Thursday, May 2, 2013

Prison Reform: Rehabilitation and Reintegration (Thursday LINKS)

Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks takes Governor O'Malley to task for "doing nothing" in terms of prison reform during his six years as Governor.  He notes that the Law-Enforcer-in-Chief has made a number of flashy moves without substance in addressing an ever-growing portion of Maryland's population:

He's as calculating a politician as we'll ever see in Maryland, and his opposition to the death penalty neutralized criticism, registered while he was mayor and pushing zero-tolerance policing, that he's just another post-Willie Horton, Clintonesque tough-on-crime Democrat.

Rodricks goes on to add that O'Malley "shows no instinct for bold changes" and does not bring the mindset of a reformer to his work:

A reformer would challenge the status quo and speak out against the war on drugs that gives rise to the deadly dealer gangs like the BGF. A reformer would demand that we put "corrections" back into corrections and achieve better long-term results by reducing recidivism among the thousands of nonviolent offenders who inhabit our prisons.

Put "corrections" back into corrections.  I like that. (Sorry about the formatting problem - no time to fix)

Approximately 4 out of every 1,000 Marylanders are currently in prison, and that number doesn't incorporate the approximately 10,000 Marylanders being admitted and released from Maryland State or Federal Prisons in any given year.  Preserving Sentencing Reform for another day, we need to decide as a State whether our prisons, which receive millions of dollars a year in taxpayer funds, will be a way-station and proving ground for criminals or serve some active public function to improve our State.

Rodricks suggests in his piece that the war on drugs set up the Black Guerrila Family to take over the Baltimore City Detention Center.  I would suggest that it is much simpler.  The "hold and wait" policy of Maryland Corrections fosters idle hands.  Many of the most successful rehabilitation and reintegration programs currently offered in our prisons are run by volunteers.  

Maryland's recidivism rate (i.e., those who are released from prison and return sometime within the next ten years) is over 50%.  We can debate whether job training, legal competency, and reintegration programs would change that, but what is not debatable is that with a return rate of 50%, we are wasting a lot of money on our judicial and prison systems.  This is a justice issue, a spending issue, and a workforce productivity issue.  What happened at the Baltimore City Detention Center is just a symptom of a systemic disease. 


County Executive Ken Ulman has requested $250,000 in his Operating Budget to create a mobile app, "Sprigeo", that would allow witnesses and bullied youth to anonymously report instances of bullying. 

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman may have to stop reading her own press releases after the County Council voted 5-2 to override her veto of the "rain tax", while deciding to take another look at the formula that had prompted the veto.  Interestingly enough, one of the Republican County Council members who originally voted against the tax changed his position on the veto and is now open to passing the storm-water fee.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Duane writes about the Community Forum on Ending Homelessness taking place tonight (7:30 pm) in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building.  This is an exciting opportunity to give the community ownership in solving homelessness and what is necessary to do so (i.e., YIMBY's - Yes In My Back Yard).  I will be there and I hope to see you there too!

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love!