In a press release this April 29, 2016, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has embraced term “Justice-Involved” as the official Department of Justice substitute for “criminal”.
Further, Lynch indicated that the Department of Justice has designated this week as “National Reentry Week” which includes grants that will help people clean the record of their criminal activity. She went on to say that she sent a letter to the governor of each state asking them to allow criminals returning from prisons to exchange their federal Bureau of Prisons inmate ID card for a state issued ID.
In addition, Lynch said that President Obama issued a directive requiring all federal agencies and departments to take steps toward “banning the box” asking questions about criminal history. She proudly proclaimed that “we have made more than $400 million in Second Chance Act funds available since 2009” to support reentry services for criminals.
This sounded so ludicrous that I thought it was a spoof. Therefore, in the interests of being involved in justice, I bypassed the blog and news articles and set out to find Ms. Lynch’s actual statements. This was no internet hoax. Here is a link to her remarks. https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-loretta-e-lynch-delivers-closing-remarks-national-reentry-week-event
Upon reading her statements, my initial reaction was that except for the “justice-involved” political euphemism, she had some valid points. After all, most societal issues are not simple and easy-to-solve or I wouldn’t constantly have to fix them after everyone else failed. How can anyone expect people who have paid their debt to society to assimilate to that society if they cannot find employment because of their criminal record? Catch-22, right?
So, let’s give Loretta the benefit of the doubt. I am pragmatic. Even if it sounds like a SNL sketch, I can get behind it if it works. I know as a business man that if I spent $400 MILLION on a program and continued to ask for more millions in budget each year, I would have to make my case based on performance. I would use legions of success stories to humanize it and reams of statistics as proof of my wonderfulness. The DOJ has to have done at least that much.
This should be easy. Between Google and me, it shouldn’t take more than a beer or two of time.
Four days later.
As near as I have been able to determine, there is only one person who has been successfully assimilated into society as a result of Second Chance Act. I only know that because, he was show-and-tell at Lynch’s “Justice-Involved” speech. I can’t find any factual evidence that he was a criminal, received a grant and has been successfully rehabilitated, but I am not here to pick those nits. Good for him. Hooray for second chances. Although, $400 million per savee seems a little pricey.
Okay – I am poking fun. There has to be more than one success story. I assume there are some people who have been successfully “reentered” even without the SCA. You’d think the DOJ would claim those for the program even if there was no direct relationship to the SCA. But, no. At least not on the DOJ website.
Invoke the smell test here.
Does it seem malodorous that the DOJ didn’t have a stadium full of those success stories – or, at least an auditorium – conference room – bathroom – or closet?
Perhaps many successes don’t want to go public. Or maybe they are in witness relocation.
So, how about the statistical analysis? This is the government. They fill the Grand Canyon with statistics and quote them endlessly. Off we go to check the reports and if possible raw data.
I know I am getting old and maybe have lost a step. Plus, trying to research this stuff drove me to drink. (Full disclosure: It wasn’t a drive, it was a short putt.) However, I cannot find statistical records or reports on the effectiveness of the SCA on the DOJ website. Google can’t even find them with drones. If you can find it, https://www.justice.gov/ please advise. To be fair, I did not check in the Spanish language version. (Yes, there is a Spanish language version of the DOJ website.)
For $400 MILLION, how can they not be tracking performance? Do they really not know how many people have signed up under SCA programs? If Amazon can collate my shopping habits with what kind of porn I am likely to prefer, can’t the Department of Flipping Justice cross reference, justice involved people who reenter, use the program and then reexit? (No. I don’t know why reenter is a word and reexit isn’t. Remind me to check it out.)
Oh, there are plenty of studies on recidivism. Most of them acknowledge serious flaws in reporting and tracking methodology. I understand. Cross-jurisdictional issues. How do you report people who recidivate more than once, recidivate for different crimes, etc.?
But success statistics? How hard can that be? Sign up for the program. Track success over time. That isn’t even a complicated Excel spreadsheet. If it was my program I’d to that. If I was doing it on someone else’s budget, I’d have to. What possible reason could any competent person or agency have for not tracking and shouting their success?
