to get the kind of information, resources, toolkits, and access to colleagues who have ‘been there and done that,’ for would-be juvenile justice reform advocates,” said Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform for the MacArthur Foundation. The new Partnership aims to be that place people call when they want to make the kind of policy changes that result in better outcomes for kids and communities, including rehabilitation, treatment in home communities and competent legal defense.

The announcement came at the 2013 summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), an annual gathering of 5,000 state lawmakers, staff, advocates, lobbyists and others. NCSL will be one of several allies that MacArthur will tap to help coordinate and push juvenile justice reforms. The Partnership is expected to be fully operational within 2013.

Garduque says:

The other half of what the Partnership aims to do is to make sure people like legislators, sheriffs and court administrators see MacArthur-researched juvenile justice practices when they get together and discuss their own best practices.

The Partnership will set up four go-to centers in different policy areas: mental health training and care, legal defense, status offense reform and a more general juvenile justice center focused on court-involved youth.

Currently, Models for Change supports a network of government and court officials, legal advocates, educators, community leaders and families who work together in six key areas to ensure that kids who make mistakes are held accountable and are treated fairly throughout the juvenile justice process. It provides research-based tools and techniques to make juvenile justice more fair, effective, rational and developmentally-appropriate.
Models for Change has supported many counties and states in reforming the way they treat kids who have committed crimes. Local officials say that Models for Change has helped them improve public safety and support juveniles, even as they grapple with tight budgets and tough fiscal decisions. The progress that has been seen in Models for Change communities shows that when committed people come together real reform can create lasting change.

The Models for Change juvenile justice system reform initiative is now working comprehensively in four states (Washington. Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania) and is concentrating on the issues of mental health services, juvenile indigent defense and racial and ethnic disparities in an additional 12. The dozen partner states are Maryland, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado, Ohio and Texas. The MacArthur Foundation has committed to spending up to $10 million over five years to support juvenile justice reforms in each of the four core states.

The six key areas Models for Change focuses on are Aftercare, Community-based Alternatives to Incarceration, Evidence-Proven Practices, Juvenile Indigent Defense, Mental Health and Racial/ethnic Fairness.

Aftercare involves post-release services, supervision and support that helps formerly incarcerated youth transition safely and successfully back into the community. Without quality aftercare, the estimated 100,000 youngsters leaving juvenile institutions each year face failure, recidivism and more incarceration. Sadly, quality aftercare is in short supply nationally.

Pennsylvania has selected aftercare as a targeted area of improvement and is working to connect youth with the programs and services they need to adjust and succeed after their residential treatment. The state is integrating treatment plans with aftercare plans to assist young people in overcoming problems, building on strengths and acquiring essential living skills. It is developing educational and employment programs to improve their life chances.

Most young people who violate the law do not need to be formally processed or held in custody. In fact, such measures often do serious damage by disrupting their bonds to their families and communities. Unfortunately, juvenile facilities are filled with low-level youth who could be safely and effectively managed in other settings. Confinement of low-level delinquents is costly for communities and doesn’t serve public safety.

Now more than ever, research is helping to establish approaches and programs that effectively change delinquent behavior, lower recidivism and help young people succeed. Rigorously studied evidence-based programs like Multisystemic Therapy and Family Functional Therapy have been found to produce consistently better results than traditional interventions. Research also supports other programs and services that show promise in improving behavior and emotional functioning. Sadly, many juvenile justice systems struggle to put these proven and scientifically supported approaches into practice.

Young people in trouble with the law have a right to legal counsel, but they often don’t get the timely or adequate representation they need. Many waive their constitutional right to counsel and accept plea offers without fully understanding their actions. Too often, even those who do have lawyers are inadequately represented, because of defenders’ high caseloads, inexperience and/or lack of training and resources. Statewide assessments of the juvenile indigent defense systems in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington have already been conducted, and technical assistance and training have been offered.
Recent research shows that up to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder, such as major depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety conditions. Many of these youngsters land in the juvenile justice system because their conditions are unrecognized, community services aren’t available or systems aren’t coordinating effectively to put the right support in place. Unfortunately, young people with mental health problems often get worse when they are inappropriately treated or confined without support. Pennsylvania and Washington have chosen mental health as one of their targeted areas for improvement. The MacArthur-funded Partnership Resource Center in the mental health area will be the Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, based in Albany, NY.

Finally, youth of color are overrepresented at nearly every point of contact with the juvenile justice system—and this finding is disturbingly persistent over time. Youth of color are more likely to be incarcerated and to serve more time than white youth, even when charged with the same category of offense. Reducing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system is a critical objective for all 16 core and partner Models for Change states.

