Barabbas Project

Robert Tisland

                  Cities of Refuge
Paul Cantwell

Paul Cantwell #186354
Robert Tisland  #562846 and
James Blunt #481727

GBCI; PO Box 19033
Green Bay, WI 54307
James Blunt

Three  sections

Three Hearts, One Vision to Complete:

Kaizen, A WAY AHEAD- "the meat and potatoes of what we are doing"

 Letter of explanation and Introduction by Robert Tisland

Personal explanation
          We are believers in Jesus, beyond any doubt, HOWEVER, because we actually understand that being a Christian is supposed to be about loving people, forgiving people, helping people m being merciful. In other words love looks like something… because of that we find ourselves actually rejected by most churches of the world. You see, for most people religion is all about rules and regulations that are generally putting place by the church to control people through fear of failure and punishment of failure and punishment of failure. I grew up on one of those churches.  My dad was a pastor in one of those churches, and he never lived any part of what he preached. Truthfully he was a complete hypocrite and the most violently abusive person I’ve ever known.
            We didn’t write the churches because we are fancy, this or that we write them because we know that the churches are called to love prisoners, forgive them, help them, and most of all, we wrote the churches because they have failed in every aspect of loving people, especially those in prison.
            The cities of Refuge will be places if love and healing, for those of any religious belief at all, it is about taking in those that society threw away. And about actively helping those people reconcile with their families and friends,  get all the counseling  they need, live in a safe community where they will not be feared, hated, disrespected or discriminated against. There won’t even be any parole officers inside these cities of refuge. WE will give them what society won’t –a chance to successfully get on their feet and live a truly free life.
            The expectations inside these places will be that once the former prisoner reaches the end of their 7 years, they will have been able to walk out with maybe $250,000 in savings, walk out reconciled with family and friends in new healthy relationships, walk out without any of the psychological luggage that they came to prison with. It will not be about controlling people, but guiding people through mentorship, education and counseling in every area of their life.
            Yes are expectations are huge, but we just don’t have it in us to worry about the enormity of this vision. We know that our Daddy in Heaven will make it all possible..after all he sent Jesus to love the brokenhearted and the prisoner. WE fully understand that what we proposed is massive, but the vision is clear, and we see the end result.. nothing will ever stop us. We expect to be condemned, rejected, mocked, attacked and persecuted along the way, and we don’t care. WE cannot possibly give up on this, it literally consumes our lives! We have a broken heart for prisoners, for their victims, for prisoners families, we love and someone has to stop this madness.
            So we are not your typical Christians, we actually believe Christianity is about loving people and that love looks like something. Actions must actually match words. We aren’t perfect, we are forgiven!
I promise you we will see these things come to pass. We will see love become the new culture norm.


Basic Advanced Learning Education: BALE

note: this project and STEM point to the need within The WI prison system to educate prisoner on basic techology before they leave prison.

Submitted by:
Robert Mallory 63498
SCI; 100 Corrections Drive;
Stanley, WI 54768

Parole Business Plan

This is a three year budget projection plan for first a state-wide operation , then  a national organization for the BALE Program.

CONCEPT: BALE program services

      location:Entire state of WIsconsin, Then a national organization

      Who will it service? The technologically uninformed and the uneducated prisoners.


This Program is entitled B.A.L.E. (inference; hereinafter referred as the Bale Project "Basic Advanced Learning Education”). The Bale Project is an introduction for and to all of the Technologically uninformed members of our society and those Old-time prisoners that are still incarcerated and/or either trapped outside of the systematic development of our world as we know it. The Bale project is a component of the 'Reentry, Concept that mainly focuses on people acquiring basic skill levels and also assist individuals in adjusting to society at large. 

The nature of the Bale program is a service industry geared at helping others grasp a part of society that they are lacking in; have no interest in learning about, because they feel safe in their way of life as they know it.. Thus, the 'Marketing' plan for this servicer will be made aggressively available to all those in our society esp., those prisoners and ex-cons etc., that have remained uninformed and also those older individuals in their 60s,70s, and 80s & above; such older individuals that want to stay engaged in this technological challenge of our times. 

Also note; this process can be hand--carried to parts of our society that is often neglected. Such as the prisons, old folks-homes, homeless--shelters etc. 

Might I also state; aside from those of us that know and want to know all these things, this project also targets all those areas of society that are not all that commonplace to the average citizen.. Thus, we will be prepare to go off in the inner cities around this country to seek out those hidden and way out of the way parts of our communities that are not a part of society's growth processes and there, offer them this opportune to part­icipate in these Technological Advanced changes.


The Executive Director and its Board members of the Bale program, have a wealth of experience in working with others. Plus, through the years, as such, we have either volunteered in or worked in a paid capacity in several projects also in the prison and service community,addressing the needs of at risk individuals. My association with the various programs for prisoners, has given me access to subjective and objective situations that are a matter of record. As a consequence, I made many liaisons and developed personal working relationships with those particular individuals that were a part of the process. This en­tire process will be under the care of professionalism and that of an executive Director, one Secretary and one Treasure, an equal board of directors. 


Here, I want to state that the BALE project will be composed of Full-time paid- part-time paid, stipended, and part time volunteer workers; experienced/professionals will also be sought out to further this program.

-Marketing Plan‑ 

This Program will also target all those areas of society that are not common-place to the average citizen. Thus, we will go into the inner cities around the state (and country for that matter) to seek out those individuals hidden and are not normally a part of society's growth in technology processes, so that they can be offered the opportune to participate in these gradual technical changes.


SHOULD,I be considered for parole in Chicago or the Madison, WI area I would seek out involving myself with immediate employment with the Prison Program Voices Beyond Bars, Of which the Director is Jerome Dillard, who is a current member of the Council on Offender Reentry. I would also seek council with Rev. Jerry Hancock Director of the Prison Ministry Project at The FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST OF Madison, Wisconsin. Note: If my release can begin with work-release at the earliest possible convenience, I can then pour all of my free- time into establishing the BALE Project. I would be willing to either initiate the Bale program with my own funds herein Wisconsin or do the same in Chicago Illinois. Up and until then I would be willing to reside in any Halfway-House etc.





STEM Project : Science , Technology, Egineering and Mathematics for prisoners

Jason R Glascock 342498
OSCI; PO Box 3310
Oshkosh, WI 54903

    Jason and a few other prisoners in the medium security prison Oshlosh Correctional Institution have been trying to get started a program that would increase the prisoners' access to learning about the four  big discoplines in todays society. Their brain child is called the STEM project after these disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Although they were very successful in getting outside organizations to support them in their effort, even donate books, the WIDOC has so far discouraged and even punished them for their efforts. Below is Jason's explanatory letter and some documents showing their thwarted efforts. Coming will be a fuller view of this project dream.

    WIDOC at present does very little to prepare prisoners for  life after prison. There is a great need for programs like the STEM project and FFUP and other oranizations will in the future do what It can to support the implementing of such programs.

Jason Glascock's intro to STEM

Thwarted efforts to get permission from DOC to accept donations and begin

Jason Glscock letter to Senator Lena Taylor


Project for Older Prisoners


POPS, which originated at George Washington University, is committed to the reduction of prison overcrowding. The objective is to identify through background investigations older inmates who pose little or no risk of recidivism and help procure their early release.
Students volunteer as caseworkers and lobbyists. Caseworkers conduct thorough investigations into the prisoner's history by interviewing the prisoner, reviewing the prison records, searching past criminal and medical histories, and contacting crime victims.
Lobbyists research and help implement legislation in North Carolina that is consistent with the goals of POPS.
Through active participation, POPSs is instrumental in the reduction of prison overcrowding and in saving the taxpayers' money.

