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9 August 2010

The decision before the decision

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 8/8/10

This is the one that was made before you even showed up. This is the one that sets the agenda, determines the goal and establishes the frame.

The decision before the decision is the box.

When you think outside the box, what you're actually doing is questioning the decision before the decision.

That decision is far more important and much more difficult to change than the decision you actually believe you're about to make.

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

New York Ends Prison Gerrymandering

via Colorlines by Michelle Chen on 8/9/10

New York Ends Prison Gerrymandering

You've heard the shrill debate about shredding the 14th amendment and redefining citizenship, mostly driven by reactionaries who are willing to gut the Constitution in order to exclude immigrants. To understand just how radical such a change would be, look at new legislation in New York that shows how the constitutional concept of citizenship and representation has enabled the enfranchisement of marginalized groups across three centuries of U.S. history.

The New York bill, approved by the legislature last week, aims to eliminate so-called prison-based gerrymandering, by barring counties from using census data to inflate their population numbers. Under current policy, the census counts the state's incarcerated residents in the county where they're imprisoned. So a young man from the Bronx convicted of a felony may spend much of his adult life as a "resident" of the upstate prison town where he rarely even sees the world outside his cell block. His story, multiplied by tens of thousands, has led to a skewing of political district lines, shifting power to whiter upstate regions from the darker, poorer five boroughs, home to a cluster of troubled communities from which prisoners are disproportionately drawn.

The Prison Policy Initiative explains that this numbers game of local politicians "padding" their districts with prison headcounts, which has impacted an estimated 44,000 mostly Black and Latino New Yorkers, "artificially enhances the weight of a vote cast in those districts at the expense of all districts that do not contain a prison."

This distortion of the demographic landscape has an eerie historical precedent: The Three-fifths compromise of the slavery era allowed Southern states to count enslaved (disenfranchised) Blacks as a fraction of a "real" citizen for electoral purposes.

According to PPI's research, seven New York State Senate districts depend on prison-based gerrymandering for their very existence. In one City Council ward in Rome, New York, residents should thank the thousands of imprisoned neighbors they've passed by on the way to the polls, who constitute about half of the "official" population, for making local votes count a little bit more.

While the new bill parallels other recent reforms to New York's criminal justice system, the legislation alone will not reverse the incarceration frenzy that has hollowed out poor urban communities. It also won't alter public funding allotted based on census data, nor will it correct the misrepresentation of gender ratios in communities where young men of color are systematically swept up by police.

But the initiative, which reflects similar campaigns underway in other states, does begin to undo the perverse incentive to keep shoving people into upstate prisons, where county governments may profit from their physical presence without heeding their political interests.

Forty-five years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people have been politically and socially disenfranchised, removed from the electorate and the workforce, and their communities. Until they're free to participate fully in democracy, the new law ensures that many at least will be counted as part of the communities they've been pulled away from, instead of the ones that lock them up.

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

Conflict Shouldn’t Surprise Franchisors and Franchisees


A recent Wall Street Journal article described several conflicts between Burger King and its franchisees. In one of these disagreements, three franchisees sued Burger King over the franchisor’s effort to get them to keep their outlets open later at night.

While the courts will have to decide the legal question of whether franchisors have the right to mandate franchisees’ hours, the case points to a bigger problem. Many franchisors and franchisees don’t seem to understand why they often end up in conflict.

The economics behind the conflicts
The basic economics of the franchise arrangement is behind many franchisor-franchisee disputes. Franchisees run outlets according to systems sold to them by franchisors. Under the standard arrangement, franchisees pay franchisors a royalty of a few percent of their gross sales for access to an operating system and a brand name, which is how franchisors make money.

Like most businesses, franchisees earn a profit when their revenues exceed their costs. The difference in how franchisors and franchisees make money is behind much of the conflict between franchisees and franchisors.

Because franchisors earn royalties on franchisees’ sales, anything that increases franchisees’ revenues benefits franchisors. If, as the Wall Street Journal reported, franchisees generate an extra $30 in revenue for each additional hour they are open, the franchisors benefit from longer operating hours. More revenues equate to higher royalties.

Franchisees, on the other hand, don’t necessarily make money when their revenues increase. Consider operating hours again. According to the attorney for the franchisees suing Burger King, staying open late costs the typical franchisee $100 per hour. Assuming these numbers are true, franchisees lose $70 each hour they are open late at night.

If a particular policy makes money for a franchisor, but loses money for his or her franchisees, conflict between the franchisor and franchisee over the policy shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Other types of conflict
Hours of operation aren’t the only thing that can increase franchisor earnings while decreasing franchisee profits. Expansion of the number of outlets in the chain is another example. If a franchisor adds another location near an existing franchisee, the chain’s overall sales often go up because more customers can be served by the two locations than by the original one alone.

