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20 December 2010

Crime declines continued unabated in first half of 2010

via Grits for Breakfast by Gritsforbreakfast on 12/20/10

Via Sentencing Law & Policy, here's a notable and welcome development regarding crime rates for the first half of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009: The FBI says they're going down significantly nationwide, as evidenced by this graphic:

Doug Berman's takeaway from this news hit most of the high points:
This continuation of the great crime decline is notable and exciting for lots of reasons. First, crime rates in 2009 were already relatively low (especially compared to crime rates in the 1980s and 1990s), and yet further reductions were achieved in 2010.  Second, given that the economy has not been great and that many states have been taking steps to reduce their incarceration rates, there were crime rate reductions in 2010 despite the presence of legal and social factors that many folks believe contribute to crime increases.  Third, low crime rates should help skittish politicians feel more comfortable backing "smart on crime" policy initiatives over the "tough on crime" political rhetoric.
As is my wont, I went to look at state and city level data for Texas and while I discovered some interesting tidbits, I also found the cities of of Austin and San Antonio missing from their data table for cities with more than 100,000 population. I don't know why that is and an email to the feds and a phone call to Austin PD's public information office didn't get any immediate answers. (UPDATE: Austin PD called back to say the mid-year submission is not mandatory but all their data will be in the year-end UCR report.) Overall, data for Texas cities tended to jibe with national declines, though some smaller jurisdictions saw increases, bucking national trends. Brownsville saw violent crime increase by a whopping 50%, though some of that is because their violent crime numbers were so small in the first place - e.g., murders there increased 200%, from one in the first half of 2009 to three in the first six months of 2010. Laredo and McAllen, by contrast, saw violent crime decrease by 15.4% and 18% respectively, and El Paso saw impressive reductions in violent and property crimes, belying any trend toward "spillover" crime from drug cartels across the river. For some reason, Killeen saw the second highest increase in violent crime and also led the state in the percentage increase in property crime from 2009.

Violent crime in Houston is down 8%; in Dallas it's down 4.7%, while there was a 3.8% increase in violent crime overall in Fort worth. See additional state and city level data here.

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Incoming California AG plans to shake up state's approach to crime and punis...

via Sentencing Law and Policy by Doug B. on 12/20/10

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times had this notable piece about California's new Attorney General-elect, which is headlined "The time may be right for Kamala Harris; She hopes the tough economy, shifting public opinion and her savvy transition team will bolster her prison reform goals."  Here are snippets from the piece:

Kamala Harris, the state's next attorney general, last week announced a transition leadership team that was a marvel in its political heft... [which] underscored Harris' intent to ... upend[] decades of California attitudes about crime and punishment.

Along with some of the better-known names were a number of reformist police chiefs, like Los Angeles' former leader William Bratton, San Francisco's George Gascon and Oakland's Anthony Batts, who in the future may serve as symbolic assurance to voters as Harris works to make the criminal justice system reform criminals rather than lock them up perpetually.

Californians have been far more ensconced in the lock-'em-up camp, of course, loading ballots with measures to extend sentences and preclude judicial flexibility.  But Harris believes that she has a new and powerful ally: the foundering economy.

Harris, currently San Francisco's district attorney, has made no secret of her desire to shake up the prison system.  Nine days before the election, from the pulpit of Greater Zion Church in Compton, she mocked those who called her views "radical."

"We need to incorporate that age-old concept of redemption into the work that we do in the criminal justice system in California," she said, to murmurs of support from the congregants.  "It is a broken system and there has to be reform….  Yes, I am radical in my belief in what we can do to improve the system.  How we can change without being caught up and burdened with just a blind adherence to tradition.  How we can be smart on crime and not just talk about 'Are you soft? Are you tough?'"...

"Smart on Crime" is something of a Harris franchise, the name of her 2009 book.  In it, and during her campaign, Harris argued that criminal justice money is wasted on the "revolving door" that prison has become as 70% of the 120,000 convicts released annually end up being caught committing new crimes.

She believes that prison should be the punishment for serious offenders and that greater pains should be taken to prod milder offenders with education, counseling, probation and other community-based support.  "I firmly believe in and advocate accountability and consequences when you are talking about rapists and murderers and child molesters — you've got to lock them up," she said.  "But you've also got to look at the fact that crime is not monolithic."

Policy-wise, what Harris is talking about is an extension of the statistics-based policing advocated by chiefs like Bratton and used to help drive down crime in Los Angeles and elsewhere.  Her argument is that at a time when California's budget is under siege, it makes no sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars housing prisoners who could be helped by programs that cost one-tenth the amount.

"Because of the crisis that we are facing in terms of the economy, we now have an opportunity to be very practical," she said, noting that voters she met this year "don't want to have a conversation about rhetoric and ideology."...

Politics-wise, however, elected officials and voters themselves usually recoil from reform efforts that could be painted as coddling criminals....  But recent polling suggests that, more than in past years, Californians may be in the mood to at least entertain changes to the system.  Poll after poll has found that Californians want cuts in the prison budget, and those cuts would be entertained during the present period of lower crime rates rather than in the emotion of high-crime years.

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Helping Children of Incarcerated Parents

via The Crime Report by cara on 12/20/10

The Urban Institute Press has put out a new handbook, Children of Incarcerated Parents, on best practices in dealing with the nearly 2 million children in the United States whose parents are in prison.

The handbook  covers new research and policies for this rapidly growing subset that will hopefully improve these children’s life chances.

Access the book here.

Use the Crime Report for more information on incarceration.

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Fixing Urban Biking’s White Bias

via GOOD by April Streeter on 12/20/10

Bikes for Kids

Can Portland, Oregon realize its ambitious goal of increasing the percentage of trips taken by bike from 7% to 25% by 2030? Only if it gets a lot more women and people of color into its bike lanes. Greg Raisman, traffic safety coordinator for Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), acknowledges that the issue of bike-lane equity is high on his radar, and is also local biking’s Catch-22.

To reach those numbers in less than twenty years, part of Portland’s process included a gap analysis of actual bike infrastructure, which revealed that the network of bike lanes was weakest where the largest communities of color in the city reside. Portland isn’t a highly diverse city (in fact, it's approximately 75% white), and though it already has the highest percentage of women biking of any American city (around 32%) more people of color and women must be convinced of cycling’s many benefits to make the goal.