From Jonathon Turley piece POPS founder
In 1989, I established POPS to work on the problems associated with the growing population of older offenders. POPS began with a single prisoner, Quenton Brown, who was incarcerated at the Angola Prison in Louisiana. On June 7, 1973, then 50 years old and homeless, Brown walked into a bread store in Louisiana and, at gunpoint, stole $100 and a 15-cent pie. He then crawled under a nearby house where he remained until the police arrived. After his arrest, Louisiana determined that Mr. Brown had an I.Q. of 51—the intelligence of a three-year-old child. After a one-day trial, Mr. Brown was given a 30-year sentence without chance of parole. He had served 16 years when I first met him.
In a matter of weeks, I was deluged by letters from close to one hundred older and geriatric prisoners, who heard I was representing an older prisoner for free. This number was striking in a state with such extreme overcrowding that it had to rent out cells in local jails for a significant percentage of its population. With the help of my students, POPS was born. We set out to develop new approaches to this population, including evaluative measures to isolate low-risk prisoners and policies to reduce the costs of this population while improving care for individual prisoners.
POPS works on both national and local aspects of this problem, and POPS continues to gather data on the special costs and necessities of this population. Hundreds of law students have been trained in POPS and are now practicing attorneys. All that is required is for a state to request such a program, give POPS researchers access to the prison population, and enlist the participation of one or more law schools. POPS/DC will help any law school establish an academic program and regional office for work in a given state. POPS largely performs three functions in this area: individual case evaluations, state reports and recommendations for reform, and legislative drafting.
POPS students work without compensation and the project does not charge for its services. When assigned a case, POPS students first interview prisoners over the age of 55. Each prisoner is then evaluated according to a long, comprehensive questionnaire that explores the prisoner’s criminal history, chemical dependence history, health, employment background, and family background. This information is generally taken from interviews with the inmate, review of the prison files, interviews with the correctional staff, and a search of all courts and news files available on LEXIS/NEXIS and Westlaw. POPS generally uses two different recidivism tests to gauge the risk of an individual inmate. If the inmate appears low risk on both tests, the student presents the case to the other POPS students.
If the students vote to go forward, the student then attempts to contact any victims or surviving family members as part of our victim consultation stage. POPS was one of the first organizations to make such interviews mandatory. Victim interviews can reveal inconsistencies in an inmate’s account or simply show a level of violence or aggression that does not appear in a written record. In states allowing conditional paroles, victims are asked what conditions would make them feel more comfortable with a release.
Assuming the inmate’s case is still viable, the case worker then proceeds to determine how a prisoner will live upon release. Specifically, the student confirms any benefits, such as veteran’s benefits or social security payments, which the inmate may be entitled to receive. If the prisoner has a supportive family offering long-term housing, the student confirms who owns the house, who lives in the house, and the space available for the prisoner. The student further confirms whether anyone in the house has a criminal record. Finally, if the prisoner is able to work, the student works with any family or friends to confirm employment upon release.
Once all of these facts have been ascertained, the case is presented a final time to the POPS members. If approved, the student then submits the comprehensive findings and recommendations to the appropriate parole or pardon board. The POPS model has been endorsed by leaders from both parties and state commissions in states like California.
The Project for Older Prisoners
The George Washington University Law School
2000 H Street, NW
Washington DC, 20052
Phone: (202) 994-6261 | Fax: (202) 994-8980

Chisholm Pushes for Reforms

Chisholm pushes for reforms
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday February 12, 2011
DAs plan calls for overhauling criminal justice system
Can we really improve public safety while sending fewer people to prison?
One of the state's top prosecutors thinks the answer is yes.
In a speech Friday at the Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm outlined a proposal to rethink the criminal justice sys¬tem, shifting some resources from the back end to the front, and saving the state millions in the long run.
His idea would expand "evidence-based decision making," give judges more options in sentencing and reimburse counties $15,000 for every offender they don't commit to prison, where it costs about $30,000 a year to house them.
"I make this offer to the governor and Legislature: Milwaukee will continue to reduce crime and reduce the numbers of people in prison, maybe even enough to justify closing a prison. In turn, we want the savings from our efforts rein¬vested in Milwaukee so we can continue to do what we know works best for us."
Chisholm said it has become clear around the country, even to conservatives, that taxpayers can no longer afford to be only tough on crime, especially when ways exist to be smart on crime.
"If they're serious (in Madison) about one of their biggest deficits, this is a real opportunity," Chisholm said after the speech. "People just have to start thinking about it."
The state will spend $1.2 billion this year to house about 23,000 inmates, 40 % of whom come from Milwaukee County.
There is no draft legislation or sponsor yet for what he calls the Community Justice Reinvestment Act, but Chisholm said the state departments of Justice and Corrections back the idea. And, he noted, Gov. Scott Walker, while he served as Milwaukee County executive, supported programs underpinning the proposal.
On Friday, Walker's staff was deep in budget news, and his spokesperson did not return an e-mail seeking comment. In his speech, Chisholm pointed to "evidence-based decision making" that has already led to better sharing of information about offenders in Milwaukee County. More information leads to more tailored, and therefore effective, decisions about offenders' sanctions, whether through specialty courts or other kinds of diversions, services and treatments.
Crime has been going down in Milwaukee, and there are 4,000 fewer cases on the dockets at the end of last year com¬pared with 2007, Chisholm pointed out. Yet costs keep rising at the Department of Corrections. Why? In part, IN part, because so many inmates wind up in prison after state corrections officials find them in violation of rules while on extended supervision, Chisholm said.
Much of that is because of the truth in sentencing law, which requires not only that convicted criminals serve their entire amount of their prison term but also a period of extended supervision in the community after release. Failure to meet a host of conditions can send the released convict back to prison.
Chisholm also called for judges, armed with more and better information about offenders, to craft sentences that would allow them to get out of prison sooner if they make certain progress and get other services.
Between 2000 and 2007 the number of people readmitted or sent to prison because they did not comply with the conditions of community supervision increased 40 %. The number admitted for new offenses while on supervision, however, actually decreased 11%, Chisholm said.
"I am not asking for tax in-creases or additional expenditures. I am asking to earn the right to control a portion of existing safety dollars by proving we can do a better job of keeping people safe and preventing repeat offenses by wisely using local resources in partnership with the state.

We Need a Prison Alternative

James E. Causey
We need a prison alternative
Sept. 4, 2010
Do you feel safer because of this nation's tried-and-untrue, lock-'em-up policy?
I don't. The nation's get-tough-on-crime agenda isn't working. One in 100 Americans sits behind bars, but there has only been a 5% dip in crime over the last decade. In any cost-benefit analysis, that is little bang for the buck. There has to be a better way than locking up a disproportionate number of the nation's communities of color.
This happens so often that it is no longer shocking to hear stories of fathers and sons incarcerated at the same time.
Prosecuting attorney Mark S. Williams knows this scenario all too well. He once told me he has prosecuted fathers only to do the same thing to their sons years later.
He concludes that strong family units and kids with a passion for education are the key factors to breaking the prison cycle. Putting more people in prison doesn't get us anywhere near that mark. In fact, it's counterproductive.
It's hard to keep families intact when a father is serving 15 to life. Long-term, Wisconsin needs a funding shift from correctional facilities to education, both high quality early-childhood and public education.
Here's a key reason: We simply can't afford to keep building more prisons. There is a more cost-effective way to address this problem.
In 2008, Wisconsin corrections accounted for 8% of the state's general fund, outpacing the national average of 6.9%.
Prison costs are fixed and the only way to get costs down is by having fewer prisoners. That means identifying problem children early on and steering them away from negative influences that have all-too-well-known results.
Some kids are trapped. They live in areas infested by gangs and drugs. We need to give them access to boarding schools where they are surrounded by educators who push education and the love of knowledge 24 hours a day.
The argument against such residential schools is cost. Well, it costs $29,000 a year to house a prisoner. Let's put that money into programs that keep kids out of the system in the first place.
Prison costs drive Wisconsin's push for early release. From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to release non-violent criminals who will be released within a year anyway. But we need to have proper programs in place to help them succeed once they are on the other side of the wall.
Prisoners up for early release should have completed their GED before they are released from prison. They can get their GEDs while they are locked up; what else do they have to do?
More than 70% of those incarcerated dropped out of high school, and in this economy adults can't get a job even at a fast-food restaurant without that piece of paper.
After they are released, continuing their education should be part of their parole. Such a move would require a financial boost to re-entry programs that would help those released develop soft skills, as well as improve their literacy.
Nationally, education in the black community needs to be an issue addressed every bit as forcefully as civil rights issues were earlier. The NAACP should act accordingly. Locally, it needs to be the battle cry of Milwaukee Public Schools, the business community and parents. Collectively, we can't afford to fail our youth.
One in 18 of those between the ages of 20 and 34 in the black community are in jail or on parole or probation. That means one in nine of all African-Americans.
A recent study found the state's black graduation rate was 50%, compared with 92% for whites. MPS is the largest contributors to this statistic. It doesn't take much to figure out where to start on this drive for quality education.
District Attorney John Chisholm told me that a failing school system is "a prison pipeline."
And this is patently obvious. If they're educated, they're far less likely to become criminals. Perhaps if we smartened up as a community, we'd get serious about fixing this.
James E. Causey is a Journal Sentinel editorial writer and columnist. E-mail Twitter: jecausey

Want to Lower the Prison Population?

