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Tag: Prison

Smart on Crime

Smart on Crime

Oregon Prosecutors Vie For Reduced Drug Sentences | ThinkProgress

Increasingly, conservatives who have historically followed a “tough on crime” mantra are embracing a “smart on crime” approach that reallocates resources to move away from over-criminalization and towards more efficient, effective criminal laws. Earlier this month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed two laws that embrace alternatives to incarceration to nonviolent drug and property offenders, and eliminate jail time for juveniles who merely misbehave. And ten bipartisan members of Congress have formed a committee devoted to over-criminalization.

Oregon Prosecutors Vie For Reduced Drug Sentences | ThinkProgress

A few years ago, it was not clear whether or not America’s preoccupation with long prison sentences for even minor crimes would even be possible of change. But now, there is a definite away from such policies as “three strikes,” etc. It is one of the most historically important changes in the history of criminal justice in the United States.

Over the past forty years, we went from a nation that relied much more heavily on rehabilitation to a nation with the highest incarceration in the world. That high incarceration emasculated state budgets causing cuts in all kinds of traditional services and made it impossible for states to deal with long term problems like deteriorating infrastructure.

I am delighted that these policies are changing. The freed up human potential and the enormous sums of money available because of these changes will make American a better place to live.

James Pilant

 

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Live in Prison Everywhere?

Live in Prison Everywhere?

Why does Norway have a 21-year maximum prison sentence?

There are essentially five goals of sentencing: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. The last of these, rehabilitation, is probably one of the most controversial. In the U.S., for example, rehabilitation is considered a secondary goal, after retribution. Americans want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second.

This appeals to a societal sense of justice and fair play that has considerable cultural inertia in our country. Any talk of prioritizing rehabilitation ahead of retribution very typically generates complaints about how doing so will endanger public safety, ignore the needs of crime victims, and—most damning of all—coddle criminals.Never mind that certain forms of rehabilitation have been shown through research to reduce the risk of future offending, we want our pound of flesh first and foremost.

The same is not true the world over, though. Norway, by contrast, has a very progressive approach to sentencing that prioritizes rehabilitation as a primary strategy for reducing future criminal behavior. That doesn’t mean they don’t use prisons, it just means that the conditions of confinement are geared toward reducing the risk that an offender will return to a life of crime after release

Why does Norway have a 21-year maximum prison sentence?

As the author well notes, not everyone shares American’s passion for punishment. As I often tell my students, one of the reasons we should become familiar with other cultures is that any system that has functioned successfully over a long period of time has to have some good ideas, and every culture needs thought renewal and the occasional shake up to develop. This is one of those ideas that deserves examination.

James Pilant

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The United States and The Imprisonment Rate by William Denton

(Originally put up on May 24, 2012 – now reissued!)

It is my privilege to present my colleague, William Denton. Some days ago he showed me this article and I was very impressed. He has very kindly offered to share it with my readers. It is my pleasure to present the work of our guest columnist, William Denton.

James Pilant

The United States and The imprisonment Rate

By:  William Denton

America is known throughout the world as a place of freedom, where anyone has the chance to do and become whatever their heart desires also referred to as “The American Dream.”  America is considered home to approximately 5 percent of the world’s population, although America is known for its many attributes and liberties it holds 23 percent of the world’s prison population making the United States the highest prison populated country in the world, (“Wikipedia, 2012).  Our prison rate along with our continuous dilemma of overcrowding prisons can be attributed to our enacted draconian laws that make any chance of success to reduce our prison rate and subsequently alleviating our over-crowded prisons impossible.  In a 2009 statistical study 754 per 100,000 American Citizens are incarcerated.  In the previous year, “a report released in February 2008, indicates that more than 1 in 100 adults in the United States are in prison,” (“Wikipedia, 2012).

