Turn Prisons Into Colleges – by Elizabeth Hinton – NYT

“Imagine if prisons looked like the grounds of universities. Instead of languishing in cells, incarcerated people sat in classrooms and learned about climate science or poetry — just like college students. Or even with them.This would be a boon to prisoners across the country, a vast majority of whom do not have a high school diploma. And it could help shrink our prison population. While racial disparities in arrests and convictions are alarming, education level is a far stronger predictor of future incarceration than race.

The idea is rooted in history. In the 1920s, Howard Belding Gill, a criminologist and a Harvard alumnus, developed a college-like community at the Norfolk State Prison Colony in Massachusetts, where he was the superintendent. Prisoners wore normal clothing, participated in cooperative self-government with staff, and took academic courses with instructors from Emerson, Boston University and Harvard. They ran a newspaper, radio show and jazz orchestra, and they had access to an extensive library.

Norfolk had such a good reputation, Malcolm X asked to be transferred there from Charlestown State Prison in Boston so, as he wrote in his petition, he could use “the educational facilities that aren’t in these other institutions.” At Norfolk, “there are many things that I would like to learn that would be of use to me when I regain my freedom.” After Malcolm X’s request was granted, he joined the famous Norfolk Debate Society, through which inmates connected to students at Harvard and other universities.”

Yes. And here is one comment of many that I liked.

James Lee Arlington, Texas 4 hours ago
The value of Professor Hinton’s suggestion should be obvious, but our society tends to treat lawbreakers as outcasts, whose offenses deprive them of any right to decent treatment on our part. So we stash them in hellholes, then release them back into the outside world, still hobbled by restrictions on their ability to get a job and lead a constructive life. After all this, we declare ourselves shocked, shocked that so many of them wind up back in prison.

We could improve this miserable record if, as many European countries do, we regarded inmates as members of the community whose behavior required their temporary removal from society. If we treated them as resources who retained the potential to contribute to our economy and society, then most of them would respond positively to incentives that enabled them to fulfill that potential.

This has nothing to do with sentimentality. This country spends an enormous amount of money on mass incarceration, without striking at the roots of crime. While some inmates would defy any efforts to rehabilitate them, common sense and all the empirical evidence collected by experts demonstrate that such people form a small part of the prison population.

If our country truly regarded education as an investment rather than a cost, moreover, we would spend more wisely on schools, reducing the number of inmates in the first place. It is cheaper to prevent a problem than to cope with it after it has developed.
112 Recommended

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Kamala Harris and Rand Paul: To Shrink Jails- Let’s Reform Bail – The New York Times

“Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old New Yorker, was arrested on charges of stealing a backpack in 2010. To ensure he would show up for trial, and because of a previous offense, the judge set bail at $3,000. But his family could not afford to pay. So Mr. Browder was sent to jail on Rikers Island to await his day in court. He spent the next three years there before the charges were dismissed. Haunted by his experience, Mr. Browder hanged himself in 2015.

Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.

Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children — or their life.”

Yes, and here is an excellent comment I support:

Geri Padilla Huntington Beach, CA 1 hour ago

It is heartening to read about a bipartisan bill that addresses the inequities of the current bail system. Thank you to Kamala Harris and Rand Paul for their efforts on behalf of the poor who can’t afford bail, not to mention the exorbitant cost of maintaining so many awaiting trial.

Reply 30 Recommended

States Lead the Way on Justice Reform – The New York Times

“In New Jersey, voters and lawmakers gave judges more power to release low-risk defendants who can’t afford bail, letting them go home rather than sit in jail while they await trial. In Idaho, a new law created 24-hour crisis centers to help keep people with mental health issues from being locked up unnecessarily. Georgia and Louisiana established courts for military veterans accused of crimes. Hawaii funded programs to help reunify children with parents who are behind bars.

These are just a few of the hundreds of criminal-justice reforms that states around the country have put in place over the last two years, according to a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice.”

Source: States Lead the Way on Justice Reform – The New York Times

How to Get Brutal Guards Out of the Jails – The New York Times

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has strengthened the state office that investigates misconduct by prison guards, and also proposed legislation that would make it easier to dismiss corrections officers who commit crimes on the job.These are good first steps toward rooting out the culture of violence that has long dominated the prison system. The next task is to renegotiate a recently expired union contract that has shielded brutal or unqualified guards from accountability in any number of ways.As The Times and the Marshall Project reported jointly in April, the correction department’s internal affairs unit — which is responsible for investigating misconduct — has historically been weak and ineffective, partly because it relied too heavily on career corrections officers who lacked investigative experience and were also wary of offending fellow officers.”

Source: How to Get Brutal Guards Out of the Jails – The New York Times

Imagining a Rikers Island With No Jail – The New York Times

“Any serious effort to repair criminal justice in New York City must do something about Rikers Island, the jail complex in the East River where justice goes to die, or at least be severely beaten.The City Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, acknowledged this in her State of the City address this month, when she announced that the state’s former chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, would lead a commission to comprehensively examine the city’s criminal justice system. Its mission will be to reduce the jail population, now at about 10,000, enough to make it possible to consider shutting Rikers down for good.”

Source: Imagining a Rikers Island With No Jail – The New York Times

Maybe Rikers should be closed, because of the transportation problem, or the reduction of inmates in the system. But the problems of brutality and corruption in the system still need to be addressed. In a better world, we would ban prison guard and police unions. People with so much power over prisoners and the public should not be able to hide bad behavior behind curtains of union protection, which is a disgrace to unionism and the nation. And, the National Guard or the military should take over Riker’s Island immediately, with all the guards there eventually fired, laid off or prosecuted, after an intense study of who the real bullies and torturers wearing a uniform are. Union leaders who protected criminal behavior should also be prosecuted.

A College Education for Prisoners – The New York Times

“States are finally backing away from the draconian sentencing policies that swept the country at the end of the last century, driving up prison costs and sending too many people to jail for too long, often for nonviolent offenses. Many are now trying to turn around the prison juggernaut by steering drug addicts into treatment instead of jail and retooling parole systems that once sent people back to prison for technical violations.But the most effective way to keep people out of prison once they leave is to give them jobs skills that make them marketable employees. That, in turn, means restarting prison education programs that were shuttered beginning in the 1990s, when federal and state legislators cut funding to show how tough they were on crime.”

Source: A College Education for Prisoners – The New York Times

Barack Obama: Why we must rethink solitary confinement Its overuse leads to tragic results. washingtonpost.com

By Barack Obama January 25

Barack Obama is president of the United States.

“In 2010, a 16-year-old named Kalief Browder from the Bronx was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sent to Rikers Island to await trial, where he reportedly endured unspeakable violence at the hands of inmates and guards — and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.

In 2013, Kalief was released, having never stood trial. He completed a successful semester at Bronx Community College. But life was a constant struggle to recover from the trauma of being locked up alone for 23 hours a day. One Saturday, he committed suicide at home. He was just 22 years old.”

Its overuse leads to tragic results.
washingtonpost.com

President Obama Speaks Out on Solitary – The New York Times

“President Obama sent a powerful message last week when he barred federal prisons from holding juveniles in solitary confinement and ordered the Bureau of Prisons to undertake sweeping changes in how solitary is used throughout the federal system.By taking a new course at the federal level, Mr. Obama hopes to accelerate changes that are already underway in many state and local corrections systems.Solitary confinement, which is often used arbitrarily and to punish minor rule infractions, is a form of torture. It is psychologically damaging even to healthy people and increases the likelihood of suicide among the young and the mentally ill.”

Source: President Obama Speaks Out on Solitary – The New York Times