The DOJ does track one thing. The number of grants and money they give out. That appears to be their only measure of success. I wish I’d had a job like that.
Apparently, I am not the first person to discover this curious factoid. Since fiscal year 2010, the National Institute of Justice (as directed by the SCA) has awarded approximately $15 million in SCA funds for research on whether the SCA is working.
Fifteen million dollars to research? Patriot that I am, I will be happy to do this for, say less than $10 million. I can probably do it for even less but I budgeted $9.5 million to purchase a yacht to use as an office.
Here is one of the research reports to read if you are so inclined, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/249188.pdf, but they all seem to imply that the SCA grants don’t work. At least they only talk about the difficulties and failures and suggestions on what to do differently if only they were granted more funds.
Lynch emphasized the importance of giving people a “Second Chance” Most people probably support giving people a second chance. However, virtually every criminal was a multiple offender the first time they were actually sentenced to prison. In addition, an estimated two thirds (68%) were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison and three-quarters (77%) within five years. Instead of “Second Chance”, they should change the name to more accurately reflect what it does. How about Forget the Victims Act? (”Forget” is a euphemism imposed by the censors.)
Lynch claims that a quarter of people in the US have a criminal history. While the SCA targets felons, in order to get to her 25% figure, she cleverly lumps in misdemeanor “crimes” such as traffic violations, jay walking and failure to lower the toilet seat. The fact is the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that about 5.6 million living persons in the US have ever been to state or federal prison. http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=qa&iid=404 Maybe that is a lot, but closer to two percent of 300 million people than twenty-five.
About half of incarcerated felon population was in prison for violent crimes including murder, manslaughter, rape or other sexual assault robbery, or assault. This should not be used to trivialize other felonies such as burglary, auto theft, weapons, and commercialized vice, just because they are not classified as violent. They are after all felonies, not misdemeanors. http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004339
What’s more, the vast majority (95%) plead guilty to a lesser charge than the one for which they were arrested. http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=qa&iid=405 This means that most criminals committed worse crimes than the ones that got them into prison!
Lynch is also clever about focusing her remarks on “youth”. First, she classifies everyone under 25 as youth. I am sorry, but except for Johnny Manziel, a 23 year old is not a child. Lynch’s carefully crafted remarks are designed to mislead people into calling up images of children who got caught being naughty. Most of these adults are guilty of multiple serious felony offenses and have been since they were children. Aside from that, I cannot find anywhere that the Second Chance Act, National Reentry Week and “Justice-Involved” have age restrictions.
I have no problem with solutions that help rehabilitate criminals. Track the results and if they work, great. But, this isn’t about helping people.
This is about politics pure and simple. If someone gets helped, that is nice but not essential to the prime directive. This is about public opinion, votes, and political payoffs.
Think not? Then why does Lynch go out of her way to engage in rhetorical gymnastics and sophistry? Why did Virginia democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order that would allow more than 200,000 convicted felons to cast ballots in November’s elections. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/23/us/governor-terry-mcauliffe-virginia-voting-rights-convicted-felons.html?_r=0
Part of the lies lie in the numbers. Seventy percent of felons register as democrats compared with just 9% Republican. But 70% of 2% of the population probably isn’t enough to swing most elections. Add in, friends, family of felons, and empathetics, maybe. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/jail-survey-7-in-10-felons-register-as-democrats/article/2541412
With most things political, follow the money.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find that most of that $400 million paid back political favors, lobbyist, community organizers and other political-involved cronies. Admittedly, I have no proof – exactly the same amount that Lynch has that SCA funds helped any one get a second chance.
“Justice-Involved” isn’t about justice. It certainly isn’t about justice for the victims of violent crime. It is pure and simple political pandering.
Political pandering isn’t justice-involved, it is justice-impaired.
But, anyone can nitpick complain, belittle and castigate. What sets us apart is that we fix things. Tune in tomorrow or so for Part Eye, Eye (II), where we propose solutions that will fix or improve things and give others equal opportunity to pick nits, carp, disparage, censure or otherwise, “thesaurusize” their opinions.