Want to lower the prison population?
Don't build more beds, build lives

A new report says that Wisconsin needs to spend $1.2 billion
to upgrade its prison facilities, including adding 8,900 beds
to help with overcrowding.
The prison population in our state is somewhere around 22,000.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "In 2008, over
7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole
at year-end--3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults."
The U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.
Even taking into consideration those countries that don't properly report
the number of people it locks up, the numbers in America are staggering. Prison overpopulation has become a very real, very urgent problem in most states, so I can't say that it's a surprise to hear about it happening right here in Wisconsin.
That it's not unexpected, however, doesn't make it any less appalling.
The problem, of course, is that this is a complicated problem with a dizzying array of contributing factors. And everyone has a different opinion about how to best go about solving it. Some folks who fancy themselves real hard asses like to talk about privatizing the prison system to reduce costs, as well as throwing the biggest book at even the most non-violent of offenders. Others fall on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.
Me? I land somewhere decidedly in the middle. I think we put too many people in jail, and I think we operate our jails too much like points-of-no-return as opposed to the houses of reform they were supposed to be.
In terms of population, this is definitely a case where less is more.
The fact that some one million inmates are in for non-violent offenses, too, offends me. Simply having the bad fortune of living with or visiting someone involved in the drug trade can be enough to put you behind bars for the better part of your life. It just doesn't make sense. Don't believe me? Read a few of the personal stories listed on the Families Against Mandatory Minimums website.
Our sentencing rules need serious reform. So do our attitudes about things like marijuana, as well as toward addiction in general. Throwing people with a disease, or a relatively harmless plant, into jail is both unjust and wasteful. Taking a long, hard look at our sentencing policies would likely go a long way toward putting a dent in our bloated prison population.
What might also help is a solid early release program for non-violent offenders who do deserve some jail time. Gov. Doyle attempted to do that when he passed Wisconsin Act 28 as part of last year's budget. The provision was ostensibly supposed to create a system of early-release in order to help stem the increases in inmate population we've been seeing in recent years.
And while it does end the double-bunking policy that has caused so much trouble (a good move), it still misses the mark. The problem with the act was that it attempted the early release policy without much structure or forethought. As pointed out at the time by Zachary Wisniewski at Blogging Blue, the types of offenses now eligible for early release simply don't make sense:
...under the new early release provisions, an individual convicted of aggravated battery to an unborn child is statutorily eligible to earn early release from prison as well as an early discharge from extended supervision once released from prison, while an individual convicted of a nonviolent offense such as misconduct in public office is not eligible for early release from prison or an early discharge from extended supervision. Now don't get me wrong – I'm not arguing misconduct in public office – or any other felony, for that matter – aren't serious offenses, but they're certainly not as seriously assaultive as a crime like aggravated battery to an unborn child.
There's a full list of the other offenses that fall under the new early release program at the same post linked above. They include things like stalking, false imprisonment, and physical abuse of a child. Those are decidedly not non-violent offenses and I have no idea how they ended up on this list.
But say we did (eventually) get the early-release program right. That's not enough. We need to couple that with comprehensive rehabilitation and reentry programs that help people returning to society with things like education, job preparedness, finding a place to live, etc. Just turning people out onto the streets does little to nothing to prevent recidivism—which, after all, is supposed to be the point of putting people in jail for less than a life sentence.
Thankfully, there are such programs in place in many of our state's detention facilities: everything from a successful MATC accredited horticultural program to high school equivalency programs and even a prison library program.
Kyle Nabilcy, a prison librarian, has witnessed the success of the program first-hand. "Anecdotally," he notes, "I can tell you that very few of the men who have worked for me as inmate clerks have returned to a similar or higher security level of incarceration, or reoffended. I can only think of two out of probably 30-35 in almost seven years."
Nabilcy also went on to suggest a different use for any state funds earmarked for prisons. "I would love to see some of that money going into improving the technological infrastructure of DOC. More and more of the educational programs are digital, and our resources are getting more and more out of date every day."
Once again, prevention and education seem to be the most important tools for fixing the problem.


Unlocking America

A November 2007 report on criminal justice in the United States was completed by professors from across the country, including,

James Austin, President, The JFA Institute, Washington D.C.
Todd Clear, Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Troy Duster, Professor, New York University
David F. Greenberg, Professor, New York University
John Irwin, Professor Emeritus, San Francisco State University
Candace McCoy, Professor, City University of New York
Alan Mobley, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University
Barbara Owen, Professor, California State University, Fresno
Joshua Page, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota

Funded by the Rosenbaum Foundation and Open Society Institute, the report is filled with statistics, tables, charts, documentation and recommendations for how and why to reduce America’s prison population. The full report is available on the web at
A few highlights, edited and presented in brief, are below:

The United States is the world leader in imprisonment. China, with a much larger population, has the second largest incarcerated population, with 1.5 million imprisoned. With 737 people incarcerated per 100,000 persons, the U.S. also leads the world in rates of incarceration—well above Russia, which has the next highest rate of 581 per 100,000. Other Western democratic countries manage with prison populations far smaller than ours.

Not only are our lengths of imprisonment significantly longer than in earlier periods in our history, for the same crimes, Americans receive sentences twice as long as English prisoners, three times as long as Canadian prisoners, four times as long as Dutch prisoners, five to 10 times as long as French prisoners, and five times as long as Swedish prisoners. Yet these countries’ rates of violent crime are lower than ours, and their rates of property crime are comparable.

In the United States, every year since 1970, when only 196,429 persons were in state and federal prisons, the prison population has grown. Today there are over 1.5 million in state and federal prisons. Another 750,000 are in the nation’s jails, bringing to total to 2.2 million. The growth has been constant—in years of rising crime and falling crime, in good economic times and bad, during war and peacetime. Prison populations are now eight times those in 1970. Under current sentencing policies state and federal prisons will grow by another 192,000 prisoners in five years. And the nation will spend an additional $27.5 billion in operational and construction costs on top of the over $60 billion now spent.

It is tempting to say that crime rates fell over the past dozen years due to imprisonment policies, but a look at data about crime will show that prison populations continued to swell long after crime rates declined. Today, whatever is driving imprisonment policies, it is not primarily crime.

Prisons are self-fueling. About two-thirds of the 650,000 prison admissions are persons who fail probation or parole—approximately half of these people are sent to prison for technical violations. In many states these violations include petty drug and property crimes or violations of parole requirements that do not even constitute crimes. This high rate of recidivism is, in part, a result of a range of policies that increase surveillance over people released from prison, impose obstacles to their reentry into society, and eliminate support systems that ease their transition from prison to the streets.

