Right and proper: Conservatives and criminal justice
from the article in The Economist:
The word commonly used to describe a politician who publicly announces he wants to send fewer criminals to prison is “loser”. But back in February there was David Williams, president of Kentucky’s Senate, speaking in favour of a bill that would do just that. The bill in question would steer non-violent offenders towards drug treatment rather than jail. It is projected to save $422m over the next decade, and will invest about half those savings in improving the state’s treatment, parole and probation programmes.
Mr Williams, who believes Kentucky “incarcerates too many people at too great a cost,” praised the bill for recognising “the possibility for forgiveness and redemption and change in someone’s life”. It passed the Republican-controlled Senate 38-0, and on May 17th Mr Williams went on to win the Republican nomination for governor.
The power of penal populism in New Zealand from 1999 to 2008
This thesis explains the rise and power of penal populism in contemporary New Zealand society. It argues that the rise of penal populism can be attributed to social, economic and political changes that have taken place in New Zealand since the postwar years. These changes undermined the prevailing penalwelfare logic that had dominated policymaking in this area since 1945.
It examines the way in which ‘the public’ became more involved in the administration of penal policy from 1999 to 2008. The credibility given to a law and order referendum in 1999, which drew attention to crime victims and ‘tough on crime’ discourse, exemplified their new role. In its aftermath, greater influence was given to the public and groups speaking on its behalf.
Restorative justice, policing and the Big Society
There has been much talk about restorative justice. We’ve seen encouraging pilots and there’s talk about it not only in this country, but around the world. So why is it that something that offers such encouraging results should not have taken a greater hold in our system?
Well, I think it is because we’ve seen evolving over the last few years a criminal justice system that has been very much directed from the centre.
We’ve been through the recent era of targets and what has eloquently been described as ‘deliverology’. The idea of managing from the centre, of close direction in order to try and drive up the performance of public services. This was done for benign reasons, but we all know what the consequences were.
[More sensible ideas from the US!] Prison reform: A smart way for states to save money and lives
With nearly all 50 states facing budget deficits, it's time to end business as usual in state capitols and for legislators to think and act with courage and creativity.
We urge conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons. Several states have recently shown that they can save on costs without compromising public safety by intelligently reducing their prison populations.
Governor Jerry Brown: Can he support restorative justice?
by Lisa Rea
Jerry Brown has returned to California Governor's office in 2011 having first been elected the youngest governor in the state in 1975. What's changed?
The incarceration rate has skyrocketed. In 1986 the state prison population was at 59,000. Now the state incarcerates 173, 000 inmates in its state prisons (Legislative Analyst Office, 2006). Although editorial writer Dan Morain of the Sacramento BEE speaks of Brown's close ties to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA, the prison guard union with more members than most unions in the state) I believe Brown will not be tied to the failed policies of the past. I expect something more.
Crossing the divide
It has often been my experience that restorative justice can span the conservative-liberal divide. Concerns for victims and for reducing the costs of imprisonment are often common to both. The concept of offenders facing up to what they have done makes intuitive sense to many. Values such as responsibility, respect and relationship are often shared along the spectrum. What we mean by these values and ideas, however, and what motivates us to embrace them, are crucial issues.
The lessons to be gleaned from the movement against indeterminate sentencing in the U.S. are instructive. Eventually both progressives and conservatives came together to replace indeterminate sentences with determinate sentences motivated by a just deserts philosophy. The resulting lengthened mandatory sentences dramatically increased the prison population. While there was some confluence of policy positions, the underlying values and motivations of the various parties were quite different. The results have been in many ways catastrophic.
US national conservatives unveil Right On Crime initiative
One of the most interesting, albeit quiet, developments in the Texas policy world has been the bipartisan consensus that has developed on criminal justice since about 2005. Basically, the idea is that putting non-violent offenders in prison for technical violations wastes public funds and that rehabilitation and restitution should play larger roles in the criminal justice system. This approach places more emphasis on controlling costs in criminal justice by focusing incarceration for the most dangerous and violent offenders.
....A group of national conservatives led by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Russell Keene of the American Conservative Union, and former Attorney General Ed Meese unveiled the “Right On Crime” initiative and website. The group held a conference call this morning to unveil the website.
Restorative Justice on Death Row: healing for crime victims?
by Lisa Rea
A death row inmate in Florida recently died in prison before the state could execute him. I became aware of Robert's case because I met his pen pal, Ines, a woman from Switzerland who had be-friended him through a pen pal organization, Lifespark, based in that country. After being interviewed by Ines for her organization's newsletter on the subject of forgiveness and restorative justice I learned more about the man she wrote in a Florida prison who had served some 20 years on death row. The story came to an end on December 3rd, 2010 when Robert unexpectedly died of cancer. But what I learned from my encounter with Ines was the real need to open doors more fully for all victims of violent crime wherever their offenders live and wherever their victims live (if they are still alive). I learned through Ines that her pen pal, once a very violent offender, was ready to attempt to make things right, as much as possible, with the victims or victim's family members that he had injured. The rap sheet on this man was very violent and longer than I'd ever seen.
I often learn things about restorative justice and how to apply it seemingly coincidentally. When cases draw me, or more likely the people behind the cases, I have a hard time saying no.
International restorative justice week: miracles and certainty
This week is International Restorative Justice Week. Last week on Australian Story, Kerry Tucker told her story of restoration back into the community after being incarcerated for seven years. She’s currently finishing her PhD and lecturing at Swinburne University. It’s a remarkable story and she’s an inspirational woman. What I found particularly moving about her story was how much of a struggle she found re-entering the community post-imprisonment, even though she is a strong woman with exceptional communication skills, family support to fall back on and educational qualifications. She said herself, ‘After a few days out, I just wanted to go back to prison’.
Rethinking the politics of crime
It is fair to say that many American criminal justice officials live in fear of finding themselves in a similar position to Crispin Blunt: out on an island, on the wrong side of the “tough on crime” debate. This understandable fear has broad consequences for the field of criminal justice. Among other things, it creates a risk-averse environment where both policymakers and practitioners are reluctant to challenge the status quo and test new ideas.
This is a problem that Aubrey Fox and I examine in our new book Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure (2010: Urban Institute Press). The central argument of the book is that criminal justice officials should adopt a lesson from the field of science, embracing the trial-and-error process and talking more honestly about how difficult it is to change the behavior of offenders and reduce chronic offending in crime-plagued urban neighborhoods.