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13 February 2010
12 February 2010
WHAT: New proposals from the highly acclaimed Shriver Report: "A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," will make their way into the halls of Congress when Congressman Joe Sestak introduces the Gender Equity Act of 2010.
To learn more about The Shriver Report, click here: http://www.awomansnation.com/index.php The Shriver Report was published in October 2009 by California's First Lady Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress; the report highlights that, for the first time in our history, half of all U.S. workers are women and that mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. Joe's new legislation will mark a major step forward in helping to update our nation's economic policies and practices to address and support the needs of America's families - men and women alike; the proposed legislation includes: • Making social security fair for working mothers by counting non-traditional work as accumulated social security work time.
• Eliminate arbitrary caps on gender discrimination suits.
• Allow individuals to use Family Medical Leave time for care of sick domestic partners, their children, and elders.
• Require paid-time off for certain size employers.
• Expand Fair Labor Standards Act to cover more employees.
• Ensure that employees have the right to request a change in hours and location.
• Expand Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for minorities and women, like Community Express.
• Enhance SBA entrepreneurial programs for women.
• Ensure access to reproductive health care and contraception.
• Allow domestic violence victims to use paid and unpaid leave to overcome abuse.
About Congressman Sestak: Joe Sestak was elected to Congress in 2006 after a distinguished 31-year career in the United States Navy, and he is honored to represent the Southeastern Pennsylvania district where he was born and raised. During his Navy career, Joe attained the rank of 3-star Admiral, served in the White House as Director for Defense Policy on President Clinton's National Security Council, served in the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, and led a series of operational commands at sea, culminating in command of the USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group (30 ships, 100 aircraft, and 15,000 sailors/marines/aviators/SEALs) during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In our nation's time of crisis in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Navy turned to Joe Sestak to serve as the first Director of "Deep Blue," the Navy anti-terrorism unit formed in response to the attacks. Joe is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to either branch of Congress. He graduated second in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a Master's in Public Administration and a PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University. Joe lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Alex, and proudly represents the 7th District, where his mother and many of his seven siblings still reside.
11 February 2010
Census reform advocates are celebrating a victory in the fight to get an accurate population count -- by getting an agreement not to count prisoners at all.
How is it possible that this is a step forward?
It's far from ideal, but because prisoners are usually housed in rural districts far from their homes, by not counting them, the deal that reform advocates have struck with the Census Bureau will actually make it possible for states to draw more accurate legislative districts. For too long, prison-based gerrymandering has improperly concentrated power and funds in rural districts with big prisons. And even if states wanted to address the problem, they didn't have the data.
In past years, by the time the Census Bureau had shared data on prisoners, states had already redrawn their districts based on population counts. This week, that changed, when Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr. -- who chairs the House subcommittee overseeing the census -- reached an agreement with Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves to share this critical 2010 Census data with states by May 2011.
The next step is to convince state governments to use the count properly and adjust for prisoners. You’ll be hearing more from us at Change.org about this. Legislation to make such adjustments is pending in New York, Maryland, Illinois, Florida and Wisconsin.
The New York Times supported the policy shift in an editorial this morning:
We hope this new data, which will be released in the spring of 2011, will bolster the efforts of reformers who are trying to end prison-based gerrymandering -- the cynical practice of drawing legislative districts with populations inflated by inmates who do not have the right to vote and whose actual residences are often far away.
“For too long, communities with large prisons have received greater representation in government on the backs of people who have no voting rights in the prison community," says Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos. "The Census Bureau’s new data will greatly assist states and localities in correcting this injustice and drawing fair and accurate districts that honor the principle of one person, one vote.”
The fact that this compromise is a significant step for prisoners in the census, though, shows how much work remains to do. It's critical for public policy that we count prisoners in their home cities and neighborhoods. Urban, poor districts already suffer enough in the census, and losing prisoners from their count only exacerbates that injustice.
Photo Credit: MGShelton
By Guest Contributor Shannon Joyce Prince
Ou konn kouri, ou pa konn kache – You know how to run, but you don’t know how to hide.
Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which one tells of the whole by evoking a part. In my original piece “Why Haiti Matters,” I said that one reason the nation matters is that it is the world’s teacher. Haiti’s poverty and misery are the result of a mammoth crime that is two hundred years old and continues to this day, but the crime that destroyed Haiti is not exceptional. By studying the historical and contemporary situation of Haiti in detail, we can learn how poverty and injustice worldwide are created, perpetuated, and framed by powerful and wealthy individuals, organizations, corporations, and governments.
Dye mon, gen mon – Beyond the mountain is another mountain.
I mentioned in my previous essay that after the slave uprising that brought Haiti independence, the US helped force Haiti to pay 150 million francs to France as reparations to Haitian slave-owners for their loss of property. That act and its repercussions merit a detailed description because the mechanics of them reveal how poverty is created. Since Haiti’s former slaves didn’t have money to pay the reparations, they had no choice but to take out giant loans from American, German, and French banks.[i] Haiti’s “debt” to France was so great that it took nearly a century and a half to pay – and contributed to a century and a half of Haitian poverty. For example, in 1900 80% of Haiti’s economy was spent on repaying its debt. The debt, eventually lowered to the still exorbitant level of 60 million francs plus interest, wasn’t paid off until 1947. The total amount Haiti paid, in today’s currency, equals billions. Having to devote such vast resources to paying back its debt left little money for Haiti to meets its needs which caused the multifaceted and extreme misery Haiti suffers today. The country was so poor when it finished paying back France that it had to continue borrowing (often from those same countries who victimized Haiti in the first place) just to survive, and paying back those debts resulted in further poverty – a vicious circle.
The mere idea of slaves paying reparations to slave-owners is unspeakably evil. Haitian slavery was a brutal system of forced labor, sexual assault, maternal and infant mortality, torture, displacement, eradication of culture, separation of families, beatings, horrendous living conditions, rampant disease without healthcare, malnutrition, outright murder, and murder by premature death from the above mentioned situations. The average life expectancy of a Haitian slave was only 21 years.[ii] Haitian plantations were concentration camps. Haitian slavery meets the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide’s [iii] definition of genocide – that this fact has gone unrecognized is a travesty and a tragedy. Yet again, the situation is not anomalous. The enslavement of Africans on the Middle Passage and throughout the Western hemisphere, the conquest of American Indians, the deaths of ten million in the Congo under King Leopold, and other sufferings of the colonized and enslaved are unrecognized genocides – history notes far too infrequently white acts of barbarism against non-whites or labels such acts and their details incorrectly.
Imagine if, after the Holocaust, the victims who were used as slave labor in concentration camps had been forced to pay reparations to the Nazis – that the Nazis had convinced the world that they were legitimately owed because they had lost their human property. Imagine if those victims’ peoples were impoverished for the next century and a half paying back those who had enslaved and killed them. Then imagine if their maimed and miserable communities were trapped in an endless cycle of debt and poverty as a result. No one would tolerate such a crime – the punishment of slaves and their descendants for being enslaved and the continued enrichment of their enslavers and their descendants – when the majority of the victims are white. But for Haiti and throughout the “Third World,” such crimes are perfectly acceptable. I believe that Holocaust victims deserve all the respect and compassion in the world – so, too, do other victims of slavery and genocide.
My former Ghanian boyfriend once asked, “How is it possible for the formerly colonized nations to be in debt to the colonizers? How can we owe those who stole resources from us?” Everyone should ask these questions. When you hear that a poor country with a history of victimization by colonization, slavery, or overt or covert First World meddling owes wealthy nations or organizations such as the World Trade Organization, World Bank, or the International Monetary Fund, almost certainly their “debt” is as illegitimate as Haiti’s – a case of the victims being forced to pay their victimizers, a case of poor countries being locked in a cycle of debt due to poverty brought about by Western, First World, or European domination. Just as the First World first benefitted from reparations that wrecked Haiti’s economy and then from forcing Haiti to accept further debt due to its wrecked economy, First World nations benefitted from colonizing various nations and now continue to benefit since those nations, poor due to colonization, are forced to borrow money from the First World to survive – trapping themselves into debt.
Bourik swe pou chwal dekore ak dentel – The donkey sweats so the horse can be decorated with lace.