Raisman explains that Portland’s plan to build 600 miles of new bike paths over two decades, turning slower residential streets into bike-friendly "neighborhood greenways," can provide built-in equity. "The actual projects we have going serve equity needs better than any other time I’ve been in transportation." On the other hand, Raisman can’t ignore that bike paths are considered by some Portlanders to be “the white stripes of gentrification.” (as first reported in the local alternative weekly The Mercury.)

Carla Danley, a year-round African-American cyclist in Portland, offers her take. "There’s a hard conversation that needs to take place about the perception that bike infrastructure in communities of color equals gentrification. And that’s not really considered a polite conversation."

But people and organizations including Portland Community Cycling Center (CCC) are having that conversation now. The CCC has had a bike shop in an historically African-American neighborhood in the city, and has been sponsoring biking programs for lower-income neighborhoods for over 15 years. As many programs do nationwide, CCC gives away hundreds of kids’ bikes annually. But after the 2009 gap analysis uncovered the paucity of bike lanes in low-income neighborhoods, CCC got a local grant to study other barriers to biking in Portland.

Hundreds of interviews demonstrated the many reasons Portland’s swiftly-growing ethnic community has yet to become a significant part of the expanding bicycle community. Cost was cited a major barrier. Respondents, especially from the Hispanic community, said there was a lack of access to secure bike parking. African-Americans reported feeling that drivers are hostile to cyclists. The issue of safety, always of high importance to women in other biking studies, was also mentioned frequently.

Appraising the barriers began to shift the focus of the organization explains Alison Graves, executive director of the CCC. "We used to be more of a service organization, now we are moving into community organizing, into advocacy." CCC realized its own "cultural competency" needed improvement, and instead of focusing so firmly on fixing the problem, in the usual way of non-profits, the organization needed to actually listen to community needs. "The processes within non-profits generally have white bias built into them,” says Graves. “We had to rethink the process."

So instead of steering committees and top-down program design, CCC had to become a dedicated long-term partner with two of Portland’s lower-income housing developments, Hacienda and New Columbia. For example, after research revealed it was logistically difficult for families to take advantage of CCC’s most popular initiative, Bikes for Kids, the program was revamped. Now, a BikeMobile van now brings the bikes into neighborhoods and directly to kids.

Other successful CCC programs such as Earn-a-bike, which lets kids learn basic maintenance and get a bike at the end of the apprenticeship, and Create-a-Commuter, which offers bikes for jobs seekers, have found new outlets at Hacienda and New Columbia.  Eventually, Hill Graves says, 'seedling' satellite CCC offices will morph into mini-cycling hubs, staffed from within. These locations will help those new to cycling to get information on different ways to obtain a bike, instruction on how to ride, as well as offer bike repair and bike sales.

These programs don’t erase the problem of bike lanes as a possible precursor to unwanted gentrification, but they’re a step in the right direction. Says Graves, "We’re considering inviting neighbors to talk about it. We’re naming it. That’s an important step, getting out of our comfort zone."

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Temporary employment

via Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen on 12/19/10

This year, 26.2 percent of all jobs added by private sector employers were temporary positions. In the comparable period after the recession of the early 1990s, only 10.9 percent of the private sector jobs added were temporary, and after the downturn earlier this decade, just 7.1 percent were temporary.

Here is more.  And this:

Temporary employees still make up a small fraction of total employees, but that segment has been rising steeply over the past year. “It hints at a structural change,” said Allen L. Sinai, chief global economist at the consulting firm Decision Economics. Temp workers “are becoming an ever more important part of what is going on,” he said.

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Crime Down, Experts Still Searching

via Crime and Consequences Blog by Kent Scheidegger on 12/20/10

Alicia Caldwell reports for AP:

"Reports of violent and property crimes continued to decline in the first half of 2010, according to preliminary crime report released by the FBI Monday."

Earlier reports of falling crime despite bad economic times had produced puzzlement from experts.  Today's AP story says,

"Some experts have been hard-pressed to explain the decreasing crime when a weak economy has put a continuing strain on local police budgets.

"David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said it's a common misconception to believe the economy alone influences crime rates.

"'Any impact the economy has on crime ... is really insignificant compared to much more powerful influences, especially drug epidemics,' Kennedy said."

That's somewhat better.  Drug epidemics do indeed have an influence.  Still, the effect of simply locking up large numbers of evil people remains curiously and conspicuously absent from quoted experts' pronouncements on the reasons for crime decline.

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Inside the FBI report: The recession is hard on criminals, too.

The FBI report showing plunging rates of violent and property crime is really just another indication of tough economic times. In a nutshell, there's a lot less worth stealing.

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24 November 2010

Where do ideas come from?

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 11/24/10

  1. Ideas don't come from watching television
  2. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture
  3. Ideas often come while reading a book
  4. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
  5. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
  6. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
  7. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
  8. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing
  9. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
  10. Ideas come from trouble
  11. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless
  12. Ideas come from nature
  13. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
  14. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
  15. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid
  16. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
  17. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
  18. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
  19. Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
  20. An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

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14 November 2010

Les Sapeurs: Gentlemen Of The Congo

via Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture by Guest Contributor on 11/12/10

By Guest Contributor Eccentric Yoruba, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

Dandyism and the Black Man

A dandy is a man who places extreme importance on physical appearance and refined language. It is very possible that dandies have existed for as long as time itself. According to Charles Baudelaire, 19th century French poet and dandy himself, a dandy can also be described as someone who elevates aesthetics to a religion.

In the late 18th and early 19th century Britain, being a dandy was not only about looking good but also about men from the middle class being self-made and striving to emulate an aristocratic lifestyle.  The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of literature’s greatest dandies; famous historical dandies include Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron.

These days the practice of dandyism also includes a nostalgic longing for ideals such as that of the perfect gentleman. The dandy almost always required an audience and was admired for his style and impeccable manners by the general public.

The special relationship between black men and dandyism arose with slavery in Europe particularly during England’s Enlightenment period. In early 18th century, masters who wanted their slaves to reflect their social stature imposed dandified costumes on black servants, effectively turning them into ‘luxury slaves’. As black slaves gained more liberty, they took control of the image by customising their dandy uniforms and thereby creating a unique style. They transformed from black men in dandy clothing to dandies who were black.