 

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This Year, the Obama Administration’s “Continuum of Care” Initiative Funded 7,500 Local Programs to Combat Homelessness

On July 321, 2013, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a third round of grants for more than 250 homeless housing and service programs in all 50 states, as well as nearly 200 grants to assist with local strategic planning activities provided through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program. Earlier this year, HUD awarded more than $1.5 billion in the first two rounds of grant funding to renew support for more than 7,500 local programs.

This year, HUD challenged local communities to reexamine their response to homelessness and give greater weight to proven strategies, from providing ‘rapid re-housing’ for homeless families to permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness.

The latest $57 million in grants support a wide range of new programs, including creating and implementing systems to make the use of homeless services more efficient and more than 1,900 new permanent supportive housing beds for chronically homeless persons.

The new projects were largely the result of local strategic decisions that resulted in the reallocation of funds from existing renewal projects that were no longer critically needed in favor of creating new programs to help the community achieve the goal of ending homelessness. In addition to offering new permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing to homeless persons, Continuum of Care also links the homeless to services including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said:

Today’s grantee programs will join the thousands of local programs that are on the front lines ending homelessness across the nation. As we continue to see a decline in homelessness, investing in programs that are moving homeless families and individuals to permanent housing is as critical as ever, because it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s smart government and fiscally prudent.

Continuum of Care grants are awarded competitively to local projects to meet the needs of their homeless clients. They fund a wide variety of programs, from street outreach and assessment to transitional and permanent housing for homeless people and families. HUD funds are a critical part of the Obama Administration’s strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

In 2010, President Obama and 19 federal agencies and offices that form the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness launched the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness puts the country on a path to end veterans’ and chronic homelessness by 2015 and to ending homelessness among children, family and youth by 2020.

According to a 2012 “point in time” estimate, there were 633,782 homeless persons in America on a single night in January of 2012, largely unchanged from the year before. While HUD found significant declines among the long-term homeless and veterans, local communities reported an increase in the number of sheltered and unsheltered families with children.

The Continuum of Care is a set of three competitively-awarded programs, created to address the problems of homelessness in a comprehensive manner with other federal agencies. When HUD publishes a Notice of Funding Availability for Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance in the Federal Register, applicants must submit specific information about a proposed project, along with their Continuum of Care application. Each application must include a certification that the project is consistent with the Consolidated Plan of the jurisdiction where each proposed project is found.

First of the three is the Supportive Housing Program, which helps develop housing and related supportive services for people moving from homelessness to independent living. Program funds help homeless people live in a stable place, increase their skills or income and gain more control over the decisions that affect their lives.

The second, Shelter Plus Care, provides rental assistance that, when combined with social services, provides supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities and their families. The program allows for a variety of housing choices, such as group homes or individual units, coupled with a range of supportive services (funded by other sources). Grantee programs must match the rental assistance with supportive services that are at least equal in value to the amount of HUD’s rental assistance.

The third program is Single Room Occupancy (SRO), which provides Section 8 rental assistance for moderate rehabilitation of buildings with SRO units: single-room dwellings that often do not contain food preparation or sanitary facilities, but which are designed for the use of an individual, A public housing authority makes Section 8 rental assistance payments to the landlords for the homeless people who rent their rehabilitated units.

The state of Virginia has received nearly $1 million in federal grants for new permanent housing and service programs to curb homelessness, through Continuum of Care. Hilliard House, a Richmond shelter for homeless women with children received a $108,864 grant to continue rapidly re-housing residents who remain on the street. The organization will use funds for rental subsidies, financial assistance, supportive services and case management.

Its Executive Director, Ross S. Altenbaugh said:

Across the Greater Richmond area we have definitely gotten aggressive about getting people housed quickly, so I know it’s been a really exciting couple of years in making sure that happens in a more consistent and quicker way.

Over the past three years, Virginia homelessness has dropped by 16%, the number of people in homeless households with children declined by17.3% percent and homeless persons with chronic substance abuse went down by 30%

New Jersey’s Integrity House Drug-treatment and Mental Health Facilities Offer an Alternative to Prison, Treatment in County Jail and a Range of Services

Intended for use in Wikiproject User Rehab (tw...

Intended for use in Wikiproject User Rehab (two people going together from darkness to light) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Four hundred women and families per year are served by the Newark and Secaucus, NJ-based Integrity House substance abuse and mental health treatment center, which recently added the 30-bed Joan Riddick House residential facility. Named after a beloved staffer who passed away in 2009, Joan Riddick House provides therapy, addiction education, domestic violence and anger management groups, GED test preparation and voluntary spiritual counseling, among other services. Women spend an average of six months in residential treatment

Previously, inpatient women were crammed into a small space above the dining hall in a men’s halfway house, but now the 30 of them have four floors of bunk beds, closets, shared bathrooms and a brightly painted basement converted into room for family visits.

Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who has spent two years working at Integrity House, which serves 2000 people each year, says:

I assist former inmates in helping them on the road to recovery, and in some cases I also help members fill out college applications, so they are able to have promising futures. Hudson County is blessed to have such an extraordinary hard-working team to help others reclaim their lives and realize how important rehabilitation is.

When he’s not leading discussions or counseling former prison inmates, McGreevey tries to empower individuals to make right decisions by helping them identify harmful behaviors and overcome addictive urges.

Founded in 1968, Integrity House is the largest treatment facility funded and licensed by the State of New Jersey. It offers a multitude of state licensed programs, including Adult Residential, Adolescent Residential, Partial Care, Intensive Outpatient, Corrections, Reentry, Aftercare and Post-treatment Housing. It also offers addicts prevention, intervention and educational services. It has three residential campuses and 16 buildings in Essex and Hudson Counties, manned by 220 staff. Forty women (and 40 men) are currently involved in its Hudson County Correctional Center pre-release program.

Integrity House’s support programs include psychiatric evaluation, individual and group counseling, methadone maintenance, education, job readiness and depression screening and treatment. In 2012, 72% of residents were criminal justice referrals, 30% were homeless, 25% had health insurance, 81% had legal problems and 52% had heroin as their drug of choice. Integrity House received $8.6 million last year in government, foundation, donations and special event revenues—up more than 21% over 2011’s level.

Integrity House founder and president Dave Kerr explains:

This is a therapeutic community, which differs from most treatment modalities where a professional counselor treats and advises patients. Here members supervise other members, with more responsibility meted out as it is earned. Advice and pressure from their peers help members get well.

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Restorative Justice is a Valid Alternative to Much Juvenile Incarceration

An inscription of the Code of Hammurabi.

An inscription of the Code of Hammurabi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Restorative Justice, which has been practiced in many cultures for more than 4000 years, is now making inroads in the United States. It seeks to largely replace a collective justice that is tainted by racial discrimination, by billions in corporate profit, by the warehousing of our most vulnerable, by maintaining a school-to-prison pipeline and by the practices of expecting punishment and isolation for all involved when crime occurs. Instead, it is actually rehabilitative.

Restorative justice (sometimes called reparative justice) focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money and/or performing community service.

It considers crime to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state. Restorative justice that creates dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It was practice in ancient Sumeria around 2060 B.C., requiring offender restitution for violent crimes. From about 1700 B.C., Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi prescribed restitution for property offences. Also in the Old Testament’s Five Books of Moses, restitution was ordered for property crimes. Indigenous tribes around the world practice Restorative Justice, and it is the main juvenile justice model in New Zealand today. A modern example of it with adults is the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Retributive justice began to replace such systems after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 A.D. when William the Conqueror’s son, Henry I, detailed offenses against the “king’s peace.” By the end of the 11th century, crime was no longer regarded as injurious to persons, but rather was seen as an offense against the state. This view, tragically, has persisted since then.

Throughout the U.S., programs are working in the Rehabilitative Justice area, and legislation action is in the works in Massachusetts and Florida. Backed by Congressman Bobby Scott, D-Va., with support from Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., the Youth Promise Act, brought forth by many co-sponsors and led by The Peace Alliance, focuses on dismantling the prison-to-school pipeline by effectively implementing programs and providing education and tools that derive from Restorative Justice principles. It will fund evidence-based violence-prevention and intervention practices, empower local control and community oversight, save taxpayer money and provide measurable data that backs up the successes.

The U.S. is the world’s incarceration leader, imprisoning 754 people per 100,000—2.3 million in total—at a public cost of $63 billion per year. Colorado and Ohio lock up more of their citizens than dictatorships such as Pakistan and Libya, and many more than allies including England (154) Canada (117), Germany (85) and Japan (59). Virginia Senator Jim Webb said, “We are either the most evil people in the world, or there is something fundamentally wrong with our criminal justice system.”

Colorado recently passed a Restorative Justice Pilot Projects law that in four judicial districts sets up a fund for restorative justice with a $10 surcharge on all violations excluding traffic. It focuses on youth diversion and strong data collection, research and education to complement a growing general statistic that proves its efficacy.

In reports from Longmont, CO’s Police Department’s Restorative Justice Programs and the Longmont Community Justice Partnership, Master Police Officer Greg Ruprecht says:

These youth programs show exponential drops in recidivism (at the moment the rate is 10%, compared to 60-70% nationwide) and high participant satisfaction. Perhaps even more poignant is the tens of thousands of dollars per case that is saved from diverting youth from incarceration.

Thousands of prominent public figures, including Michael Moore, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Scarlett Johansson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Will Smith, Kerry Washington, Rev Jesse Jackson, John Hamm, Russell Brand, Margaret Cho, Ron Howard, Chris Rock, Mark Wahlberg and Deepak Chopra have signed a letter to President Obama urging criminal justice reform and support for the Youth PROMISE Act (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education) and other reforms. The letter says, in part:

We believe the time is right to further the work you have done around revising our national policies on the criminal justice system and continue moving from a suppression-based model to one that focuses on intervention and rehabilitation.