The crime against Haiti is all the more striking when we consider the discourse that surrounds reparations, who’s entitled to them, who should pay them, and the idea of statutes of limitations for historical crimes. Those who opposed reparations for slaves and their descendants were actively compelling Haitians to pay reparations to slave-owners immediately after Haiti’s independence and to the governments of slave-owners’ descendants a century and a half later. While the descendants of slaves are told to move on from the past when they seek to receive reparations, the descendants of slave-owners’ governments can claim reparations decades after the fact. In other words, there are different rules for whites, for First World nations, and for the rich than for non-whites, Third World nations, and the poor.
The descendants of slave-owners and whites whose families didn’t own slaves get to claim they aren’t guilty and everyone who was a slave is dead, so reparations shouldn’t be paid to the descendants of slaves. Those claims ignore the fact that all white people past and present in slave-owning countries benefitted and continue to benefit from slavery[iv] and the disparities caused by it.[v] They also ignore the fact that reparations paid to slaves’ descendants wouldn’t take money from the pockets of whites or cause white suffering but would come from places such as excess military-industrial spending.[vi] But Haitians didn’t/don’t get to point out that all the slave-owners are dead, that slave-owners were not victims of either slavery or the uprising, that the slaves who rebelled are gone, or that they are not responsible for the long term debts previous generations were forced into accumulating – despite the fact that these debts devastate Haiti, forcing the poor to survive by literally eating dirt and condemning them to die in their fifties.
If you research a term called “debt bondage,” you might arrive at the website End Exploitation.[vii] There, as on many anti-slavery websites, you would learn that debt bondage is a form of exploitation considered as evil as crimes such as human trafficking and sex tourism, that debt bondage is a form of slavery. The website defines debt bondage as labor “demanded as a means of repayment of a loan,” with the laborer “accepting terms which are exploitive in nature, and in gross violation of their human rights,” and resulting in a “situation of perpetually increasing debt.” While the website acknowledges that debt bondage occurs in both “developed” and “under-developed” countries, it claims that the most guilty countries are South Asian. While I applaud End Exploitation for their commitment to stopping suffering worldwide, I disagree with their analysis of the situation. I believe Western First World countries are the ones most guilty of debt bondage, and I believe that the debts First World countries claim nations such as Haiti owe them are a form of exploitation, and, in a way, enslavement. Instead of demanding an individual’s labor in order to repay a loan, entire populations are forced to sacrifice education, their health, adequate housing, and even food, among other things, to pay back their debts. The extent of the misery caused by these debts is a testament to their exploitative nature and how they “grossly violate human rights.” And the structural adjustment plans and conditions tied to these debts that I described in my previous essay further explain their immorality. And as history shows such debts increase perpetually – Haiti’s debt began at the beginning of the nineteenth century and has yet to come to an end.
When non-white individuals in non-white countries force other individuals into “debt bondage,” the practice is recognized as an ethically indefensible form of slavery. When First World governments, banks, and organizations do the same thing – on an even greater scale – to poor nations, the practice is considered acceptable – and is even construed as “aid.”
In the face of all the talk about “aid” to Haiti and “debt forgiveness,” South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki has been a force for clarity.[viii] As Mbeki has noted, if we recognize that Haiti’s debt to the slave-owners was illegitimate, as we must, unless we also claim that the Nazis were owed a debt by Holocaust victims, then we accept that France, the US, and Germany, and possibly other co-conspirator countries, owe Haiti the billions of dollars in reparations Haiti paid the French government. I would add that if we accept that the original debt was illegitimate, we must also accept that the debts resulting from that original debt are also illegitimate. That money also should be paid back. Paying back what we owe Haiti isn’t aid, debt relief, or even reparations for the crimes against slaves under slavery, nor is it the sum total of what the First World owes Haiti, but it’s a crucial start. Those billions of dollars would turn Haiti around. Any other actions the First World takes to “help” Haiti are disingenuous and disproportionately small until the First World simply admits its debt to Haiti and pays back what it owes. If we recognize that Haiti’s debts were and are illegitimate, then it’s not enough for Haiti’s lenders to say, “You don’t have to pay me any more.” They must also say, “I will pay back the money I illegitimately took from you.” If the world can accept endless fictitious Third World debts to the First World, we should certainly find it reasonable for the First World to reimburse the Third World.