This style also served to differentiate black dandies from other dandies, most notably, the Macaroni dandies whose fabulous style of dress was thought of as obscene.

One of the pioneers of black dandies in England was Julius Soubise, a fencing master, poet and actor who was once owned by the Duchess of Queensbury. Julius Soubise would appear at London’s high society venues wearing “red-heeled diamond-buckled shoes and buttock-skimming breeches”.

This type of style evolved and hopped continents from London to Harlem, which during its famous Jazz Age adopted the zoot suit. The zoot suit marked the evolution of black dandyism in the 1930s. The “zoot” from the zoot suit came from the term in jazz culture that described anything performed in an extravagant fashion. Jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway sported zoot suits and the suit itself became central to any dandy’s wardrobe.

Though today the most famous black dandies are Americans like Andre 3000, black dandyism can also be found in other parts of the world. In particular, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there currently exists a subculture of elegant gentlemen who spend their last dime on looking good and live under strict moral codes.

Those of us who grew up listening to and watching music videos from the DRC are quite used to seeing the expensive-looking and multi-coloured suits worn by Congolese musicians such as Koffi Olomide. Yet most of us did not know about the entire subculture that revolves around looking exquisite. May I present La Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants or in English: the Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance.

As that is a mouthful so it is just SAPE. “Sape” comes from a French slang that means “dressing with class” and the term Sapeur is an African word that refers to someone that is dressed with great elegance. The Sapeurs as the name suggests are elegant and stylish men from Congo who roam the streets of Brazzaville and Bacongo in Western suits and usually with cigars, and the occasional pipe, between their lips. These are men who are so obsessed with looking good and designer clothes that they sometimes place more importance on clothes than anything else.

A look at the history of the SAPE

The first Grand Sapeur was G.A. Matsoua, who in 1922 was the first Congolese to return from Paris dressed entirely in French clothes. While it is not entirely clear where exactly the SAPE movement started from, it appears to have been heavily promoted by Papa Wemba, a pioneer soukous (African rumba) musician who in the 1970s began upholding the Sapeur culture as a set of moral codes with heavy emphasis on high standards of personal cleanliness, hygiene and smart dress among Congolese youths regardless of societal differences.

This moral code, however, also had a political motive. Papa Wemba initially introduced the culture as a challenge to the strict dress codes that were imposed by the government at that time who effectively outlawed Western styles of dress. In 1974 after the DRC had recently come out of colonisation and had gained its independence from France, the government lead by Mobutu Sese Seko banned all European and Western styles of imported clothing in favour of a return to traditional African clothing. Papa Wemba challenged these strict dress codes by insisting that it should be a pleasure rather than a crime to wear clothes from Paris and by setting an example for impressionable young men by dressing outlandishly. At this time, the culture also was heavily associated with music, since Papa Wemba supported young talented musicians such as Koffi Olomide.

Sapeurs held European haute couture as a religion which was practised in absolute serious. There were special Sapeur dances held and even manifestos and codes to govern the lives of Sapeurs. Some of these codes include 10 ways of walking in order to show off clothes to the best degree, and the strict three colour code where the maximum number of colours that can be worn should be three.

At the height of his success, Papa Wemba had established a “village” comprising his family home and the surrounding streets in which the strict Sapeur code was enforced. Youths and musicians visited this village to acquire cool points while Papa Wemba reigned as “chief”. All other sorts of positions exist among the Sapeurs such as “high priest of cloth” and “chancellor of designer labels” positions which are based on personal flamboyance and the size of expensive wardrobes.

In typical dandy fashion, the Sapeurs consider themselves artists and are respected and admired in their communities. Sapeurs are typically invited to events such as weddings to add a touch of elegance to special occasions. Yet quite uncharacteristic is the Sapeur’s code of conduct, being a Sapeur is not only about dressing and looking amazing, it is also about impeccable manners. It is about style, it is about gestures that differentiate one Sapeur from others.

For example, the cigar which is the ultimate symbol for the Sapeur is considered to give added value to the outfit. While some Sapeurs never smoke their cigars, those who do are required to ask their neighbours if it is okay for them to light their cigars even though they may not be in a non-smoking area.

The dark side to this movement is the lengths some Sapeurs go and have gone through to get their expensive designer clothes. Some have resorted to illegal means to obtain their suits while others have spent time in jail. The infamous Papa Wemba also spent jail time for bringing people into Europe illegally to buy clothes by having them pose as his band members.

While reading about Sapeurs elsewhere online, a lot of emphasis seems to be placed on the fact that most of the men who are part of this subculture come from very impoverished communities. There is lot of talk on just how far these men go in order to buy an expensive suit and how the SAPE is a form of escapism for “poor downtrodden African youths”. The discrepancy between the elegance and style that make a Sapeur and the poor conditions of living are shown as a clash of worlds.

This sort of thinking rubs me the wrong way. I personally believe the Sapeurs are awesome and this is not limited to the steampunk vibe I got from looking at images of Sapeurs. However, whether you believe the Sapeurs are nothing but extremely materialistic young men or you accept that they are artists who strive to crave their identity through fashion, I think we can all agree that they do so while looking great.

For more information, click on any of the linked images above. Also, check out this great photo essay, The Congolese Sape by Hector Mediavilla.

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Ranking Harm Caused by Various Drugs in the U.K.

via Sociological Images by gwen on 11/14/10

Katelyn G. sent in a link to a story at The Economist about a new study that attempted to measure the harmful effects, to both the user and to the U.K. more broadly, of a number of legal and illegal drugs. The methodology:

Members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, including two invited specialists, met in a 1-day interactive workshop to score 20 drugs on 16 criteria: nine related to the harms that a drug produces in the individual and seven to the harms to others. Drugs were scored out of 100 points, and the criteria were weighted to indicate their relative importance.

Harm to others included factors such as health care costs, family disruptions, social services, and the cost of criminal justice programs to regulate drugs.