Americans have become accustomed to demonizing certain people who break
the law. This is somewhat odd, given that few citizens go through life without ever violating a law. A significant number of Americans cheat on their taxes, steal from their employers, receive stolen goods, purchase illegal cable boxes, illegally download music, use illegal drugs, or participate in many other illegal acts. Hardly a day goes by without reports of corporate executives indicted for fraud, insider trading, or price fixing. Politicians are convicted for accepting bribes. The most prestigious Wall Street firms have engaged in large-scale illegal trading practices. Some of our most idolized entertainment figures are indicted for shoplifting, domestic violence, drunk driving, possessing drugs, and molesting children. Policemen are filmed using excessive use of force on citizens, make arrests based on racial stereotypes, deal in drugs, plant evidence on innocent people, and lie under oath. Sports figures are accused of rape, assault and taking steroids. Priests are charged with child molestation. Doctors bill Medicare for procedures they did not perform. Each day thousands drive while legally drunk. Self-report surveys find that lawbreaking is widely distributed among the young, especially males.
As many as one-third of all boys are arrested before reaching adulthood. A majority of males will be arrested for a non-traffic offense at some point in their lives. But given that most of us commit some type of crimes in our lifetimes, the most severe punishments are targeted toward lower class citizens. It is this class of people we are willing to punish disproportionately.
Middle- and upper-class people understand that their families and close associates are not defined entirely by their law violations. But they often lack understanding for those whose life circumstances are different from their own. The demonization of criminals has become a special burden for young black males, of whom nearly one-third will spend time in prison during their life. Today approximately 60% of those incarcerated are black or Hispanic. In effect, the imprisonment binge has created our own American apartheid. While we may differ on the basis for racial differences in imprisonment, there can be no disagreement that this is not the sign of a healthy society.

Three Key Myths about Crime and Incarceration

Myth #1
: We can identify “career criminals” and their imprisonment will reduce crime.
Most people who commit crimes stop committing crimes by the age of 25. One of the primary justifications for lengthy sentences is that we can identify early in life the “career criminals” who continue to commit most serious crimes. These people, it is argued, must be “incapacitated” for long periods of time. However, scientific efforts to develop methods for identifying career criminals have failed. Studies find that delinquents who had been incarcerated were more likely to commit crimes later in life than those who had been sentenced to probation or local jail time. The implication is that imprisonment itself can encourage later criminality.

Myth #2: Tougher penalties are needed to protect the public from “dangerous” criminals.
The failure to accurately identify the small number of offenders who do commit particularly horrendous crimes after serving their sentences fueled demands for longer sentences across the board. In other words, if we can’t single out the truly dangerous, we will assume anyone with two or three convictions for a relatively wide range of offenses is a habitual criminal, and keep them all in prison for an extremely long time. On this basis, a number of states adopted mandatory sentencing, truth-in-sentencing and “three strikes” laws. These have done little to reduce crime. This is because rates of return to serious crime by those released from prison are not high. Just 1.2% of those who served time for homicide and were released in 1994 were rearrested for a new homicide within three years, and just 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape. Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex-offenders to be rearrested for any offense. Their rates of re-arrest were only 5.3%. A substantial percentage (over 60%) of released prisoners are eventually rearrested, but mostly for drug offenses or violations of parole regulations. Studies make clear that, while many people who are released from prison end up back behind bars, they are a fraction of the overall crime problem. Lengthening their sentences as a means of dealing with crime will at best have only marginal impact.

Myth #3: Tougher penalties will deter criminals
The hope that brutal prisons and longer sentences will deter crime is as old as the invention of the prison itself. This notion simplifies and distorts the dynamics of criminal behavior. When most people commit a crime, they correctly believe that they will not be caught. (About 60% of all crimes are not reported to police.) The FBI reports that 4.6 million arrests were made for property or violent crimes, a number representing only 19% of the reported victimizations. State and federal courts dealing with serious felony crimes produce about one million convictions—of which 68% result in a prison or jail sentence. Therefore, the chances of being arrested, convicted, and sentenced to jail or prison are quite small. Further, different types of crimes vary markedly in their potential for being deterred and people differ in their susceptibility to being deterred by the threat of punishment.
The population roughly divides into three groups:
1) those who, because of personal values and social commitments, would not knowingly commit crimes under any circumstances;
2) those who are deterred when they believe that there is some risk they will be caught
3) those who are not deterred.
The type of crime most likely to result in arrest and conviction tends to be committed by those least likely to be deterred—generally young males excluded from the conventional pathways to success and already severely punished by the juvenile justice system. The vast majority of these youth desist from crime after their twenties for reasons unrelated to any penalties imposed. Ironically, those who are deterred when punishment is seen as likely—polluters, price fixers, slum lords, inside traders, stock swindlers, workplace safety violators, and other “white-collar” criminals—receive relatively lenient punishment when caught.

The persistent faith that prisoners can be discouraged from returning to crime by subjecting them to harsh penalties, and that the population at large will be deterred from committing crimes more effectively with severe penalties, has never had empirical support. Decades of research on capital punishment have failed to produce compelling evidence that it prevents homicide more effectively than long prison sentences. Community penalties, it has been shown, are at least as effective in discouraging return to crime as institutional penalties. Rigorous prison conditions substantially increase recidivism. Evaluations show that boot camps and “scared straight” programs either have no effect on recidivism or increase it. “Tough” sanctions are popular, but they do not reduce crime.

Studies on the impact of incarceration on crime rates come to a range of conclusions that vary from “making crime worse” to “reducing crime a great deal.” Though conclusive evidence is lacking, the bulk of the evidence points to three conclusions:
1) The effect of imprisonment on crime rates, if there is one, is small;
2) If there is an effect, it diminishes as prison populations expand; and
3) The overwhelming and undisputed negative side effects of incarceration far outweigh its potential, unproven benefits.

A recent “meta-analysis” of treatment programs reviewed 291 evaluations of adult offender treatment programs, both in-prison and in-community, conducted in the United States and other English-speaking nations. It reports that 42% of the evaluated programs, including jail diversion programs, domestic violence programs, faith-based, psychotherapy or behavior therapy for sex offenders, boot camps, electronic monitoring, and restorative justice programs had no impact on recidivism. Of the 167 effective programs, only one-fourth were prison-based. Of these, the reduction in recidivism rates generally ranged from 4% to 10%. These recidivism reduction results are similar to those found in other major evaluations of “what works” (or “doesn’t work”). Notably, many other programs do not reduce recidivism and may actually increase rates of failure.

Imprisonment can legitimately satisfy a social and personal need for retribution toward those who violate society’s laws. Most contemporary philosophies of punishment give a large role to retribution. In addition to satisfying victims’ needs, punishing lawbreakers according to what they deserve can perform important social functions. Punishment can promote social solidarity, while failure to respond to crime weakens commitment to social norms. At the same time, excessive punishment can exacerbate social tensions and widens divisions, reducing solidarity. It can corrode a nation’s political culture, and obstruct efforts to deal constructively with social problems. Retribution should not be used as an excuse for mindless punitiveness as is the case now. The essence of retribution is to punish people proportionately, based on the crime they have committed. Excessive leniency and undeserved harshness both violate the principle of proportionality. Failure to limit the severity of punishment to what is deserved is unjust. It alienates citizens from the government and undercuts the effectiveness of law enforcement. When those who are punished are disproportionately poor and members of minority groups, it is inevitable that they will believe that the law is being used to repress them, rather than holding them accountable for their crimes.

1: Reduce time served in prison.
Reducing sentencing severity would mean probation or a short jail sentences for some; for others, it would mean less time spent in prison, as well as less time on parole. This central recommendation is grounded in three facts:
1) many prisoners are now serving longer prison terms;
2) the longer prison terms are not proportionate to the severity of the crimes they were convicted of
3) the extension of their length of incarceration has no major impact on their recidivism rate, or crime rates in general.

2: Eliminate the use of prison for parole or probation technical violators.
Today anywhere from 50-65% of the 650,000 prisoners admitted to state prison are those who have failed probation or parole. Of those who have failed, about half are being sent to prison for technical violations. Such violations include absconding from supervision, failure to pay supervision fees, restitution costs, or fines, failure to attend treatment, drug use as detected by urine-analysis, failure to maintain employment, or being arrested (but not convicted) for misdemeanor or felony level crimes. While these behaviors are troublesome, they do not reach the level of seriousness of requiring incarceration for many months or years in state or federal prison. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that parole violators returned to prison serve an average of 18 months before being re-released. Prosecutors and correctional officials erroneously believe that unless individuals are re-incarcerated for technical violations, the individuals will commit serious crimes in the future. There is no scientific evidence to support this belief and attendant policy, yet it continues to be the primary rationale for re-incarcerating tens of thousands of people for criminal or non-criminal behavior for which ordinary citizens could not be incarcerated.