Ou we sa ou genyen, ou pa konn sa ou rete – You know what you have, but you don’t know what’s coming.
As I mentioned in my previous essay, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are each loaning Haiti 100 million dollars, so despite all the talk going on about debt forgiveness, the cycle of debt is just continuing. It took Haiti a century and a half to pay 60 million francs in reparations to France. How many centuries will it take Haiti to pay back 200 million dollars?
Le yo vle touye chen yo di’l fou – When they want to kill a dog they say its crazy.
As Haitian wisdom acknowledges, before the vulnerable are condemned, they are given fictitious reasons for their condemnation. Similarly, in order for Haiti to be condemned to another round of cloaked colonialism, inaccurate news coverage, or erroneous historiography, it must be defined as backward, hapless, incomprehensible, or wildly deficient. What’s especially scary about the mainstream media’s discourse on Haiti is that it’s much the same in sentiment and no more accurate than the discourse on Haiti on white supremacy websites – the language used is simply more tactful. Worse, if you examine antebellum documents and literature (available here: http://docsouth.unc.edu/ and here: http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/proslav/antitoms.html, for example) you will find the exact same arguments about blacks’ alleged failings and inability to govern themselves as individuals, families, and peoples.
The historical record shows that the best chances Haiti has had to be a healthy, functioning nation have been when it was in control of itself – immediately after the revolution, for example, or upon the election of Aristide. Haiti’s problems largely stem not from Haiti’s expressions of its sovereignty but First World interference. Thus, the argument that if Haiti had been enslaved or colonized longer it wouldn’t be such a miserable place or that more domination/guidance/“aid”/loans from the First World are needed to heal Haiti are both fictitious and ahistorical. First World governments and corporations have been destroying Haiti since the early 1800’s – why should they be given another chance with Haiti now? After awhile the claims of the batterer to have changed ring hollow. Poor countries and their allies must recognize that the gifts of roses are simply followed by more beatings.
Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou – Remember the rain that made your corn grow.
One of the cruelest ironies of the discourse surrounding Haiti is that Haiti’s poverty and misery were created by the immorality and racial prejudices of the First World yet is blamed on the moral values of Haitians and Haitian culture in particular or blackness in general. Yet concomitant with the recognition that Haiti was made poor by the First World is the recognition that the First World was made wealthy by Haiti and other Third World countries. While the First World likes to attribute it’s wealth to positive qualities it supposedly possesses, the fact is the First World has profited from the plunder of other nations. What’s framed as Third World debt is really First World welfare. Furthermore, while First World countries recoil in horror at the idea of taking resources from the wealthy for the benefit of the poor, calling it socialism, they deem it appropriate to take resources from poor nations to redistribute them to wealthy nations.
Kreyol pale, kreyol komprann - Speak plainly, don’t try to deceive.
In the face of all the dishonest discourse surrounding Haiti and other Third World countries, we need new language that accurately reflects historical and contemporary realties – perhaps a language that recognizes the Third World/developing world and the First World/developed world as the Plundered Nations and Plundering Nations. Perhaps we should call “aid” what it is – debt bondage. Debt forgiveness could be more accurately termed “cessation of extortion.” We will also need a word parallel to anti-Semitism to describe anti-voodoo prejudice and misrepresentation. We should employ “Maafa,” the Swahili word used to describe the holocaust that entailed slavery, colonization, and the deaths of tens of millions of black peoples, when we speak of Haitian slavery. The Council of Europe criminalizes “denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity.”[ix] We should use the Council’s definition of inappropriate behavior as a guideline for discourse on Haiti, and slavery and colonization worldwide and punish those who violate that guideline with the special opprobrium directed at Holocaust deniers. While racists will claim that our new language reflects revisionist history, we must recognize that the current terms are euphemisms at best and lies at worse, that they hide innocence, guilt, and agency.
Bay kou bliye, pote mak sonje – The giver of the blow forgets, the bearer of the scar remembers.