The results? Alcohol outranked all illegal substances they considered by a significant margin, particularly in terms of the harm caused to others:

Will this lead to major changes in drug policy in the U.K.? Unlikely. Here’s a tidbit from an NPR story:

…last year in Britain, the government increased its penalties for the possession of marijuana. One of its senior advisers, David Nutt — the lead author on the Lancet study — was fired after he criticized the British decision.

“What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science,” said van den Brink. He said considerations about revenue and taxation, like those garnered from the alcohol and tobacco industries, may influence decisions about which substances to regulate or outlaw.

(View original at

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Laurens Van der Post

i'm guilty

via Quotes of the Day on 11/13/10

"Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right."

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7 November 2010

The Little Book of Procrastination Remedies

via zen habits by Leo on 11/4/10

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter.

Procrastination is one of those topics that, it seems, I can’t write enough about. There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t procrastinate, and that’s a fact of life.

It’s deep within us. We think we’re going to do something later, or read that classic novel later, or learn French later. But we always overestimate how much we can do later, and we overestimate the ability of our later selves to beat procrastination.

If our current self can’t beat procrastination, why will our future self do it?

I thought I should cover some of the best procrastination-beating strategies, in light of my recent book, focus. People seem to want ways to beat procrastination, so they can actually get down to focusing.

Here’s a quick guide.

Why We Procrastinate

Let’s take a quick look at what makes us procrastinate. There are several reasons, which are related in various ways:

1. We want instant gratification. Resting on the couch is thought of as nicer, right now, than going on a run. Reading blogs is easier, right now, than reading a classic novel. Checking email or Facebook is easier, now, than doing that project you’ve been putting off. Eating chocolate cake is tastier, right now, than eating veggies.

2. We fear/dread something. We might not write that chapter in our book because there are problems with the writing that we haven’t figured out (often because we haven’t thought it through). Or we might be afraid we’re going to fail, or look ignorant or stupid. We’re most often afraid of the unknown, which has more power because we don’t examine this fear — it just lurks in the back of our minds. Dreading or fearing something makes us want to put it off, to postpone even thinking about it, and to do something easy and safe instead.

3. It’s easy – no negative consequences right now. When we were in school and had a teacher looking over our shoulders and scolding us if we didn’t do our work, we tended to do the work (until some of us learned that we could tune out the scolding, that is). But when we got home, sometimes no one would be looking over our shoulders … so there wasn’t any immediate negative consequence to watching TV or playing games instead. Sure, we’d get a bad grade tomorrow, but that’s not right now. The same is true of using the Internet or doing other kinds of procrastination tasks — we’ll pay for it later, but right now, no one is getting mad at us.

4. We overestimate our future self. We often have a long list of things we plan to do, because we think we can do a lot in the future. The reality is usually a little worse than we expected, but that doesn’t stop us from thinking the future will be different yet again. For the same reason, we think it’s OK to procrastinate, because we’re going to do it later, for sure. Our future self will be incredibly productive and focused! Except, our future self is also lazy, and doesn’t do it either. Damn future self.

Four Powerful Solutions

Now that we know the problems, the solutions aren’t that hard to figure out. Just don’t put them off, OK?

1. Stop and think. When we allow the above thoughts to go on without really being conscious of them, we procrastinate. When we actually pause and think about those thoughts, we can rationally see that they’re wrong. Instant gratification in the form of goofing off or eating junk food can lead to problems later. Fears are overblown and shouldn’t stand in our way. Not having negative consequences now doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences later. Our future self isn’t as bad-ass as we like to think. So think about what you’re doing, and start to do the more rational thing. Use the strategies below as well, but thinking is the start.

2. Enjoy the process. When we dread something, we put it off — but instead, if we can learn to enjoy it, it won’t be as hard or dreadful. Put yourself in the moment, and enjoy every action. For example, if you want to go out to run, don’t think about the hard run ahead, but about putting on your shoes — enjoy the simplicity of that action. Then focus on getting out the door — that’s not hard. Then focus on warming up with a fast walk or light jog — that can be nice and enjoyable. Then feel your legs warm up as you start running a little faster, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. This process can be done with anything, from washing dishes to reading to writing. Enjoy yourself in the moment, without thinking of future things you dread, and the activity can be very pleasant and even fun. And if it is, you won’t put it off.

3. Set up accountability. If no one is looking over our shoulder, we tend to let ourselves slack off. So set up a procrastination-proof environment — find people to hold you accountable. I joined an online fitness challenge this month, for example, so that I’d report my workouts to the forum. I’ve done the same thing for running, quitting smoking, writing a novel. You can even just use your friends and family on Facebook or email.

4. Block your future self. Your future self is just as likely to put things off. So block that sucker. Use a program like Freedom to block your Internet access for a predetermined amount of time, so your future self has to actually focus instead of reading blogs. Turn off your cable TV, get rid of the junk food in your house, cut up your credit cards … do whatever it takes to make it really hard for your future self to procrastinate or give in to temptation, or at least force your future self to pause and think before he does anything dumb.

A Different Mindset

Three other things that must be said about procrastination:

1. Do what excites you. If you do what you’re excited about most of the time, you’ll be less likely to put it off. Focus on why it excites you, rather than the dreaded aspects of the activity. I do this and my procrastination is lower than ever.

2. Productively procrastinate. If you’re going to procrastinate, do other productive things instead. So if you don’t want to do your project, at least get some smaller tasks done. Read more.

3. Sometimes, procrastination is OK. I’m not anti-procrastination, at all. This guide is for those who want to beat it, but in my book, lazing around can be a beautiful thing. Reading stuff on the Internet that I’m interested in isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes, give in to procrastination. But other times, you might want to get off that lazy butt and actually accomplish something.

Bloggers: If you’d like help creating amazing content for your blog, I’m running a Blogging Bootcamp starting Nov. 8 — and the first week is free. Read more: How to Write Like an A-List Blogger.

If you liked this guide, please bookmark on Delicious or share on Twitter.

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24 October 2010

It Can't Be Said Enough, Housing Is Cheaper Than Homelessness

via's End Homelessness Blog by Josie Raymond on 10/24/10

It's a proven fact that it costs less to place a homeless person in an apartment than it does to keep him or her in a shelter. But what's the use arguing over the type of dwelling we're providing without first proving another thing: that it's cheaper to house a chronically homeless individual period than it is to leave that person on the streets.