3: Reduce the length of parole and probation supervision periods.
There is little evidence that lengthy parole and probation terms decrease crime. Probation or parole supervision failure is most likely to occur within the first 12 months of supervision; thereafter, supervision is more of a nuisance than a means for assisting people after prison or preventing them from committing another crime.
New research indicates that parole supervision is largely ineffective with respect to reducing recidivism. The obvious explanation is that people who have no parole obligations when they leave prison (“max out”) can only be returned to prison if they are convicted of a new felony crime. Conversely, those placed on parole and probation can be re-incarcerated for either non-criminal behavior or misdemeanor crimes. A 2005 Urban Institute study, among others, revealed that individuals released with no parole supervision return to prison at a significantly lower rate than those released on parole.

4: Decriminalize “victimless” crimes, particularly those related to drug use.
In recent years, behaviors have been criminalized that are not dangerous and pose little if any threat to others. They involve the consent of all immediate parties. Common examples in American history have included abortion, gambling, illicit sexual conduct that does not involve coercion (e.g., prostitution and, until recently, homosexual activity), and the sale and possession of recreational drugs. According to the U.S.Department of Justice, approximately 30-40% of all current prison admissions involve crimes that have no direct or obvious victim other than the perpetrator. The drug category constitutes the largest offense category, with 31% of all prison admissions resulting from such crimes.
Politicians and the public have ignored the lessons of Prohibition in formulating drug policy. In an attempt to eliminate harms caused to individuals, their families and society from the abuse of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs, legislatures have passed laws sending large numbers of users, abusers and low-level dealers to prison with very long sentences. This prohibition, like the earlier one, has led to violence as dealers have sought to eliminate rivals in the lucrative market. Like Prohibition, it has resulted in the distribution of adulterated drugs that have injured and killed users.
The high profits of drug dealing are largely the consequence of legislation that eliminates competition from anyone unwilling to risk draconian penalties. Every time a dealer is taken out of circulation by a prison sentence, a new dealer is drawn in by the lure of large profits. The prosecution and imprisonment of low-level traffickers has increased racial disparities, and is the largest factor contributing to the rapid rise in imprisonment rates for women. Dealers’ use of violence to eliminate competition helps to sustain the myth linking drug use to violence. Notwithstanding our extraordinary effort to discourage the use and sale of illegal drugs, they remain widely available and widely used.

5: Improve conditions of imprisonment.
Reducing the size of the prison population is not enough. We could not in good conscience recommend that anyone serve a prison sentence unless we ensure that those who end up behind walls are treated in a humane manner. Prisons that systematically deny human dignity, basic human rights, and life necessities are creating festering sores that poison the entire society. Clearly, prison terms have a residual impact on the families and communities of the imprisoned. Enduring years of separation from family and community—deprived of material possessions, subjected to high levels of noise and artificial light, crowded conditions and/or solitary confinement, devoid of privacy, with reduced options, arbitrary control, disrespect, and economic exploitation—is maddening and profoundly deleterious. Anger, frustration, and a burning sense of injustice, coupled with the crippling processes inherent in imprisonment, significantly reduce the likelihood that prisoners are able to pursue a viable, relatively conventional life after release.
Unsafe, inhumane, and secretive prisons not only traumatize the incarcerated but also contaminate prison staff and their families, as well as townsfolk near the prison. More generally, support for an inhumane prison system requires that prison workers and the public embrace the simplistic concept that prisoners are unworthy beings that deserve their harsh punishment above and beyond the segregation from society and loss of freedom.
There are five fundamental features of prison administration that should be acceptable to anyone interested in accomplishing the prison’s practicable purposes—punishment and deterrence—without engaging in unnecessary, counterproductive, and cruel practices.

1. Eliminate Cruel and Unusual Punishment
These include denial of adequate medical services, excessive use of physical force, and housing prisoners in exceptionally punitive arrangements, such as solitary confinement units. Federal courts have ruled that these practices violate the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.
2. Safety
Prisoners should be protected from assault, rape, murder, etc., by other prisoners and staff. Effective strategies such as adequate surveillance, voluntary access to safe living areas within the prison, housing prisoners in small units, and “single-celling” should be practiced to ensure prisoners’ safety.
3. Health
Prisoners should have access to the resources and services required to maintain their physical and mental health. These include access to medical and psychiatric services, adequate diet, and recreation. Prisoners should not be subjected to physically and mentally deleterious incarceration regimens such as extended periods of isolation and restricted mobility, and excessive noise.
4. Programs
Any rational and humane system of punishment should provide access to opportunities that increase prison safety and improve prisoners’ chances of making it in the community after prison. Such programs would include academic, technical and citizenship education, as well as a wide variety of treatment programs that help prisoners improve themselves and develop more conventional, law-abiding interests and pursuits. These types of programs should be provided regardless of whether they reduce recidivism.
5. Post-Release Assistance
Most prisoners receive little or no preparation for release from prison or assistance subsequent to their release. They face extraordinary difficulties in achieving stability, viability, and life fulfillment on the outside. States should develop and provide access to transitional and permanent housing, education, vocational training and placement, counseling, coaching, and mentoring.

RECOMMENDATION 6: Restore ex-prisoner voting and other rights.
Prisoners face exceptional problems from their stigmatized status. They are barred from most city, county, and state employment and from some housing such as federally subsidized housing and are systematically denied employment by many private employers. Their right to vote varies from state to state, even from county to county in some states. It will be difficult to overcome private employers’ restrictions on hiring ex-prisoners, but persistent efforts should be made toward this goal. Perhaps laws against discrimination against employment of ex-prisoners can be adopted in the future. Government agencies, however, could easily change their policies. In San Francisco, the city government has removed the question regarding prior arrests on job applications. Other government jurisdictions should follow this example. Opening up relatively good-paying jobs to ex-prisoners greatly increases public safety by moving potential criminals into conventional pathways. Government subsidies for hiring ex-convicts could overcome some employers’ hesitations. In addition, exclusion from welfare, public housing, and subsidies should be ended as should rules barring ex-convicts from living in certain neighborhoods. Licensing restrictions should be maintained only when demonstrably necessary to protect the public