There are some crimes in history almost unfathomable in scale such as apartheid in South Africa or the purges of Stalin. The suffering of Haiti at the hands of the First World stands alongside those crimes. From slavery to the present day that suffering is almost incalculable. The First World owes Haiti a financial debt, but beyond that, we owe them the truth. We owe them a truth and reconciliation commission – and that debt of veracity makes Obama’s Newsweek article all the more egregious. To lie about or omit the details of America’s complicity in a human rights abuse horror the scale of Haiti’s is an obvious moral wrong. What Obama did is known as “historical revisionism” or “negationism” and is considered a serious ethical failing.
We owe Haiti and other poor nations a truth and reconciliation commission, but unlike other commissions, the ones we owe the Third World must not allow the guilty to go unpunished. Unless given a deterrent, the powerful will continue to abuse the weak. How can one go to jail for shoplifting food from a grocery store but not for condemning an entire nation to malnutrition? People rightfully end up in prison for snatching children off street corners – why not for kidnapping presidents and forcing them off to foreign countries? The First World’s varied acts of political, human rights, and economic sabotage of the Third World are criminal – and the wrongdoers must be punished.
I began this essay by stating that Haiti was both our teacher and a synecdoche. Haiti teaches us by offering us the opportunity to invert the gaze through which we are normally invited to regard the country. Haiti is a synecdoche because it is not exceptional. Other nations are poor because they have received the kind of treatment from the First World that Haiti has. Too often the media shows us images of children starving until they’re merely skin and bones or corrupt Third World dictators without showing us the First World’s hand in the creation of both. That an earthquake broke the country of Haiti is a terrible tragedy. If that earthquake doesn’t also shatter the way we think of the First and Third Worlds, that tragedy will be redoubled.
P.S. Please consider donating to Partners in Health’s “Stand with Haiti” campaign http://www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti. The organization has been serving Haiti since the 1980s, and their commitment and skill in extending healthcare as well as justice and dignity to Haitians is unparalleled.
How has consumerism affected what it means to be black? Paul Gilroy discusses the role of the car and how African Americans now struggle for commodities rather than rights. Also, the history of tea with Markman Ellis
I’m concerned about nonprofits. Are they aware of the threats they face?
Are they prepared to demonstrate their value in the face of changes in corporate and tax law, and, as importantly, changes in the cultural zeitgeist about social capital markets and social enterprise?
For almost a century, 501c3 nonprofits have held a privileged place in our communities and in our tax code. They are provided tax exempt status, and supporters can deduct their contributions to these organizations from their income taxes. In so doing, the US tax code privileges these organizations - from major hospitals and universities to small neighborhood groups - as providers of social goods and contributors to civil society.
Those privileges are being challenged from numerous directions. Let me list just a few:
- New corporate forms that recognize social businesses (these are modifications to the corporate codes at state levels - L3Cs, B Corporations, proposed H corporation);
- Tax credits for social businesses;
- Foundations’ increasing interest in “sector agnostic” approaches to solving social problems;
- Regulatory concern about good governance, payout rates, and endowment growth over charitable purpose;
- Social investment exchanges that are expanding the revenue and capital streams to financial/social hybrids (not necessarily to nonprofits);
- Growth of models for social goods/civil society that emphasize operating foundations or social enterprises more than a nonprofit framework (everywhere but USA).
Each of the innovations above has advantages and disadvantages and none may be explicitly targeted at putting nonprofits out of business. Most of the hybrid forms are promoted as expansions of the social sector. The fervent interest in social investment exchanges and mission related investing or impact investing are also seen as new revenue sources to good. Note, however, that these are effectively ways of expanding the pools of social good providers and social good financing, effectively increasing the pool around nonprofits, not working to strengthen, support or expand financing to them.
What we are experiencing is a confluence of forces, each of which may have merit independently, but which collectively challenge our current framework (policies, mental models. and financing systems) for where civil society and social goods come from.
Who provides them, who finances them, and how are they distributed?
Michael Edwards’ new book, Small Change, which challenges the currently en vogue market model, comes closest to raising these questions. And conferences on regulation, discussions of technological innovations, and celebrations of innovations and changing ecosystems contribute to the broad awareness of options.
But who is working on these big questions in pragmatic ways? Who is looking at what nonprofits do best, what social enterprises and social businesses contribute, and what roles government can and must play? Who is looking out for the whole? Or even looking at the intersections, not all of which are complementary or positive, of these many pieces?