This time last year, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles released a homeless cost study (pdf) whose results bear repeating as we head into the winter months when dropping temperatures force families into overflowing shelters.

Los Angeles has been called "the homeless capital of the U.S.A." An estimated 100,000 homeless people struggle to get by there. It costs a lot to give them even meager care. So can public services by maximized? With permanent supportive housing, that's how.

The United Way examined the costs of four formerly homeless adults who had been moved into apartments and given access to support services. In reviewing the drain they had had on taxpayer dollars in the two years before being housed, investigators found that, "During that time period, two of the four had gone through detox six times costing $23,382. Two of the four had been hospitalized (removal of kidney stone and bladder infection) at a cost of $20,250. All four had used the hospital emergency room for health and alcohol issues (19 visits), costing an additional $7,885. All four had been arrested at least once ($2,756) and spent time in jail ($8,545). One of the four had also served 90 days in prison ($12,060)."

Many of these services could have been avoided if the people studied had been given access to housing and support services sooner. Just how much could have been saved?

The report goes on to note that after two years in permanent supportive housing, "None of the four had required medical attention, except for one person who used the emergency room ($830). There were no arrests or jail/prison time. One individual had a drug and alcohol relapse and used the services available for detox, rehabilitation and therapy, at a cost of $6,002. At the time of interview he reported being sober seven straight months. Investigators noted that as the lives of these four individuals stabilized, there was a significant cost savings resulting from a net decrease in the number of public services used."

Mental health costs went up considerably (from $5,850 to $12,600) as the individuals got access to treatment they had long needed, but medical costs dropped from $26,060 to $830 and criminal justice costs plummeted from $23,361 to $0. Zero dollars!

The total cost of four people living chronically homeless in L.A. was $187,288. The same four people, over two years in permanent supportive housing, cost $107,032. That's the kind of savings that will get even the most adamant fiscal conservative listening.

Thanks to Homeless in LA for the story idea. For more details, read the United Way of Greater Los Angeles' full cost study (pdf).

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver

Posted via email from jimuleda's posterous

18 October 2010

Seen On The Streets Of London

via Wooster Collective by Marc on 10/18/10


From Michael Aaron Williams:

"This series are all done on cardboard and depict the homeless. They are put up and are able to be taken down so that they can be taken home. They are therefore extremely delicate. Its interesting because just like the actual homeless, the people on the street ignore the pieces and many times see no worth in them. However, Some people have and are encouraged to take these home where the pieces can survive."

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The Double Food Pyramid

via GOOD by Peter Smith on 10/18/10


The newly formed Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition unveiled a new food pyramid last week, showing the environmental costs of the more familiar-looking food pyramid. No real surprise, then, that the inverted environmental food pyramid illustrates how the most environmentally-friendly foods also tend to be the healthiest.

Barilla, the research spin-off of the Italian food manufacturer, examined the Life Cycle Assessment of various foods and ranked their ecological footprint in an attempt to visualize a sustainable diet. The current design has the feel of a corporate slide show, but the concept—a graphic representation of food's environmental impact—is certainly worth exploring further, especially as the United States reconsiders the abysmal failure of its current design: MyPyramid.

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11 October 2010

Slate Article: The United States of Inequality

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A more thoughtful version of the income-doesn't-matter argument surfaces in my former Slate colleague Mickey Kaus' 1992 book The End of Equality. Kaus chided "Money Liberals" for trying to redistribute income when instead they might be working to diminish social inequality by creating or shoring up spheres in which rich and poor are treated the same. Everybody can picnic in the park. Everybody should be able to receive decent health care. Under a compulsory national service program, everybody would be required to perform some civilian or military duty.

As a theoretical proposition, Kaus' vision is appealing. Bill Gates will always have lots more money than me, no matter how progressive the tax system becomes. But if he gets call! ed to jury duty he has to show up, just like me. When his driver's license expires, he'll be just as likely to have to take a driving test. Why not expand this egalitarian zone to, say, education, by making public schools so good that Gates' grandchildren will be as likely to attend them as mine or yours?

But at a practical level, Kaus' exclusive reliance on social equality is simply inadequate. For one thing, the existing zones of social equality are pretty circumscribed. Neither Gates nor I spend a lot of time hanging around the Department of Motor Vehicles. Rebuilding or creating the more meaningful spheres—say, public education or a tr! uly national health care system—won't occur overnight. Nurturing the social-equality sphere isn't likely to pay off for a very long time.

Kaus would like to separate social equality from income equality, but the two go hand in hand. In theory they don't have to, but in practice they just do. Among industrialized nations, those that have achieved the greatest social equality are the same ones that have achieved the greatest income equality. France, for example, has a level of income inequality much lower than that of most other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It's one of the very few places where income inequality has been going down. (Most everywhere else it's gone up, though nowhere to the degree it has in the United States.) France also enjoys what the World Health Organization calls the world's finest! health care system (by which the WHO means, in large part, the most egalitarian one; this is the famous survey from 2000 in which the U.S. ranked 37th).

Do France's high marks on both social equality and income equality really strike you as a coincidence? As incomes become more unequal, a likelier impulse among the rich isn't to urge or even allow the government to create or expand public institutions where they can mix it up with the proles. It's to create or expand private institutions that will help them maintain separation from the proles, with whom they have less and less in common. According to Jonathan Rowe, who has written extensively about social equality, that's exactly what's happening in the United States. In an essay titled "The Vanishing Commons" that appeared in ! Inequality Matters, a 2005 anthology, Rowe notes that Congres s has been busy extending copyright terms and patent monopolies and turning over public lands to mining and timber companies for below-market fees." In an 'ownership' society especially," Rowe writes, "we should think about what we own in common, not just what we keep apart."

Inequality doesn't create unhappiness. Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, argued this point in National Review online in June. What drives entrepreneurs, he wrote, is not the desire for money but the desire for earned success. When people feel they deserve their success, they are happy; when they do not, they aren't. "The money is just the metric of the value that the person is creating."