The higher overall sales mean more royalties to the franchisor, but not necessarily greater profits for the original franchisee. If the new outlet cannibalizes some of the first franchisee’s sales, the franchisee might end up with lower revenues than before, but with little reduction in costs. In short, adding locations can boost franchisor earnings at the expense of franchisee profits, leading to conflict between the parties.

The franchisees’ surprise is surprising
When conflicts between franchisors and franchisees emerge, franchisees often seem genuinely surprised. Their surprise is disconcerting because many books explain how these conflicts emerge naturally from the franchise structure.

Before people buy a franchise, they should read something about the economics of franchising. Knowledge of the economics of the business might well save them from needing a later education in franchise law.

From Small Business Trends

Conflict Shouldn’t Surprise Franchisors and Franchisees

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

They’d become the people they’d never wanted to be:...

via Unhappy Hipsters on 8/9/10

They’d become the people they’d never wanted to be: bitter, witholding, consumed by the trappings of upper middle class life. In other words—their parents.

(Photo: Alejandro Gandarillas; ArchDaily)

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

Guards Represent Citizens

via Ella Baker Center Blog by Glenn on 8/9/10

This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Sacramento Bee.

I am very grateful to the brave and honest men and women who work as police officers, sheriff’s deputies and prison guards. But as a taxpaying citizen, I feel that I am culpable in their acts; that not only do they protect me, my family and my community, but they also represent me, my family, my community and our values, as well.

We entrust them with deadly force, the power to incapacitate and incarcerate – to deprive persons of life and liberty. We need to insist on a system that ensures civilian accountability and oversight of corrections and law enforcement personnel, to make sure that dishonesty and brutality – in our names – are not tolerated.

In my heart, I believe that we cannot pay cops and guards enough for the work they do. Nor can we allow the unjust acts of corrections supervisors and front-line staff to go unpunished. Unjust acts by justice officials breed contempt for authority and law, and undermines the safety of our neighborhoods. Get the bad cops and bad guards out, for the safety of good cops, good guards and our neighborhoods.

Glenn Backes lives in Sacramento and is a Public Policy Researcher and Consultant. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

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

Seeking "on-the-ground" reports on what is going on with crack sentencings

via Sentencing Law and Policy by Doug B. on 8/9/10

It has now been almost two weeks since the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, and almost a full week since the FSA became law.  Though I have now seen lots of editorials from large and small papers praising the modification of crack mandatory sentencing provisions, I have yet to see a single story about how the new law is starting to impact actual crack sentencings.

There is a practical reason I am in a rush to figure all this out: there are, on average, over 100 crack sentencings in federal court every week.  And I had been hearing that a whole lot of crack sentencings had been put on hold after the Senate passed the FSA way back in March.  Further, the US Sentencing Commission now has less than three months to conform the crack guidelines to the intricate (and not always pro-defendant) provisions of the FSA.  So I wonder is there a rush to get sentencings done now, or is there more delay, or does this vary district-to-district and courtroom-to-courtroom?

I hope folks might use the comments or send me e-mail with any and all notable post-FSA-enactment crack sentencing reports.  Thanks!

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

Job Market Is Bad for Everyone–And Even Worse For Ex-Cons

via The Crime Report by david on 8/9/10

The labor market, bad for everyone right now, is even worse for those with serious criminal records, reports the Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress. Jason Ness, the reentry program manager for a Virginia community corrections program, said those coming out of jail are now competing against law-abiding unemployed men and women looking for jobs below their qualifications.

Ness’ program provides transitional planning for offenders who are about to be released from jail. Many face the burden of not only supporting themselves and their families but a need to pay off court costs and fines before they can get their driver’s license back. Most of Ness’ clients are looking for entry level jobs in kitchens or construction. He said half of his clients find jobs within the first three months of working with the program. Of those people, 83 percent have kept that job for at least three months.

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

Competition

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 8/9/10

The number one reason people give me for giving up on something great is, "someone else is already doing that."

Or, parsed another way, "my idea is not brand new." Or even, "Oh no, now we'll have competition."

Two big pieces of news for you:

1. Competition validates you. It creates a category. It permits the sale to be this or that, not yes or no. And this or that is a much easier sale to make. It also makes decisions about pricing easier, because you have someone to compare against and lean on.

2. There are six billion people in the world. Even if your market is hand-made spoke shaves for left-handed woodworkers, there are more people in your market than you can ever hope to track down.

There are lots of good reasons to abandon a project. Having a little competition is not one of them. Even if it's Google you're up against.

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

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