Currently, most of the innovation in the sector is around the edges of our existing corporate and tax frameworks - we are developing “workarounds” to the 501c3 or commercial corporate model to encourage social entrepreneurs and new investors or donors.
The preponderance of these workarounds should have been our first clue - it is time to reconsider the entirety of the systems and policies for the production, financing and distribution of social goods and civil society in the Twenty First century.
Lucy Bernholz is the founder and president of Blueprint Research & Design, Inc, a strategy consulting firm that helps philanthropic individuals and institutions achieve their missions. She is the publisher of Philanthropy2173, an award winning blog about the business of giving and serves as executive producer of The Giving Channel on Fora.tv.
"The deal is expected to net Michigan an average daily “profit” of $2.15 for each inmate...."
Muskegon Correctional Facility ready to begin accepting Pennsylvania inmates
By John S. Hausman | Muskegon Chronicle
February 06, 2010
MUSKEGON — As recently as eight months ago, Muskegon Correctional Facility held more than 1,300 inmates.
Today, the count is zero.
The last Michigan inmates were bused out last week to other prisons in the state, making room for the arrival of 1,000 inmates from Pennsylvania.
Without the Pennsylvania deal, the 36-year-old facility would have closed in January, with the loss of up to 175 jobs.
As it is, all employees remain at work — even during the vacant interim, according to state Corrections Department spokesman John Cordell. Workers are making the prison “site ready” to meet Pennsylvania specifications, he said.
Cordell said the first Pennsylvania prisoners would arrive “in the next couple weeks” but declined to be more specific, citing security concerns. He said they would likely arrive at a rate of one busload or about 50 inmates per day, taking a month or so to reach the full complement.
“Pennsylvania and Michigan have worked very well together in this transition, and we look forward to supporting them as they transition into something new to their department, which is housing prisoners off site,” Cordell said.
For several years about a decade ago, Michigan exported some of its state prisoners to Virginia facilities to deal with overcrowding.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced Dec. 21 it would send 1,000 inmates to the Muskegon prison by February.
The inmates being selected for transfers are those who have less than three years to serve on their sentences, have no medical or mental health issues and have few or no visitors, according to Pennsylvania’s corrections department.
That’s enough to keep the prison open and save the 175 jobs that would have been eliminated by now. The 1,328-bed, medium-security prison was set to close in January as Michigan reduces its statewide prison population through earlier paroles and fewer prison returns for parole violators.
The deal isn’t for a set duration, but it’s expected to keep MCF operating at least through the end of 2013 and possibly longer.
Under the deal, Pennsylvania pays Michigan $62 per inmate per day to house its inmates, with the Michigan Department of Corrections running and staffing the prison. The deal is expected to net Michigan an average daily “profit” of $2.15 for each inmate at current operating costs because it costs the state only $59.85 per inmate per day to house an inmate.
The Michigan corrections department had said the prison’s closing would eliminate up to two-thirds of the 264 jobs at MCF, both corrections officers and other staff. Some of the expected layoffs would have been at Muskegon’s other two prisons — Earnest C. Brooks and West Shoreline — because MCF corrections officers have seniority-based “bumping” rights into those prisons.
10 February 2010
Reporter: Ryan Famuliner
Email Address: email@example.com It's no secret Michigan has some serious issues with money and crime.
That's why the Wolverine State has launched a program that aims to address both of those problems in a way that might surprise you.
The Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (MPRI) is a program designed to put prisoners back in the workforce.
For years, Michigan's jails were filled to the brim.
“We went through that whole period of being tough on crime and we locked people up so Michigan ended up with one of the largest prison populations in the nation,” said Marvin Austin, Regional Director of the Heartland Alliance at the Opportunity Center in Benton Harbor.
That large prison population was often a burden budget-wise. Michigan's cost of housing a prisoner is well above the national average of about $23,000, closer to $29,000 a year per prisoner.
“But the reality is most of the people that go to prison are going to come home sometime. So if you're just locking people up you just wait until their sentence is done, you send them home, what you find is the cycle back into prison,” Austin said.