Each U.S. state is responsible for the United States ranking 1st in the world for its high incarceration rate.  However, when examined individually each state incarceration rate can vary from 854 per 100,000 to 151 per 100,000 citizens, (“Wikipedia,” 2012).  The infamous three strike laws and the mandatory minimum sentencing have caused the explosive increase in the incarceration rate nationwide, leaving each to implement methods if any, to alleviate the growing issue of their overcrowded prisons.  Some will argue that a state with a higher incarceration rate compared to a state with a lower incarceration rate is due to the state that has the highest and lowest crime rate.  Although that can be an arguable point it still doesn’t explain why for example Louisiana incarceration rate is 854 per 100,000 citizens and other states have incarceration rates anywhere from 151-300 per 100,000 citizens, (“Wikipedia,” 2012).  Another aspect that is irrelevant into claiming why one state has a higher incarceration rate than another is because of the state’s population which is going to subsequently have a higher crime rate.  We know that Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate, but ranks 25th for population, while New York ranks 3rd for highest population and is ranked 37th for incarceration rate at 307 per 100,000 citizens, (“Wikipedia,” 2012).  The population of a state and crime can be determining factors of a states incarceration rate, however, other factors that have remarkable results in having low incarceration rates are the states who have sufficient “parole and probation programs; diversion programs, increasing good-time programs for people incarcerated, and sentencing reforms for non-violent offenders,” (Morris, 2009).  Without any implementations to reduce the incarceration rate states will continue to have these unnecessary draconian numbers.

The United States compared to Russia who holds 2nd place for incarceration rates, followed by South Africa ranked 3rd and Europe who ranked 4th is still substantially higher than the runners up.  Russia who has a 611 per 100,000 people incarceration rate compared to the United States is a 134 per 100,000 differences.  That difference alone is substantially higher than that of many other nations worldwide.  The state of Louisiana who again has an 854 per 100,000 incarceration rate is higher than our nation’s current imprisonment rate and every other nation worldwide, (“Wikipedia, 2012).  Although there are multifarious reasons along with speculations of why America has the highest incarceration rate, two factors are true today.  Reason one being that American citizens are “being locked up from writing bad checks to using drugs that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries,” (Liptak, 2008).  The second reason being the American Citizen is “kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners of other nations,” (Liptak, 2008).

In my opinion only, I think American Law has gotten to the point of everything being political correct and that anyone who commits a crime has to be punished no matter what the crime is.  These draconian drugs laws are really the culprits that are responsible for the major increase in our prison population and overcrowding.  The majority of inmates incarcerated today are for non-violent drug offenses that initially when these laws were enacted during the “War on Drugs” campaign where to mainly target the producers and distributors of the drug trade not the additive customers that are being sentenced today.  As a result of these laws still in effect, although the violent crime rate is decreasing in the country, prison population is still increasing.  I think that is how we stand above all other nations in the incarceration rate because of our drug laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, and three-strike laws.  As I mentioned above, writing bad checks to drug offenses are rarely imprisonment punishments in other countries, and our country has longer prison sentences that contribute overcrowded prisons.  We are punishing for offenses that probably could be resolved through other forms of punishment that does not have to do with imprisonment just like other countries.

I am completely against our statics involving our imprisonment rate and the number of incarcerated inmates we currently have.  There are a couple states that have a higher imprisonment rate than actual countries throughout the world.  These statics need to be pounded into someone’s head and take a hint of what reformalities we need to reduce these harsh rates.  These enacted three-strike rules and mandatory minimum sentences, and all other harshly related drug laws need to change.  They are ruining lives, in lieu of helping people and destroying families for what?  Nothing.  Drugs are an addictive substance that people need help to reform, so putting these non-violent offenders in overcrowded prisons is not going to rectify the problem, but going to make it worse.  I feel like we are wasting our money for no positive gains when it comes to incarcerating offenders for drug offenses and other minor crimes that can be solved in another form of punishment.  Are American laws are in desperate need for reform.

 

REFERENCES

 

Liptak, A.  (2008). U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations.  Retrieved March 18, 2012, from

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/world/americas/23iht23prison.12253738.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

Morris, T.  (2009). Louisianan’s Incarceration rate is No. 1 in nation.  Retrieve March 17, 2012, from

 

http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/03/louisianas_incarceration_rate.html

 

Wikipedia.  (2012). Incarceration rates worldwide.  Retrieved March 16, 2012, From

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Incarceration_rates_worldwide.gif

 

Wikipedia. (2012). List of U.S. States and Territories by population.  Retrieved March 14, 2012, from

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population

 

Wikipedia. (2012). List of U.S. States by incarceration rate.  Retrieved March 14, 2012, from

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_incarceration_rate

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The Private Prison Problem

The Private Prison Problem

New Hampshire Dems Stick It To Greedy GOP | Addicting Info

On Friday, the Democratic controlled New Hampshire House voted 197-136 to ban the privatization of the state’s prison system. Whether this passes the Republican held (13-11) Senate is debatable but considering that last year there was movement to hand the prison system over to for-profit corporations, the move is significant.