Brooks marshaled very little evidence to support his argument, and what evidence he did muster was less impressive than he thought. He made much of a 1996 survey that asked people how suc! cessful they felt, and how happy. Among the 45 percent who counted themselves "completely successful" or "very successful," 39 percent said they were very happy. Among the 55 percent who counted themselves at most "somewhat successful," only 20 percent said they were happy. Brooks claimed victory with the finding that successful people were more likely to be happy (or at least to say they were), by 19 percentage points, than less-successful people. More striking, though, was that 61 percent of the successful people—a significant majority—did not say they were "very happy." Nowhere in the survey were the successful people asked whether they deserved their happiness.

Let's grant Brooks his generalization that people who believe they deserve their success are likelier to be happy than people who believe they don't. It makes intuitive sense. But Brooks' claim that money is only a "metric" does not. Looking at the same survey data, B erkeley sociologist Michael Hout found that from 1973 to 2000 the difference between the affluent and the poor who counted themselves either "very happy" or "not too happy" ranged from 19 percentage points to 27. Among the poor, the percentage who felt "very happy" fell by nearly one-third from 1973 to 1994, then crept up a couple of points during the tight labor market of the late 1990s. Hout also observed that overall happiness dropped a modest 5 percent from 1973 to 2000.

Quality of life is improving. This argument has been made by too many conservatives to count. Yes, it's true that an unemployed steelworker living in the 21st century is in many important ways better off than the royals and aristocrats of yesteryear. Living conditions improve over time. But people do not experience life as an interesting moment in the evolution of human societies. They experience it in the present and weigh their own experience against that of the livin! g. Brooks cites (even though it contradicts his argument) a famous 1998 study by economists Sara Solnick (then at the University of Miami, now at the University of Vermont) and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health. Subjects were asked which they'd prefer: to earn $50,000 while knowing everyone else earned $25,000, or to earn $100,000 while knowing everyone else earned $200,000. Objectively speaking, $100,000 is twice as much as $50,000. Even so, 56 percent chose $50,000 if it meant that would put them on top rather than at the bottom. We are social creatures and establish our expectations relative to others.

Inequality isn't increasing. This is the boldest line of conservative attack, challenging a consensus about income trends in the Unit! ed States that most conservatives accept. (Brooks: "It is factually incorrect to argue that income inequality has not risen in America—it has.") Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at Cato, made the case in a January 2007 paper. It was a technical argument hinging largely on a critique of the tax data used by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty in the groundbreaking paper we looked at in our installment about the superrich. But as Gary Burtless of Brookings noted in a January 2007 reply, Social Security records "tell a simple and similar story." A Congressional Budget Office analysis, Burtless wrote, addressed "almost all" ! of Reynolds' objections to Saez and Piketty's findings, and confirmed "a sizable rise in both pre-tax and after-tax inequality." Reynolds' paper didn't deny notable increases in top incomes, but he argued that these were because of technical changes in tax law and/or to isolated and unusual financial events. That, Burtless answered, was akin to arguing that, "adjusting for the weather and the season, no homeowner in New Orleans ended up with a wet basement" after Hurricane Katrina.

That income inequality very much matters is the thesis of the 2009 book The Spirit Level, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, two medical researchers based in Yorkshire. The book has been criticized for overreaching. Wilkinson and ! Pickett relate income inequality trends not only to mental and physica l health, violence, and teenage pregnancy, but also to global warming. But their larger point—that income inequality is bad not only for people on the losing end but also for society at large—seems hard to dispute. "Modern societies," they write,

will depend increasingly on being creative, adaptable, inventive, well-informed and flexible communities, able to respond generously to each other and to needs wherever they arise. These are characteristics not of societies in hock to the rich, in which people are driven by status insecurities, but of populations used to working together and respecting each other as equals.

The United States' economy is currently struggling to emerge from a severe recession brought on by the financial crisis of 2008. Was that crisis brought about by income inequality? Some economists are starting to think it may have been. David Moss of Harvard Business School has produced an intriguing chart that shows bank failures tend to coincide with periods of growing income inequality. "I could hardly believe how tight the fit was," he told the New York Times. Princeton's Paul Krugman has similarly been considering whether the Great Divergence helped cause the recession by pushing middle-income Americans into debt. The growth of household debt has followed a pattern strikingly similar to the growth in income inequality (see the final graph). Raghuram G. Rajan, a business school professor at the University of Chicago, recently argued on the New Republic's Web site that "let them eat credit" was "the mantra of the political establishment in the go-go years before the crisis." Christopher Brown, an economist at Arkansas State University, wrote a paper in 2004 affirming that "inequality can exert a significant drag on effective demand." Reducing inequality, he argued, would also reduce consumer debt. Today, Brown's paper looks prescient.

Heightened partisanship in Washington and declining trust in government have many causes (and the latter slide predates the Great Divergence). But surely the growing income chasm between the poor and middle class and the rich, between the Sort of Rich and the Rich, and even between the Rich and the Stinking Rich, make it especially difficult to reestablish any spirit of e pluribus unum. Republicans and Democrats compete to show which party more fervently opposes the elite, with each side battling to define what "elite" means. In a more equal society, the elite would still be resented. But I doubt that opposing it would be an organizing principle of politics to the same extent that it is today.

I find myself returning to the gut-level feeling expressed at the start of this series: I do not wish to live in a banana republic. There is a reason why, in years past, Americans scorned societies starkly divided into the privileged and the destitute. They were repellent. Is it my imagination, or do we hear less criticism of such societies today in the United States? Might it be harder for Americans to sustain in such discussions the necessary sense of moral superiority?

What is the ideal distribution of income in society? I couldn't tell you, and historically much mischief has been accomplished by addressing this question too pre! cisely. But I can tell you this: We've been headed in the wrong direct ion for far too long.

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Homeless, Pregnant, Alone and Scared

via's End Homelessness Blog by Mark Horvath on 10/9/10

This new video comes from Mark's 30-city, 11,000-mile, 75-day road trip, going on now.

"Caution: some content may be offensive." Ka'e k'e's interview from St. Paul, Minnesota, is exactly why I have that disclaimer on, where I post my videos. She flat out tells us what life is like on the streets for a young woman.

The disclaimer ends with the sentence, "Our hope is you'll get mad enough to do something." I am sure Ka'e k'e's experience will offend you in some way. She has to sleep with strangers just to survive. It's the better option than freezing outside. Ka'e k'e is pregnant, and because she has "survival sex," she does not know who the baby's father is. I sure hope that gets you crazy mad.