That's why the state created the MPRI, which helps place ex- convicts who have served their time.
MPRI is administered through local sites like the Opportunity Center.
The Michigan Department of Corrections says that when MPRI started on a limited basis in 2005, 5 out of 10 prisoners returned to jail for new crimes within 3 years of being released.
Since then, that's decreased to less than 4 out of 10.
So, the one-time cost of less than $2,000 Michigan spends on the re-entry program per prisoner at places like the Opportunity Center can help offset nearly $29,000 dollars annually; if it's the difference between making a successful life outside of jail and recidivism.
“So literally everyone wins,” Austin said.
Those with the most to gain are the prisoners trying to re-invent their lives, which is no small task.
“The effort for them is probably double what it would be for someone else. But those that put the time in they do find that they can be successful,” said Rose Hunt, Director of the Opportunity Center.
Once they get out of jail, participants go through an intense program that helps them focus on the steps they need to take to again become a functioning member of society.
“They come in with the odds against them. They know they've made mistakes and I think in a lot of cases they're really sorry that they've created such a negative situation for themselves,” Hunt said.
For many, it is tough to stay away from the behaviors that landed them in jail in the first place.
“If they make an error we don't judge them right way and throw them out of the program. We say these are the 3 options you have to pick which one you think is best for you. Or we have them take the problem to a group of their peers and help them decide what option is best,” Hunt said.
But it's also tough to move back into a regular life. Just finding a job creates some blatant obstacles.
“They have to check that box that says they do have a felony, and so we try to help them draft (cover) letters that kind of put a human element a face to who they are,” said Syrina Butler, the senior employment counselor for MPRI in Benton Harbor.
“I think it's hypocritical and contradictory for society to say you've done your time and now they want you to get out and make a success and they not embrace you and help you make that success. If they don't, then what do they expect you to do?” said Virgil Hatcher, a peer counselor at the Opportunity Center.
The Michigan DOC says there's been some major progress since 2005, thanks in part to MPRI.
Corrections spending has been cut by $400 million dollars, and other efficiency measures have also contributed to the state closing 12 prison facilities in 7 years.
The state is working on expanding this program, which the Opportunity Center is rooting for.
“We're going to help people get back on their feet and be successful. They're the parents of the next generation and once they're being productive you're really going to see the change in the communities,” Austin said.
For a report on the progress of MPRI from the 1st quarter of 2009, click on the link to the .pdf above. To visit the DOC's website for MPRI, follow the link below.
Coming up Wednesday in part two of this three part series; we'll introduce you to a man who just got out of prison and is using the program to help turn his life around.
Last night we started telling you about the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (MPRI).
It's a relatively new program that aims to help those released from prison become a functioning member of society.
At the same time, it also tries to reduce the state corrections budget and make our cities safer.
In part 2 of this series, you’ll meet a man who is just starting the program with hopes to turn his life around.
“Seven years didn't seem to me to be that long of a period of time, but when I came out the changes were just… astronomical,” Ronald Hill said.
Hill knows finding a job is going to take some time.
“Coming from prison, I understand that you know some trust issues were broken… Some people are just not going to accept you. Some people are going to close doors and you're going to be eliminated from some possibilities,” Hill said.
But that's not going to keep him from trying.
“I don't look at that. I don't need 100 opportunities, all I need is one; and I’m going to make good on the one opportunity that I’m given. The one opportunity that someone says, ‘I’m going to take a chance on this young man.’” Hill said.
That's why he decided to take part in the optional MPRI program as part of his parole.
The process started about 6 months before his release; preparing him for programs he'd start once he was out and helping him compile simple documents he'd need but lost track of since he'd been in jail. Things like a driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate.
When he got out, he continued the program at the Opportunity Center in Benton Harbor.
“I treat everybody until they prove me wrong when you come to us you come with a clean slate,” said Syrina Butler, senior employment counselor at the Opportunity Center.
There, MPRI participants meet regularly in small groups.
“They learn not only to be more comfortable with themselves, but with their neighbor because they have to talk with them, plan with that person. They have to do projects together; they find out its not difficult to get re-acclimated to what it means to be community,” said Rose Hunt, director of the Opportunity Center.