Community Restorative Justice

Edited From New Age Magazine, January/February 1999.
There is a growing movement across the country called restorative Justice, also known in spiritual circles as transformational justice. The idea behind it is simple: Bring a person convicted of a crime together with his or her victim amid representatives or mediators from the broader community, and let everyone involved help to describe the offender’s sentence or restitution to the victim.
All this takes place outside the court system and results in reparations, not prison time. Restorative justice advocates believe that the adversarial nature of America’s criminal justice system divides communities, deepening the wound caused by the crime. By bringing a community together, they hope to heal those wounds –and perhaps even transform lives .
The following is a description of a meeting in Orange, Massachusetts: The meeting begins with an update on the case of a 19-year old referred to the committee by a restorative advocate judge. The youths’ offense was breaking and entering and he had earlier applied in writing for consideration by this committee. There was a meeting by the committee where everyone spoke of his or her concerns and the beginnings of a support group began to form. Two “keepers “ will emerge from that group to guide the slow creation and consequences of the offender’s “sentencing circle.”
Such circle develops sentences by consensus, passing a feather or talking stick around and speaking one voice at a time. They can include the victim, the offender, family, friends, employers, and probation officers, as well as members of the community who don’t know the victim or the offender.
Judges, too take part in sentencing circles, though they leave their robes in the court house. This volunteer community knows a corner is being turned; the offender could be the client for its first sentencing circle. According to the update, the client has been extremely attentive. But now that he has to decide who will be in his support group, he’s reluctant to impose on his family members and associates. Maybe he’s worried about what he’ll owe them.
Transformations like the one that could await him are impossible to price. Someone mentions “the grandma rule”used by other groups: find the grandma or other person whose opinion counts most of all for the offender, the one he or she usually wants to keep out of the process. Then pick that person.
But the client in this case seems to be resisting. He may turn out to need a long support relationship. For now, the judge is the groups safety net. He and the groups consensus process are both protections against vigilantism. The judge is the responsible one who will signoff on the sentence they come up with. They are the ones who are reaching out beyond traditional hierarchies and systems, making up rules as they go along for their community’s needs and purposes.
Experience will tell them what to save and what to throw away, what to say and not say, what to remember and what to forget. The idea behind restorative justice is actually a return to traditional roots. The concept has been traced to aboriginal systems of consensus-based community decision-making developed and adopted over centuries in Australia and New Zealand.
Some people also point to the age old ways behind the Navaho Court and sentencing circles of Canada’s First Nations. Probably The Quaker example of consensus and bearing witness was the one of the first European examples. In the 1970’s the Mennonites launched the modern restorative justice movement in the US by starting the first victim-offender reconciliation programs in Elkart, Indiana and Kitchener, Ontario.
This was also a time when former members of communes developed “group process training” particularly in the MOVEMENT for a New Society in Philadelphia. This led to a wave of dispute-resolution and community mediation groups that have since worked to clear up everything from toxic waste spills to play ground fights.
Internationally, restorative justice is taking root indifferent forms. Germans seem committed to victim- offender mediation, which also is attracting interest in Northern Ireland . Sentencing circles have been introduced in the Aboriginal Justice Section of Canada’s courts. Family group conferencing , a form typicall used with young offenders, is in place in Australia and New Zealand. In the US, numerous programs are already in place.
Family group conferencing has been used with hundreds of young offenders in Minneapolis and Bethlehem, PA. Real Justice, a 4-year –old private non-profit organization that helped introduce conferencing to the US, has also trained police officers, educators, community leaders and others to do conferencing in Vermont , Indiana, Virginia and Colorado. Other pilot programs are under way in Florida and Illinois.
The article goes on to state the results of numerous studies that show these programs work-a majority offenders successfully negotiate agreements to restore victims losses, victims are less fearful of re-victimization and are more satisfied, offenders are more likely to go through the program and less likely to reoffend. Results are similarly good with family group conferencing. “The heart is the key, “says Lucinda Brown of Reinventing Justice, a grpoup that has helped guide sentencing circle groups in Massachusetts. “Without it , the process will be just one more way to settle, one more way to punish. It’s a slow way, but it’s a safe way to have conflict.
In a circle, if 3 or 4 people make you furious, you know you’ll get your say when the feather is passed to you. “ As Brown points out, the success usually lies with the community. “ Is the offender connected to the community enough? If the offender isn’t interested in being in the community, it won’t work. . And when people ask where is the community that would do this, we say that this process builds community.


The European Dream

The European Dream
Edited From a 5 page article by Jeremy Rifkin, in the Sept/Oct 04 issue of UTNE READER,
which highlights his new book , THE EUROPEAN DREAM

What really separates America from all earlier political experiments is the unbounded hope and enthusiasm, the optimism that is so thick at times it can bowl you over. This is a land dedicated to possibilities, a place where constant improvement is the only meaningful compass and economic progress is regarded to be as certain as the rising sun. We are a people who threw off the yoke of tyranny and vowed never to be ruled by arbitrary elites of any kind. We eschew class distinctions and the hereditary transmission of status, embrace the democratic spirit, and believe everybody should be judged solely on merit. We think of America as a refuge for every human being who has ever dreamed of a better life and has been willing to risk his or her own to come here and start over.
That’s why it saddens me to say that America is no longer a great country. Yes, it is still the most powerful economy in the world, with a military presence unmatched in all of history. But to be a great country, it is necessary to be a good country. It is true that people everywhere enjoy American cultural forms and consumer goods. America is even envied, but it is no longer admired like it once was. The American dream, once so coveted, has increasingly become an object of derision. Our way of life no longer inspires, rather, it is now looked on as outmoded and, worse yet, as something to fear, or abhor.
Stripped to its bare essentials, the American dream offers everyone a fair shot at prosperity if they’re willing to work hard and cultivate self-reliance. But fulfillment of the dream is becoming more elusive. For Americans who have made every effort to succeed, only to be pulled down over and over again by a market economy and a society weighted against them, the dream can feel like a cruel hoax, a myth without substance. As the gap between rich and poor has widened, the sons and daughters of the wealthier Americans have come to feel entitled to happiness and are less willing to work hard and make something of themselves. One third of Americans say they no longer even believe in the American dream.
While the American spirit languishes in the past, a compelling new dream is coming of age, driven by the rise of the world’s other great superpower, the European Union (EU). 25 nations representing 455 million people have joined together to create a “United States” of Europe. Although still in its adolescence, the European Dream is the first transnational vision, one far better suited to the next stage of human evolution.
The difference is reflected in the American and European Dreams, which are about two diametrically opposed ideas about freedom and security. For Americans, freedom has long been associated with autonomy. An autonomous person is not dependent upon others or vulnerable to circumstance beyond his control. To be autonomous, one needs to be propertied. The more wealth one amasses, the more independent one is in the world. One is free by becoming self-reliant and an island unto oneself. With wealth comes exclusivity, and with exclusivity comes security.
he new European dream is based on different assumptions about what constitutes freedom and security. For Europeans, freedom is not found in autonomy but in imbeddedness. To be free is to have access to many interdependent relationships. The more community one has, the more options one has for a full and meaningful life. It is inclusivity that brings security—belonging, not belongings.
That isn’t to say that Europe has suddenly become a utopia. The point is not whether the Europeans are living up to their dream. We Americans have never fully lived up to ours. Rather, what is important is that Europe has articulated a new vision for the future that differs from our own in fundamental ways. These basic differences are crucial to understanding the dynamic that has begun to unfold between the early 21st century’s two great superpowers.
The European Union is novel in being the first mega governing institution to be born out of the ashes of defeat. Rather than commemorate a noble past, it sought to ensure that the past would never be repeated. After a thousand years of unremitting conflict, war and bloodshed, the nations emerged from two world wars with their population maimed and killed, their ancient monuments and cities lying in ruins, their worldly treasures depleted, and their way of life destroyed. Determined that they would never take up arms against each other, the nations search for a political mechanism that could move them beyond their ancient rivalries
In a series of treaties following WWII, Europe’s political elites began the painstaking process of creating a united Europe, all the while attempting to define the limits of power of the emerging European community. The federalists argued for ceding more power to the European central authority. The confederalists, by contrast, tried to keep power in the member states, viewing the new governing structure as a means to strengthening and coordinating their national objectives. Every compromise along the way reflected the tensions and strains between these two divergent visions.
Rather than becoming a super-state or a mechanism to represent the enlightened national self-interests, the European Union has now metamorphosed into a discursive forum whose function is to referee relationships and help coordinate activity among a age of players, of which the nation state is only one. The European Union’s primary role has become orchestral. Its role is just the opposite of what nation states do. Its political cachet is bound up in facilitating and regulation a competing flow of divergent activities and interest. It is less a place than a process. Its genius is in its indeterminacy.
Europeans are in the midst of a historical debate over whether to ratify a proposed constitution. Much of that 265-page document probably would not be acceptable to most Americans. Although many passages are cribbed from our own nation-forming documents, there are other ideas and notions that are so alien to the contemporary America psyche that they may be considered with suspicion or even thought of as bizarre.
To begin with, there is not even a single reference to God and only a veiled reference to Europe’s “religious inheritance”. There is only one reference to private property tucked deep inside the document, and barely a passing mention of free markets and trade.
Just as striking is what the constitution does emphasize. The EU objectives include a clear commitment to “sustainable development based on balanced economic growth.” A “social market economy”, and “protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.” The constitution would also “promote peace, combat social exclusion and discrimination, promote social justice and protection, equality between men and women, solidarity between generations, and protection of children’s rights.”
The constitution’s Charter of Fundamental Rights goes far beyond our own Bill of Rights and subsequent constitutional amendments. For example, it promises everyone preventive health care, daily and weekly rest periods, an annual period of paid leave, maternity and parental leave, social and housing assistance, and environmental protection.
The EU constitution is something new in human history. Though it is not as eloquent as the French and US constitutions, it is the first governing document of its kind to expand the human franchise to the level of global consciousness. The language throughout the draft constitution speaks of universalism, making it clear that the focus is not a people, a territory, to a nation, but rather, the human race and the planet we inhabit. The gist of the new constitution is a commitment to respect human diversity, champion human rights and the rights of nature, foster quality of life, pursue sustainable development, free the human spirit for deep play, build a perpetual peace, and nurture a global consciousness. Together, these values and goals represent the warp and woof of a fledgling European Dream.
This dream is already threatening to create a schism with the US. For example, the European Union forbids capital punishment. Even the person who commits the most heinous crimes against flow human beings, including terrorism and genocide, enjoys in the official words of the EU, “an inherent and inalienable dignity.” The Europeans see their position on the death penalty going to the very heart of their new dream, and they hope to convince the world of the righteousness of their cause.
Another way the divisiveness between the two dreams is manifested is their positions on genetically modified food. In the mid-90’s the US government gave the green light to GM foods and at the end of the decade over half of America’s crops were genetically modified. No new laws were enacted to govern the potential harmful effects. With its commitment to the precautionary principal and reining in high-risk scientific enterprise, in the name of environmental protection and sustainable development, Europe responded quite differently. Massive opposition to GM crops led to a de facto moratorium and tough new EU protections covering this technology.
Although it’s too early to tell exactly how successful the “United States” of Europe will ultimately prove to be, in an era when our identities(and problems) extend beyond borders, no nation will be able to go it alone 25 yeas from now. The European states are the first to understand and act upon the emerging realities of a globally interdependent world. Others will follow.