“We are proud of your accomplishments around these issues—specifically your leadership on gun control, your investments in “problem solving courts,” your creation of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, your launching the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and your prosecution of a record number of hate crimes in 2011 and 2012.

“We recommend, under the Fair Sentencing Act, extending to all inmates who were subject to 100-to-1 crack-to-powder disparity a chance to have their sentences reduced to those that are more consistent with the magnitude of the offense. We ask your support for the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate.

Restorative justice can be handled in a courtroom or within a community or nonprofit organization. In social justice cases, impoverished victims such as foster children are given the opportunity to describe their future hopes and make concrete plans to transition out of state custody, in a group process with their supporters.

In the community, concerned individuals meet with all parties to assess the experience and impact of the crime. Offenders listen to victims’ experiences, preferably until they are able to empathize with them. Then they speak to how they decided to commit the offense. A plan is made to prevent future occurrences, and for the offender to address the damage to the injured parties. All agree. Community members then hold the offender(s) accountable for adherence to the plan.

In addition to serving as an alternative to civil or criminal trial, restorative justice can be applicable to offenders who are currently incarcerated. This assists with the prisoner’s rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society. By repairing the harm to the relationships between offenders and victims, and offenders and the community, that resulted from crime, restorative justice seeks to understand and address the circumstances which contributed to the crime, in order prevent recidivism, once the offender is released.

 

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“Transformational Campus” Programs Move Homeless from Streets to Multi-service Facilities

Homeless Guy on 6th St. in Austin, TX

Homeless Guy on 6th St. in Austin, TX (Photo credit: Bukowsky18)

In June 2010, San Antonio’s $125 million “Haven for Hope” program opened the largest and most comprehensive “transformational campus” in the U.S. It now has 15 buildings on 37 acres and nearly a half million square feet under roof. More than 80 faith-based, non-profit and government service partners work together to holistically and proactively help the nearly 2,100 residents daily. Robert Marbut was the founding President and CEO.

Haven for Hope provides hundreds of services to homeless people, including medical, dental, vision, substance abuse , mental health and podiatry clinics; classrooms for job and life skills training; and housing, legal, childcare, veterans , case-management and pet-shelter services. It also provides food, exercise, clothing, banking and transportation services. It has safe outdoor mat-sleeping zones for those not yet ready for the program. Of those who have utilized the outdoor sleeping courtyard, 797 have moved to the Transformational Campus and 126 have gone into permanent housing.

Seven hundred people live on campus and work toward jobs, homes and independence. Since the program opened three years ago, there have been 383 job placements, including 100% employment for those in the dental hygienist training program and those completing the first culinary training class. The In-House Recovery Program, which provides housing and support for those with drug and alcohol addictions, has had a 60% success rate, with a total of 240 graduates.

More than 500 individuals have completed various transformation programs and are now living independently. So successful is Haven of Hope that leaders from nearly 200 cities from 44 states have visited the campus, in hopes of implementing similar programs in their communities.

According to its brochure:

The campus is near downtown, close to existing social service facilities. It is funded through a combination of public funds (city, county and federal) as well as private donations. It represents tremendous cost savings, since it is much less expensive to treat the homeless in a center of this kind than it is through publicly funded emergency rooms or other care facilities. Haven of Hope is managed by an independent board, free of political red tape.

“Effective treatment also keeps the homeless out of the legal system and jail, and additional research shows that up to 80% of people who become homeless within a given year can exit homelessness quickly–if they get the assistance they need.

A similar, though somewhat controversial transformational center, is the 500-bed St. Petersburg Safe Harbor program. Robert Marbut, who has studied homelessness in hundreds of cities, was its paid consultant, and Sarasota is contemplating hiring him for a similar approach there.

St. Petersburg’s huge homeless problem became national news when a video of its police officers with box cutters slashing up a makeshift tent city near downtown went viral.

To promote his centers, Marbut has backed panhandling bans, spoken of limiting the frequent public feedings downtown by churches and charities that had become a magnet for the homeless, and supports sending those caught sleeping on sidewalks, having open alcohol containers or relieving themselves in public to Safe Harbor—instead of jail.

Most controversial is the revelation that St. Petersburg—which has seen the homeless population downtown drop from hundreds to only a few dozen—has been giving homeless people bus tickets to other cities. So, while its homeless count has dropped, Sarasota’s has increased.

According to Sarah Snyder, executive director of the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, a group that develops policy and determines how federal grant money is distributed countywide:

I think Safe Harbor is part of the answer, but I don’t think it’s the whole answer. We can’t force people to become better. We can only show them how much better their lives could be if they made some changes.

 

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