They're also offered workforce training in things like culinary arts and customer service.
“We then place them (in jobs). We have a 75% percent retainment rate as far as employment, which is great for us,” Hunt said.
Because they're also the participant's strongest advocate to potential employers; and they only recommend them to a company if they truly believe they’re ready.
“It’s not as if the participant has to go to bat for himself or herself. We are kind of like the liaison and the agencies know that we're going to support that person with transportation needs, whatever they need,” Hunt said.
For instance, they were able to give Hill dial-a-ride tokens to get him around town for job interviews; and of course they helped him get his resume together.
They also pay for his first few months’ living expenses at a hotel downtown.
Because when he got out, like many others, everything he knew from his life before prison was gone.
“There's money set aside for my stay here and during that time I’m able to go out and have a job search that doesn't leave me wondering where I’m going to go, at least for a short period of time,” Hill said.
But the Opportunity Center says more than any of that; it's the support system they provide that really makes a difference.
“They understand that it's not just about them; that everyone's involved and rooting for them,” Hunt said.
“They seem to know how difficult it is, but on top of that the things that they do to help to them doesn't seem like it's a job to them. It’s part of who they are,” Hill said.
Now they say the task is changing the mindset of the community, and many who have a pre-conceived opinion about who an ex-con is.
“The (state’s) investment in MPRI; it's not just an investment in a program, it’s an investment in people. People are not disposable. Unfortunately there are some people like myself who have made some very poor decisions in the past. But over time, when you realize the things that you've done, you have an eagerness to make things right,” Hill said.
Hill says he will make things right
“It will be difficult, but they give me a sense of courage that I can do this,” Hill said.
The Opportunity Center says the recession has made these job searching efforts even more difficult for MPRI participants.
In many cases, they direct participants into volunteering opportunities in the community, where they get a chance to earn trust back from area organizations and churches. In some cases, that will lead to someone noticing the volunteer's efforts, and may lead to a job somewhere else. If not, they still get volunteer experience they can add to their resume.
Thursday in part three of this series we'll introduce you to two men who have graduated from the program and are now doing their part to pay forward the support they received when the left prison.
We'll take you inside the program and show you how the Opportunity Center helps people break through barriers.
Tune in Wednesday, for the ‘Just Before 6:00 Report’.
Researchers noted that “without a bank account, measures to enable ex-prisoners to gain access to settled accommodation, employment and education are more complex and difficult to implement.” More than 70 percent of ex-offenders for whom bank accounts were established continued to use them after release – a particularly striking finding considering how many had never before had any banking relationship. In Texas, offenders are given a small sum in cash when they leave prison. Grits for Breakfast suggests that the state give them a ban account in an institution in the town they’ll be released and give them a debit card and pin number instead. In the best of all possible worlds, preparation for reentry would also include classes in personal financial management.
“I don’t really care. I’m not judging. It has become very evident to me that these people just need a chance,” said Krahenbuhl, 47. Julie Kempker, re-entry manager for the Missouri Department of Corrections says, “There are people in prison who have talent like you wouldn’t believe. We have solid data that says that those who leave prison and maintain employment are less likely to return to prison. And the data says that when they are out and working they are not committing crime.”
Karaoke fanatics in the Philippines have been avoiding the song My Way because they believe it is cursed. "You can get killed," one patron, who has witnessed numerous fights at his favorite karaoke bar, told the NY Times. Several establishments have removed the Sinatra fave from their song list.
7 February 2010
More than 100 retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers told surveyors that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, two criminologists studying the department tell the New York Times. The totals for seven major crime categories provided via the CompStat program to the FBI, whose reports are used by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to compare New York favorably to other cities.
Some officers checked eBay and other sites to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported thefts valued at more than $1,000 to misdemeanors, which are not rreported as serious crimes. The report was done by retired police captain John Eterno, now of Long Island’s Molloy College, and Eli Silverman, formerly of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The Police Department disputed the survey’s findings, questioned its methodology, and pointed to other reviews of CompStat that it said supported its position.
"Race & Gender of Judges Make Enormous Differences in Rulings, Studies Find": Edward A. Adams has this post this evening at the ABA Journal's "Law News Now" blog.
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