Before you label Ka'e k'e an awful mother, know that she is just one of many young girls having babies on the streets. It's a vicious cycle for many. They don't know how to avoid it and many don't have the choices we take for granted. Having sex with strangers and taking drugs to forget the pain is the only way to survive.

I wish you could see what I see in person. I see a hurting young woman who is screaming for help. She is living the life that her family's socio-economic background gave to her. Most of these young adults come from families who were also homeless, or very close to it.

Offended yet? Mad enough to do something? My videos cannot stop earthquakes. They cannot stop hurricanes. They cannot end drug abuse or domestic violence. I sure wish they could fix the economy. Thing is, with a strong family we can get through every crisis that comes at us. If we worked on fixing family — and for me it was the community of Alcoholics Anonymous that saved my life — we could stop this insane cycle and prevent other young adults from going through the same madness Ka'e k'e lives everyday.

So now that you're offended I pray you will take real action to help the hurting young adults in your community or others. Ka'e k'e is staying at the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, where donations are of course welcomed and needed.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Snitching Study

via Snitching (Natapoff) on 10/9/10

Dr. Rick Frei, a professor at the Community College of Philadelphia, recently conducted a study ("The Snitching Study") of over 1,500 community college students to determine whether there was widespread agreement among the students as to the definition of "snitching," and what factors would increase or decrease the likelihood that a student would "snitch" on someone they knew to have committed a crime. Professor Frei also testified before the United States Senate’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs as to the result of his survey.

The study confirmed that most students (82.6%) regarded "ratting on someone else to get out of a crime" as snitching; whereas less than a third (28.6%) regarded "picking a suspect out of a police lineup" as snitching. While that last figure still seems higher than optimal, it is perhaps explained by another of the survey’s findings, that "half the sample said they did not trust the police," even though 60% of respondents claimed to know a police officer personally.

Two factors in particular stood out for me. First was that "[t]he more the situation required the person to take the initiative … the more likely it was to be viewed as snitching." (Dr. Frei’s Testimony before the Subcommittee). Least likely to be viewed as snitching (16%) was '[a]nswering questions from the police if you are at the scene of the crime." Here, the student’s definition of snitching seemed to track the ACLU's distinction between acting as an informant and acting as a witness. That may have important ramifications for the manner in which the police engage in gathering evidence from people with knowledge of criminal activity.

The second striking factor from the study was that "[n]early half of all students said that they would be more likely to cooperate if there was someone besides the police to which they could report crimes." This factor appears to bolster the idea that the students surveyed tend to distrust the police, or perhaps what the police would do with the information — many students were less likely to snitch if the crime was non-violent. One obvious response would be to set up tipster hotlines that are not directly identified with the police, and which individuals reporting crimes could use to report incidents. Another way to approach the same problem may be to make such tipster hotlines anonymous. Anonymity impacts the most important factor inhibiting the students from acting as informants: almost thirty percent of students said they would be less likely to snitch if it would affect their reputation in the community. There are some worrying practical and legal problems with hotlines, however, and in particular anonymous tips, that I shall consider in a later post.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

24 September 2010

1 Year Anniversary of Being out. A Warning.

via Prison Talk by bhoney29 on 9/24/10

I am not the best writer, but I want to share my experience as my boyfriend has been out of prison for one year this week.

My boyfriend spent two years in prison. It's hard for me to talk about his crime because to most people it sparks instant judgement.

Here goes. My boyfriend grew up in Michigan and got his Bachelor's degree in Chemistry. He went to Med School to become a doctor, and moved to Wisconsin to do so. During his first year there, he met a girl at a frat party and had a one night stand. The legal age is 18 in Wisconsin and she was not yet 18. Long story short, he got busted.

I knew him long before this ever happened. We dated when we were both 17 and even a little during the first part of college. We broke up and got back together while he was in prison. It was tough! All the letter writing and phone calls, you know how that is never the same as actually being with someone. But somehow we made it...

He was released in September of 2009. Joy! It was a dream. The first week we were on such a high, I can't remember being happier. Ever since then we have been getting along wonderfully and are very much in love.

Some things I noticed about him. He did not mind spending long periods of time "doing nothing". I would get bored and say "let's DO SOMETHING I'm sooo bored!!" while he would be very, very content to just sit around and watch tv. I feel that is a side effect of spending the two years in prison.

Other than that he seemed perfectly normal. No strange habits or emotional problems. He enrolled in school full time and getting his MBA since he can no longer be a doctor. He sees a counselor once a week. He has had no problems abiding by his parole conditions.

To say it very simply, we are doing very well. However, recently there has been a HUGE, very signicant problem. His PO moved and he got a new PO. I'll get to her in a minute.

Almost to the day exactly, one year after his release, a sweep came by the neighborhood to search our house. Twice a year (in Michigan) they can do a full search, police officers and special "techie" people. My boyfriend was at school, but I was home and had to admit that I own a laptop. They searched it, determined that he had not been using it, and left. But she left a note for him to come see her that Friday (3 days later).

This is what I want to say to everyone who is about to have their loved one come home. GET A COPY OF HIS PAROLE RULES AND READ THEM. FOLLOW EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM TO A T, do NOT disobey ANYTHING no. matter. WHAT. For NO REASON, BELIEVE ME. That is my warning.

My boyfriend has never signed a rule saying that there cannot be computers in the house. His PO (who I said I would get to, she is power crazy... I could tell you many stories of what she has said and done to him in the short time he has had her, but that is another story) claims she verbally told him not to have them. I was not aware that me owning a laptop was a violation of his parole conditions. I'm not sure he was even aware, because his old PO knew about my laptop and took no issue with it, as long as it had a password on it and we had a locked area to keep it.

She claims he has violated his parole and has put him in jail. He went to jail today (Friday) and I am to pick him up on Monday morning.

Because his violation occured in Wisconsin, in order for his parole to be revoked they would have to come get him, on their dime. I'm not sure whose decision it would be (judge, parole board, PO????).