From EUROPEAN DREAM, Utne reader article, by Jeremy Rifkin
Americans are so used to thinking of our country as the most successful on earth, they might be surprised to learn that, by many standards, this is no longer the case.( note: here Rifkin includes a long list of comparisons. Here are some of them.) The Gross national product of the EU (10.5 trillion dollars) tops that of the U.S., making it the world’s largest economy. The EU is the world’s leading exporter and largest trading market. It claims a greater share of Fortune 500 companies( 61 in EU, while 40 in US.
The comparisons of quality of life are even more revealing. In the EU there are 322 physicians per 100,000, while the US has 279. The average life span in most develop EU countries is now 78.01 years compared to 76.9 years in the US. When it comes to wealth distribution- a crucial measure of a country’s ability to deliver on the promise of prosperity, the US ranks 24 among industrial nations. All 18 of Europe’s most developed have less income inequality between rich and poor. There are now more poor people living in American than in the 16 nations for which data is available. America is also the most dangerous place to live, with its homicide rate (4X), child homicide rate, suicides, and fire-arm related deaths outstripping those of the other wealthiest nations. Although the US is only 4 percent of the world’s population, it now holds a quarter of the world’s prison population.
Europeans often remark that Americans “live to work” while Europeans “work to live.” The average paid vacation time in Europe is 6 weeks a year. On average Americans receive only 2 weeks. Most Americans would be shocked to learn that the average commute to work in Europe is less than 19 minutes. When one considers what makes a people great and constitutes a better life, Europe is beginning to surpass America.

A Different Approach In Finland’s Prisons, No Gates or Armed Guards
Look in on Finland’s penal institutions, whether those the system categorizes as “open” as “closed,” and it is hard to tell when you’ve entered the world of custody. “This is a closed prison,” Esko Aaltonen, warden of the Hameenlinna penitentiary, said in welcoming a visitor. “ But you may have noticed you just drove in, and there was no gate blocking you.”
Walls and fences have been removed in favor of unobtrusive camera surveillance and electronic alert networks. Instead of clanging iron, meal passageways and grim cells, there are linoleum-
floored hallways lined with living spaces for inmates that resemble dormitory rooms more than lockups in a slammer.
Guards are unarmed and wear either civilian clothes or uniforms free of emblems like chevrons and epaulettes. “there are 10 guns in this prison, and they are all in my safe,” Mr Aaltonen said.”I only take them out in transfer of prisoners.”
Prison officials can give up to 20 days solitary confinement to inmates as punishment for infractions like fighting or possessing drugs, though the usual term is more like three to five days. Mr Altonen said he tried to avoid even that by first talking the problem over with the offending inmate.


