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View Diary: Incarceration in the United States. A primer. (81 comments)

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  •  Politicians and prison reform (9+ / 0-)

    It's unusual to see a politician actually say something about the prison problems we have in this country.  In my opinion, it's because they (felons) are such easy targets for law-and-order types to beat up on in their campaigns.  Of course, "liberal" candidates who may assert that the system is broken are then easily classified as "soft on crime" so everyone is cowed into not saying anything.

    On the Republican side, some candidates talk about Faith-based programs as a way of reforming our prisons, but I view them as a two-fer for them.  They can look compassionate AND beef up their religious image.  Frankly though, I think it's mostly just pandering.

    If you have any information on the effectiveness of faith-based programs in prison, please share your experiences.  I've heard there is no evidence that they actually work, but I don't know to be honest.  I also wonder if they aren't just ways to funnel money to Christian groups.

    •  Faith based programs (19+ / 0-)

      The state prison system in which I work has no 'faith based' programs, per se. It has professional Chaplains of various faiths - Christian, Native American, Jewish, Muslim - who hold services such as Mass, Juma, Bible Study, Sweat Lodges. But they don't track what happens to the inmates once they are released. At least, not in any meaningful way to measure recidivism.

      The system also allows volunteers to come into the prisons and jails to hold Bible services, AA and NA meetings, and the like. But they are strictly volunteers and no funding is involved - at least, no governmental funding. The volunteer program for a particular church or organization may fund specific programs for them, travel expenses, etc.

      You're right, it's a tough subject for politicians to talk about, and for the exact reasons you mention. But something has to be done. Look at California, their system is in collapse, 70% over capacity and facing Federal "open the doors and let 'em out!" orders. And why? Because of Get Tough on Crime! mandatory sentencing, 3 strikes and yer out!, criminalization of various low social risk behaviors, etc. I don't have the answers, but I know we need to talk about it.

      POMBO's BEEN PRIVATIZED!

      by JohnMac on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:15:34 PM PDT

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      •  I recall reading about a "faith based" drug rehab (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elveta, panicbean, greenearth, norahc

        program--I think it was at Donovan,a state prison in San Diego County.  My recollection is that the program was successful but their weren't enough slots for all the applicants.  

        •  Not surprised (6+ / 0-)

          While we don't have faith based drug rehabs in my system (other that 12-Step Fellowships, if you can classify them that way), we do have very good drug rehab programs. I'll address them in some detail later in the series. But what you say is true, right now in my particular minimum security pre-release institution, general population of 1400, we can treat up to 60 at a time - this, with 75 to 80 percent there for some alcohol or drug related jackpot, and an active (ie, the inmates themselves requesting it) waiting list of about 350.

          POMBO's BEEN PRIVATIZED!

          by JohnMac on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:24:29 PM PDT

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      •  What about the Prison Guard union in California? (6+ / 0-)

        I've heard they are a powerful special interest.

        Can you address that?  Do they want to lock up more (!) people?

        I fear that the Prison-Industrial complex in this country is a huge obstacle to dramatic change.  And some communities want prisons because there are no other jobs, right?

        For-profit prisons as also an appalling concept and should be banned from existence, if you ask me.

        FWIW, my step brother was in and out of various prisons and HATED them.  I don't think he was ever "reformed" in any of them.  Obviously it would have been a smart move on his part to have cleaned up his act, but re-joining society after he was released the first time was a huge problem for him because no one would hire him.  He ended up working for a telemarketer (which seems to be a profession that actually gives them a chance), but he was never quite able to re-integrate into society.  It was partially his fault, but the stigma of being a former prisoner certainly doesn't help any of them.

        •  I get this all the time (10+ / 0-)

          And from inmates! Yes, the unionized prison workers do have an interest in keeping people locked up. But that is a short view. Personally, my interest is to help inmates toward their rehabilitation - I know that sounds self serving, but it's true. But even if my rehab rate was 100%, I seriously doubt my job would be in jeopardy. I'm not too worried. There is plenty of crime, plenty of police, plenty of courts. It'll take more than one person, or even several, to turn that around. It'll take long range reform, hard choices, etc.

          And I feel for your brother. Prisons are not nice places, the inmates I deal with hate it. And you also point out another part of the problem - what to do with them once they have paid their debt to society? Who's gonna hire 'em? Besides telemarketers, long distance trucking is another industry willing to hire ex-cons. There are others. My pre release institution has a full time staff member whose only job is to help inmates find jobs, write resumes, and learn how to answer that question, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"
          Reforms have to come from many directions, working together, to work.

          POMBO's BEEN PRIVATIZED!

          by JohnMac on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:33:12 PM PDT

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        •  In 1992 (I believe), (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          old wobbly, YoyogiBear

          in response to a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding, the Governor of California (Duke?) proposed releasing all non-violent state-prison inmates who were within 6 months of their parole date.  

          The proposal was challenged and successful defeated by the prison guard union because it would cut into their overtime!

          Yes, prison employees actually kept human beings in jail so they could make money off their misery.

          If this isn't the tail wagging the dog...

          (-7.75, -7.69) No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up - Lily Tomlin

          by john07801 on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:43:50 PM PDT

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    •  A link to a faith based group doing working in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      norahc

      the prison system.  A patient in our practice is a member and he loves doing the work, says their numbers are very good regarding recidivism.  Interesting site.

      http://www.kairosprisonministry.org/...

      Where the hell are we going and why am I in this damn handbasket?

      by panicbean on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:47:20 PM PDT

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      •  Please ignore typo, thanks. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        norahc

        Where the hell are we going and why am I in this damn handbasket?

        by panicbean on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:49:49 PM PDT

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      •  Yes, interesting (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        panicbean, norahc

        Especially in that they don't seem to be governmentally funded. Of course, one can't really tell that just based on the information given at the site, but they do ask for donations - as do most faith based enterprises.

        POMBO's BEEN PRIVATIZED!

        by JohnMac on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 08:50:31 PM PDT

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        •  Yes, they do. They also ask for homebaked (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          norahc

          cookies to take out on their missions.

          The patient of ours is a huge Bush supporter and Fox news watcher, so he peaked my interest when he talked about his week-end involvement with this group.  

          We have had some interesting discussions, but I can't fault him for the work that he does.

          Where the hell are we going and why am I in this damn handbasket?

          by panicbean on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:05:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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