From further down in the article –

The problem with private prisons is that they have absolutely no incentive to rehabilitate or even release prisoners. Early parole is bad for business. Reducing recidivism is really bad for business. Even more disturbing is the amount of money and effort the private prison industry puts into creating more jailable offenses, lengthening sentences and introducing mandatory sentencing for crimes as small as having a half-smoked joint in your pocket. That the industry is a big supporter of the War on Drugs goes without saying.

Private prisons cost more, have terrible safety and health records and several have been implicated in scandals to bribe judges to hand down harsher sentences in order to keep the prisons filled. This reprehensible behavior has even extended to the juvenile justice system. The logic is clear: kids that go to juvie tend to become adult criminals. Get’em while they’re young and you’ll have a customer for life.

Another dark facet of the Prison Industrial Complex is the push for “immigration crack-downs.” The industry is a major force behind the “sudden” urge for Republican-controlled states to arrest every person with brown skin they can find. Arizona’s now-infamous SB1070 was specifically created to make money for prison corporations who would then “share” their good fortune with the state. If you thought parking tickets were a nuisance, imagine being locked up for the sole purpose of closing your state’s budget shortfall.

New Hampshire Dems Stick It To Greedy GOP | Addicting Info

“no incentive to rehabilitate or even release prisoners”  I remember more than a decade ago when I was reading about a legislative attempt to soften the drug laws in New York state, when the rural members strongly objected. They objected on the grounds they would lose jobs from the private prisons, the principal employers in their districts. I was shocked. I thought the discussion should be about justice and what was right. Instead the legislature wound up talking about jobs and economic development in depressed areas.

We are at a turning point in the history of American criminal justice. Imprisonment rates are dropping for the first time in decades. There is considerable reconsideration of the “war on drugs.” There is increasing controversy over standards on forensic testing. We are confronted on a regular basis by the innocent who have spend years (often decades) behind bars for crimes they did not commit. We are dealing with the issue of prosecutorial overreach and misconduct (the Swartz case).

Change is in the air.

But the kind of changes being considered are hobbled by the fact that private industry makes a profit every day they keep a person in a private prison. After Citizens United, we are beset with corporate money damaging the chances of having an intelligent discussion and lobbying for even more incarceration as a panacea for all criminal justice problems.

Citizens United endangers every form of intelligent policy perverting every discourse into a discussion of who profits. There are other values besides money. One of our more precious values is to not be imprisoned without good reason.

One of the intelligent changes we need is the abolition of private prisons across the board in this nation, everyone of them. The precious right to freedom cannot coexist with a profit in denying it. It is long standing principle in American justice that a monetary interest in finding someone guilty is wrong. That is why we don’t have organ donors from death row. It would make sentencing people to death a more attractive option.

Imprisonment is a public function not a private one. It is a common burden on society because of a joint shared decision to use confinement as a means of justice.

It constantly needs rethinking because of its critical importance as an issue.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, National Prison Divestment Campaign:

Over the past decade, Wells Fargo Bank has advertised to Latinos through community outreach, Spanish-language advertising and programs that allow immigrants, without U.S. identification, to open bank accounts.

However, Wells Fargo has also invested in the GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company, which operates private prisons and immigration detention centers, reports Univision and Salon.com.

Mary Moreno, the communications director for the National People’s Action Campaign, told Univision: “They’re trying to win over all these Latino customers, but at the same time they’re promoting prisons for immigrants. Profits should never be a motive for incarcerating people.”

From the web site, Prison Pork:

In the wake of the announcement that Florida Atlantic University would name its football stadium after private prison corporation GEO Group for a hefty price, an executive at the company is disseminating false and misleading information about the firm’s practices and documented abuses at its facilities.