His PO is going to send the information (that I had a laptop) to Wisconsin and it will be up to them to decide whether or not to procede with revocation. I think they have a certain time to respond by, but I'm not sure. I'm also unsure why she doesn't keep him locked up until they respond, but I am not about to ask questions. Maybe she knows she doesn't have a case and the overcrowded Wisconsin system would think it a waste of their time to revoke him for such a small incident.

We have done so much together to fix his life, to try to build ours together. He is doing very well in school, he does not use drugs or alcohol. Since his is on the GPS our nights consist of snuggling, moving watchind and board games. Our lives could not be any more wholesome, I would consider him a model parolee (I am biased!). I spent two years fixing my credit so we could buy a house, we worked hard and I ended up buying my first house this year! We moved in over the summer, and we finally felt like we were "building our home" and moving on to a better life.

Please don't take parole for granted. I didn't know his PO had told him "no computers". Know from the begining what he can and can't do. And play by the rules. Do everything you can because keeping your man by your side, physically next to you, is the ultimate goal. I can't tell you how sick I am wondering if I'm going to have the most important part of my life taken away.

One last thing. Nobody is aware of how felons are treated. They don't care. My boyfriend is trying so hard, and he is so well educated and respectful of me and loving towards me. He is really trying to do something with his life. If he is revocated it will ultimatley result in him being even more behind in life, make it even harder for him to finish his education, to get a job and to enter society again as a productive human being.

The country wastes tax payer dollars, thousands per year, keeping him on a GPS unit, money that in our time of economic crisis could be used to put another police officer on the streets to do REAL good. Sending my boyfriend back to prison seems very wrong to me, but nobody will use common sense and realize just how wrong it is.

I feel unheard. I wish there was a way to make the public more aware of situations like this.

Final word. KNOW THE RULES! DON'T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED! KEEP HIM IN LINE! Kiss him as much as you can. You never know when "they" will be back to take him away.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

23 September 2010



Public Policy and External Relations
September 22, 2010

In this issue:

Cultivating Life Behind Bars

Missouri Tells Judges Cost of Sentences

Inmates Prepare for Outside World Through Reentry Services Program

It's Time to Lift the Ban on Pell Grants for Prisoners

Cultivating Life Behind Bars

By: Sara Schreiber, 


Work crews sort trash on the recycle line at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo: Roe Simmons

A number of prisons and correctional facilities today are growing their tomatoes and eating them, too. "Green" prisons that incorporate farming and sustainability programs reap real benefits. Aside from saving money and reducing waste, they are also shown to have enormous impact on the inmates themselves -- involving them in a host of maintenance activities and providing useful job skills upon release. Some even argue the programs go a long way in reducing recidivism. Maybe your corrections facility is looking for ways to cut costs and engage its inmate population. If so, on-site gardens and organic farms are a great place to start. But why stop there? Sustainability and green training initiatives can take on many forms.

Getting green off the ground

   From 1853 to 1979 the Southeast Correctional Institution (SCI) in Lancaster, Ohio had detained adjudicated juveniles, and in 1980 became an adult state correctional facility. Around the same time, the minimum to medium security prison adopted a farming operation that continues to be worked by offenders and supervised by a civilian staff. Now SCI, along with Vera Institute and the Ohio Green Prison Project (OGPP), is developing a pilot project to demonstrate that training incarcerated people to retrofit prisons with energy-efficient green technology can make facilities more cost-effective. The project will provide trainees with job skills to prepare them for careers in the burgeoning green economy, making them more likely to succeed when they return to their communities. The lower operating and energy costs are expected to result in savings for SCI and Ohio taxpayers.

Read More

Missouri Tells Judges Cost of Sentences

By: Monica Davey, The New York Times 


ST. LOUIS - When judges here sentence convicted criminals, a new and unusual variable is available for them to consider: what a given punishment will cost the State of Missouri.

For someone convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, for instance, a judge might now learn that a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770. A second-degree robbery, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer's 30-year prison term: $504,690.

Legal experts say no other state systematically provides such information to judges, a practice put into effect here last month by the state's sentencing advisory commission, an appointed board that offers guidance on criminal sentencing.

Read More

Inmates Prepare for Outside World Through Reentry Services Program

By: Amanda Thomas, The Times-Georgian 


Ruthie Shelton of the Georgia Department of Corrections speaks to inmates Tuesday at the Carroll County Prison during a Re-Entry Services program ceremony. (Thomas O'Connor/Times-Georgian)

After graduating from the Carroll County NAACP's Re-Entry Services program, 38 inmates returned to their prison lives with new knowledge on how to survive when they return to the outside world.

While not typically a place of celebration, the mood represented at the prison Tuesday night was that of accomplishment as the inmates were congratulated on completing their month in the program, which began on Aug. 17.

The graduates were all smiles as they accepted certificates of completion.

There was no evidence of cliques or animosity toward the system that night as inmates applauded each other on their accomplishments and shared their testimonies on how the program enriched their lives. They talked about finally being provided with a road map that will help guide them on the outside and about the powerful messages they received that inspired them to improve their lives.

Read More

It's Time to Lift the Ban on Pell Grants for Prisoners

By: Jamaal Abdul-Alim, 


Back in 1994, shortly after 22-year-old Seth Ferranti was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role as the leader of a drug ring, he took advantage of the Federal Pell Grant in order to get a college education while serving his time.

He was among the last wave of American prisoners to do so.

Even though abundant research found that providing a college education for incarcerated individuals greatly lowers their chances of reoffending, conservative lawmakers-with dubious claims that inmates were depriving law-abiding citizens of Pell grants-ignored the research, denigrated the wishes of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell, father of Pell grants, and in 1994 passed legislation that put the kibosh on federal Pell grants for those behind bars.

Ferranti-now 39, holds an A.A. and B.A., and has become a published author-turned to his parents for the money he needed to continue his college education in prison. But most prisoners, Ferranti says, don't have such resources at their disposal and would benefit greatly from having Pell grants restored.

"There needs to be something in place to allow prisoners that have the drive and ambition to get a college degree to get it," Ferranti adds, speaking via e-mail from the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Penn.

Read More

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phone: 312-922-2200



* Many articles refer to people with criminal records as "ex-offenders" or "offenders". While we appreciate all the positive press these issues receive, we are working to use other terms to describe our clients that do not carry such negative connotations. These terms include "people with criminal records" or "people reentering society".

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