Author: Dan Gardner

In a classroom thick with wigs, sinks and barber chairs, a man sprays waterthrough a woman's sudsy hair and works his fingers carefully to rinse theshampoo. Standing in front of a large mirror, another man brushes andsprays a woman's hair. Two others discuss styling techniques.
It could be ascene from any community college, but for the bars on the windows.This is Hameenlinna Central Prison, near Helsinki. The stylist working atthe mirror is a convicted murderer. The man washing hair is a drugtrafficker. Two of the three women are also prisoners; the other is a professional hairstylist hired to teach the class.
There are no guards.This is Finland's criminal justice system at work. Here, offenders eitherserve remarkably short prison sentences or, far more commonly, no prisontime at all. Finland's incarceration rate is just 52 per 100,000 people,less than half Canada's rate of 119 per 100,000 people and a tiny fractionof the American rate of 702.
In Finland, prisoners can work or study at any education level. Outsiderelationships are fostered with frequent visits and "home leaves."Living conditions are generous by anyone's standard. At Hameenlinna, maleand female prisoners live together; occasionally they fall in love and getmarried in the little auditorium that serves as the prison chapel.
Finland's criminal justice system is, in short, a liberal's dream and aconservative's nightmare.In that, Finland is far from unique. Most Western European nations considerlarge prison populations shameful and use incarceration only as a lastresort.
What sets Finland apart is how it came to be this way: More than 30years ago, Finland made an explicit decision to abandon the country's long tradition of very tough criminal justice in favour of the Western European approach. Never before or since has a country so consciously and completelyshifted from one philosophy of justice to its opposite.
It was a grand experiment in criminal justice, and the results are in."We don't have this idea that 'hard crimes deserve hard punishment,' " saysMarkku Salminen, the director general of Finland's prisons. Mr. Salminenmight seem an unlikely advocate for liberal justice policies. Tall, fit,and sporting a classic policeman's moustache, he looks every inch the cop he was for 30 years. But in Finland even the cops are liberals.
Mr. Salminen says one reason for the consensus is geography. "In Finland,Russia is very close. We follow it very keenly."Russian criminal justice is the negative image of Finland's. The St.Petersburg region, with 5.9 million people, has 72,000 police officers -the five million people of Finland employ 8,500. Russian criminals are farmore likely to be punished with prison time, and the sentences they receive are far longer. And, in most cases, Russian convicts serve time in prisonconditions that would be considered barbaric and illegal in Finland.
The Finns also know that the two countries' crime rates are just as starkly different. In an international survey, 82 per cent of Finns said they felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark, the second highest national rating (after Sweden; both Canada and the United States scored just more than 70 per cent, placing them near the bottom of the 11 countries surveyed). Russia wasn't included in that survey, but fear of crime is widespread, and for good reason -- the murder rate in Russia is 10 times that in Finland.
"We see that there is nobody safe in Russia," says Mr. Salminen. For Finns, history makes the contrast with Russia all the more poignant. Until the First World War, Finland was a province of the Russian Empire. Crime and punishment in Finland were governed by the tough Russian justice system, a system the Finns inherited after independence.The break with Russia at the end of the First World War was followed by a terrible civil war, political unrest, and then two wars with the U.S.S.R. After 1945, peace returned, but Finland was firmly fixed within the Soviet Union's sphere of influence.
This violent history hardened Finnish attitudes toward crime and punishment. Long prison sentences in austere conditions were standard. In the 1950s, Finland's incarceration rate was 200 prisoners per 100,000people -- a normal rate for East Bloc countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia where justice systems had been Sovietized, but four times the rate in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.In the 1960s, Finland began edging cautiously toward reform, using its Scandinavian neighbours as models.
Nils Christie, a renowned Norwegiancriminologist, recalls speaking to Finnish judges and criminologists in Helsinki in 1968. At the time, Mr. Christie and others were developing thef irst international comparisons of prison populations, so he was the first to tell the Finns that their incarceration rate was totally unlike that of their Scandinavian neighbours and was "really in the Russian tradition.
"The audience was shocked, Mr Christie recalls in an interview in Ottawa,"and some of them then decided this was not a very good policy."Discussions and debates were widespread. Ultimately, says TapioLappi-Seppala, the director of the Finnish National Research Institute of Legal Policy, an agreement was reached that "our position was a kind ofdisgrace."
During the next two decades, a long series of policy changes were implemented, all united by one goal: To reduce imprisonment, either by diverting offenders to other forms of punishment or by reducing the timeserved in prison. "It was a long-term and consistent policy," Mr.Lappi-Seppala emphasizes. "It was not just one or two law reforms. It was a coherent approach."The reforms began in earnest in the late 1960s and continued into the1990s.
In 1971, the laws allowing repeat criminals to be held indefinitely were changed to apply only to dangerous, violent offenders. The use of conditional sentences (in which offenders avoid prison if they obey certain conditions) was greatly expanded. Community service was introduced. Prisoners may be considered for parole after serving just 14 days; even those who violate parole and are returned to prison are eligible for parole again after one month. And for those who aren't paroled, there is early release: All first-time offenders are let out after serving just half their sentences, while other prisoners serve two-thirds. Mediation was also implemented, allowing willing victims and offenders to discuss if the offender can somehow set things right. "It does not replace a prison sentence," says Mr. Lappi-Seppala, but "in minor crimes, you may escape prosecution or you may get a reduction in your sentence." There are now 5,000 cases of mediation per year, almost equal to the number of imprisonments. Juvenile justice was also liberalized. Criminals aged 15 to 21 can only be imprisoned for extraordinary reasons -- and even then, they are released after serving just one-third of their time. Children under the age of 15 cannot be charged with a crime.The most serious crimes can still be punished with life sentences but these are now routinely commuted, and the prisoner released, as early as 10 years into the sentence and no longer than 15 or 16 years.
The Finns retain a power similar to Canada's "dangerous offender" law: Persons found to be repeat, serious, violent offenders with a high likelihood of committing new violent crimes can be held until they are determined to no longer be a threat to the public. There are now 80 such offenders in prison and they, like Canada's dangerous offenders, are unlikely to ever be released. One especially critical change was the creation of sentencing guidelines that set shorter norms. Similar guidelines are used in the United States, but many of those restrict judges' discretion -- Finnish judges remain free to sentence outside the norm if they feel that is appropriate.
Violence is rare in Finnish prisons. Officials credit this calm in part totheir policy of giving prisoners as much contact with other people, both inside and outside prisons, as possible. Frequent visits from family and friends are encouraged, including conjugal visits.There are also "home leaves." After serving six months, all prisoners can apply for leave to return to their home towns for periods of up to six days every four months. Only if a prisoner is considered likely to re-offend, or is misbehaving, is he likely to be turned down. Home leaves have been controversial in Finland, particularly when violent offenders are allowed out, but the authorities insist the program is both successful and necessary. Ninety per cent of home leaves occur without even minor difficulties. And by allowing prisoners the chance to live briefly in the real world, home leaves strengthen relationships and help prevent the atrophy of basic social skills.
"Prisoners must have contact with the civil world," insists Ms. Toivonen.Officials also try to build new relationships between prisoners and people on the outside by bringing in volunteers, who may join group discussions or even visit prisoners in their cells. The goal, says Mr. Aaltonen, is that"everybody has some close connection with somebody -- some person outside,whether it is a wife or husband, social worker, friend, voluntary worker from the church or Red Cross. It is very important that everybody should have somebody waiting for him."
If prisons don't encourage these relationships, says Mr. Aaltonen, released convicts will be met on the outside "by a gang or friends involved in crime." Finland's extensive use of parole and early release also creates transition periods in which released prisoners are supervised while they try to get established in legitimate society. Before and after release, the authorities help ex-cons get jobs and homes.
Thanks to Hollywood, North Americans imagine prisoners are released with little more than a bus ticket and a shake of the warden's hand. In theUnited States, and to a lesser extent Canada, there's some truth in that. But in Finland, no prisoner is simply walked out the penitentiary gate. That was the experiment.
According to the "tough on crime" theory, what Finland did was monumentally foolish. And a superficial reading of the data appears to prove this school right. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, crime in Finland rose sharply while imprisonment declined rapidly,s uggesting that by going "soft" Finland fostered crime.
But crime also rose in every other country in the developed world(including Canada and the United States), regardless of these country's criminal justice policies. The reasons are complex. One factor: the post-war baby boom produced a huge bulge in the young males who are always responsible for most crime. More important and lasting was the rapid urbanization of the era since the social restrictions that control behaviour in rural environments are often weaker or non-existent in cities.
So Finland's experience has to be judged relative to other comparable countries. In doing that, Mr. Lappi-Seppala explains, the absolute numbers of crimes aren't important -- crime data usually cannot be compared internationally because each country uses different definitions and reporting standards.
What matters are the trends.Mr. Lappi-Seppala compared Finland's crime rates going back many decades with Sweden and Norway and discovered "the trends are basically identical in each of the countries. So despite the fact that we had radically different prison policies, our crime trends went hand-in-hand with the other countries."When Finland took a hard-line approach, its crime trends were identical to those of its liberal neighbours. And when it switched to a liberal system its trends continued in line with its neighbours. Ultimately, Finland's choices about how to punish crime had little or no effect on the crime rate.
Mr. Lappi-Seppala produces a chart that compares the number of robberies in Finland with the average sentence given for that crime. In the decade before 1965, judges cut the length of the average robbery sentence in half with no effect on the number of robberies. Then from 1965 to 1990, the sentences for robbery stayed about the same -- while robberies first grew by five times, then dropped by a quarter, then doubled, then dropped by almost half again. There is simply no correlation between the punishment inflicted and the number of robberies.
Juvenile crime is another case in point. The astonishingly liberal approachFinland implemented for juvenile crime -- no one under 15 can be charged,and offenders between 15 and 21 are rarely incarcerated -- did not spark an increase in juvenile crime. Over the last 20 years, the proportion of crime for which young offenders are responsible has even declined.
After more than 30 years, the Finnish experiment has produced clear conclusions: High incarceration rates and tough prison conditions do not control crime. They are unnecessary. If a nation wishes, it can send few offenders to prison, and make those prisons humane, without sacrificing the public's safety.For those interested in building a less punitive society, the benefits of such an approach are obvious. But there are also more quantifiable returns.
Mr. Lappi-Seppala notes that, by one estimate, Finland's smaller prison population has saved the country's taxpayers $200 million over the last 20 years. Then there is Finland's bounty of time. About 6,500 years of human life was saved from incarceration. Some 40,000 people avoided prison altogether. Finland's reforms meant that this time was instead spent with families and communities, a contribution whose value is surely great, if incalculable.
Mr. Salminen takes obvious pride in this record and hopes other countries draw lessons from it. He has visited Canadian prisons and, in many ways, he admires our system, particularly our rehabilitation programs. One such program is now the subject of a trial in Finland."But at the same time," he notes, "there is a whole lot of Americanization." That worries Mr. Salminen, who, like all Finnish justice officials, thinks the wave of "tough on crime" policies in the UnitedStates is folly. If Canada goes further in the American direction, he warns, "you get the American problems, too."Mr. Salminen's English may be slightly fractured but he speaks with a quiet, clear sincerity. The cop-turned-jailer insists, "You should do in Canada your own system"
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Pubdate: Mon, 18 Mar 2002Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa CitizenContact: letters@thecitizen.southam.caWebsite: Dan GardnerNote: From the Citizen's on-going series, Crime and Punishment.Bookmark: (Incarceration