In both a statement to reporters and an op-ed, GEO Vice President for Corporate Relations Pablo Paez has falsely claimed that horrific abuses at a GEO juvenile detention facility in Mississippi described by the Department of Justice as “systematic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls” occurred before GEO took control of the prison, even though both DOJ and court documents clearly show otherwise.  …

From the web site, Capital Weekly:

In three years, a private-prison construction and management company, the Corrections Corporation of America, has seen the value of its contracts with the state soar from nearly $23 million in 2006 to about $700 million three months ago – all without competitive bidding. Even in a state accustomed to high-dollar contracts, the 31-fold increase over three years is dramatic.
During the same period, the company’s campaign donations rose exponentially, from $36,750 in 2006, of which $25,000 went to the state Republican Party, to $233,500 in 2007-08 and nearly $139,000 in 2009.  The donations have gone to Democrats, Republicans and ballot measures. The company’s largest single contribution, $100,000, went to an unsuccessful budget-reform package pushed last year by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

From the web site, Spikes Mind:

How would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money?  In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.  Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have.  Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people?  Or are there some other factors at work?  Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?  The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.  Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up.  It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it.

From the web site, Friends of Justice:

In the wake of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional facility scandal, the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced that GEO Group — one of the largest private prison corporations in the U.S. — will no longer operate three correctional facilities in the state.  By July 20, the corporation will no longer manage the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional, East Mississippi Correctional, or the Marshall County Correctional facilities.

In 2010, reports emerged of sexual abuse, improper medical care, extended prisoner isolation, and violence among inmates at the Walnut Grove facility.  These reports sparked a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The lawsuit resulted in the removal of youth from the Walnut Grove facility. According to the Associated Press, MDOC also had concerns about incidents that occurred at the other GEO Group facilities in the state.

And from the web site, Wickersham’s Conscience:

By determining that an Alaska prisoner doesn’t have the right to recover money from a private prison contractor, the court has cut off the best single way to get a private prison contractor’s attention: by nibbling at their bottom line. In effect, the court is deciding that all prisoner litigation is chaff.

The mistake the court makes, WC thinks, is in treating public prisons and private prisons the same. They are not. As WC has argued before, a public prison has no motivation to keep a prisoner any longer than necessary. A private prison, paid a fixed amount per prisoner per day, has every incentive to keep the private prison census high, because it maximizes revenue. A private prison, for example, might be inclined to impose more discipline on prisoners because, under the system for credit for “good behavior,” it means the prisoners stay longer. And the private prison gets more money.

If Perotti’s “segregation” for  ”investigation of possible possession of escape paraphernalia” results in Perotti serving more time, even if the “investigation” was baseless, CCA is a net winner. Perotti – and the State of Alaska, which is paying CCA – are net losers. By failing to take into account or even to acknowledge the different situation presented by a private prison contractor.

 

Tom Cavanagh and Restorative Justice

Tom Cavanagh and Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice, Culture of Care in Schools, and Restorative Practices in Schools: Increased interest since Friday’s events

Interest in the work of restorative justice in schools has increased since the events of last Friday. Here is an outline of what I offer schools. Restorative Justice in Schools Educators and policymakers’ interest in Restorative Justice is growing as they learn that the results of zero tolerance policies are not working. In fact, the capacity of students and teachers to respond to wrongdoing and conflict in a nonviolent way is lacking. As a result, some schools have adopted restorative justice practices. However, these practices are generally used outside of the classroom. This training is unique in that it focuses on building the capacity of teachers and students to respond in a caring and peaceful way to wrongdoing and conflict in the classroom.

Restorative Justice, Culture of Care in Schools, and Restorative Practices in Schools: Increased interest since Friday’s events

I have taken an interest in the Restorative Justice movement. I am well aware that it is not a panacea for society’s problems in criminal justice but it seems to me like a useful tool for community maintenance and building.

Mr. Cavanagh provides a service that teaches schools how to use restorative justice. This is a very positive step. As he remarks above, the no-tolerance policies of the last few years have been disasters. I’m not going to mince words about no-tolerance. it removed judgment and intelligence in discipline to avoid controversy. It is the job of administrator in schools to deal with controversy. Tossing out thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of students, is a disaster for the country and for them.

The field of criminal justice is full of difficulties. It is full of controversy and ridiculous coverage by the media. We need new ways of thinking. It’s time.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Restorative Justice Online:

What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders.

Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:

  1. identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
  2. involving all stakeholders, and
  3. transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

From the web site, Restorative Justice Online, there is a useful introductory tutorial on the subject.

From the web site, National Association of Youth Courts, we find a paper by Tracy M. Godwin. Here is an explanation of the paper’s purpose.

This paper provides a brief overview of restorative justice principles and addresses several key issues the focus group members identified that serve as a promising foundation from which teen courts can begin to move toward integrating more restorative justice-based practices within their programs. Key issues discussed include how youth courts can rethink the role of victims and the community within their programs, how youth courts can alter the way that their proceedings and practices are structured, and how youth courts can rethink and redefine sentencing options so that they are based on the restorative justice philosophy.

And finally, from the web site, And Yet It Moves:

And still the question remained… what exactly should I do about it? Obviously they lose the credit for the assignments, but what else? What is an appropriate punishment? This is where Restorative Justice provided an interesting and useful answer. My understanding of the process, limited to just my experience using it today, is that it centers around a series of questions that the transgressor tries to answer:

“What happened?”
“What were you thinking about at the time?”
“What have you thought about since?”
“Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?”
“What do you think you need to do to make things right?

What I like about this approach is that it puts the work of figuring out the situation and facing its full complexity on the transgressor. Instead of the authority figure giving a lecture or handing down a punishment that the student endures, they are forced to grind through the whole thing themselves. Of course, as they work on it I can set the bar higher if an answer isn’t satisfactory, and I did have to do that several times today.

For example, one student started out equivocating on the very first question, “What happened?” And instead of getting into an argument about it, I just said, “Well, some of the evidence I have indicates that you’ve done more than just use the posted solutions for ideas or reference.” I put the results of my diff on the table and then I let him try again at answering the question. So this is not a way that people get off the hook for what they’ve done.

 

 

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Do Your Duty!!

People ask me what can be done about corporate crime. Usually I say, “Enforce the laws we have on the books and make them do real prison time as well as pay fines.” That will go along way to stopping that kind of crime.

But there is something, we all can do – we can take our moral responsibilities seriously.

You see we depend on the state to enforce the law and generally we assume that is enough. It is not.

When a white collar criminal walks the street after a wrist slap of a fine, justice is defied and the nation tarnished.

But You have a duty to justice as well. People would think twice about committing crime if the passive acceptance that justice was done by prison or fine disappeared as people realized their continuing duty. How do you exercise your duty for justice? When you meet one of these thieves, walk to the other side of the street, refuse to shake their hand. When these criminals are hired by a new company that explains blithely that they want their expertise, you can stop doing business with that company.

But above all it is our silence that demonstrates our lack of commitment to the principles of justice and citizenship. These criminal should be afraid to walk the streets not because of physical danger but because they are likely to be cut or insulted.

“White collar” criminals (and I truly hate that phrase – whoever commits serious crimes against the larger society to the tune of millions of dollars is a scoundrel and a disgrace to be shunned and despised just like the lowest bank robber) live in a cocoon of comfort. They go to the right churches, have the right friends, zealous business writers will minimize or deny their guilt, and their connections in industry and government continue unabated. Everything they hear is that everybody does it and if only the little people, the little people like you, could understand their job pressures and the unreasonable nature of the regulations, and the cruelty of the prosecutor and the randomness of it all – (other people have done worse so why arrest me), you would not persecute them like Christ on the Cross but honor their contributions to society.

You have a duty to justice to shock them out of that cocoon, to make it hard for them to get work, to stigmatize them and make them suffer. Justice does not stop at the prison door. If we can maintain records of where pedophiles live, surely we can track the financial offenders who have stolen so much and damaged society so thoroughly.

It is for you as well as the government to wield the sword of justice. Do not forget your duty. Do not forget your nation and your responsibility to it. Remember the evil that these men have done.

Do not harm them physically, take them down a peg. Don’t hurt their bodies, hurt their feelings.

I tell you truly when the great malefactors of this society are punished by the public in this fashion, a very large portion of this kind of crime will simply disappear.

When we act as negatively toward a white collar criminal as we do a man wearing a shirt and pants with opposite patterns, when we are as critical of these criminals as we are of people who live on the streets, when we are as uncomfortable in their presence as when a thoughtless person talks loud and long on their cell phone, they will change their behavior.

James Pilant

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