In Part Eye (I) I clearly, concisely and impartially explained why the DOJ’s “justice-involved” euphemism was really justice impaired. “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.
Once again, nobody asked me first so now I am going to have to retrofit, repair some damage and fix things going forward. Well, at least we propose solutions that will fix or improve the world as we know it.
Why the caveat? For that you have to suffer through a short story which we will call
CRAP – A Fairy Tale.
Once upon a time the government in its infinite wisdom created a mythical law that required lending institutions to make home loans to people with bad credit, insufficient income, and a poor employment record. We will call these lending institutions Doomed, unqualified borrowers UhUhs and this mythical act CRA Program or CRAP.
With the glee of a cat getting a bath, the Doomed went kicking and screaming into the abyss and did the best they could to help UhUhs learn how to overcome their disadvantages through hard work and discipline. Training seminars were trumpeted far and wide assuming that all UhUhs would flock to the seminars, but they said “No flocking way. That sounds like hard work and discipline. Show me the money. “
So, the Doomed offered bribes which we will call “incentives”. For those who completed the seminars the doomed would give out impressive looking certificates emblazoned with their logo AND, match any funds UhUhs saved toward a down payment. UhUhs ears perked up and while they moseyed rather than flocked, thousands attended the flocking seminars, were sincere and worked hard to overcome their circumstances. They quit spending their money on drugs, naval rings, tattoos, hub caps and Michael Jordan shoes. They came to work every day, on time, and didn’t quit when their boss “dissed” them. They went to night school after a hard day at work even though it wasn’t as cool as hangin’ and left them too tired to party. The UhUhs were the first people in the history of earth who overcame adversity and became successful by following the advice and example of hard working parents, teachers and other non-celebrity role models.
I did tell you this was a fairy tale, right? But right up until the word “thousands” in the preceding paragraph, this is a true story. But thousands was more like hundreds…or tens. Should we have abandoned those tens because of the thousands of failures?
Nope. But we should recognize the facts of life. Not everyone can or should buy a house and not everyone can escape a criminal history. Calling a criminal history “justice-involved” doesn’t change anything.
Change only comes through change.
Change in habitat; Change in associations; Change in behavior. Change usually requires hard work and discipline.
All of the reports on recidivism and the SCA research reports list as the number one issue – people don’t show up and won’t perform the difficult acts necessary to overcome their circumstances. It isn’t fair that some people had nothing to overcome. If we had a Criminals Anonymous 12-step program, step one would be to recognize that life isn’t fair. Get over it. Some inherited silver spoons, but most successful people have had to scrimp, sacrifice and make hard choices.
In Part I, I got on the DOJ for not tracking, or at least not publishing the tracking of SCA handouts and suggested one of the reasons was that the programs failed. I don’t know that is the case, but the point is, that it is my $400 million (okay, yours too) and we have a right to know if it is well spent or someone else’s ill-gotten gain. We could just flush the entire SCA, but if some of the programs did work, they should be emulated and expanded.
To start with, remember that $15 million to research? I already offered to set up reporting and measurements for a less than $10 million. I can probably trim that a little but $9.5 million dollars was to purchase a yacht to use as an office.
What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
How, you ask, can little ol’ me expect to accomplish something so monumentally (apparently) difficult that the DOJ could not?
NFL Fantasy Football Software. Tax payers may have given up on getting any real information on how the government spends their money but there are maybe thirty million people that play fantasy football who get really testy if you foul up their statistics. They know almost play by play where their fantasy team stands almost real time. In fact, if we really want to get serious about improving reentry performance, we should create a fantasy league, draft teams of former felons, and bet on the outcome. If the media would track and report on FFFL draftees the way they do on NFL players, Ray Rice aside, it would make it harder to perform recidivatable acts. Talk about a great neighborhood watch program!
It isn’t a perfect system. The field of play is bigger than a hundred yards. Players don’t wear jerseys with their names embroidered on their backs. I suppose that having one of each felon’s prison tats be a bar code would be going over the top. But, we can work through those minor flaws.
So, now we have tracking and reporting covered. We still need to help FFs overcome social stigma and get real jobs. Part of the problem is that once an FF pays his debt to society, most people don’t feel the debt is paid. I mean, they went to prison pleading to a lesser offense, got out early on parole and probably didn’t pay any victim back. Nobody but a rapper will applaud an appearance on the Jimmy Felon Show.
Then we have perspective employers. There is a certain amount of risk involved in employing anyone. It has to be statistically higher to employ FFs. Even if the FF doesn’t refelonate on the job, there is the risk that customers will get nervous and leave. Whenever risk is involved, insurance companies cannot be far behind. How about using some of those SCA funds to insure businesses against the risks associated with employing FFs?
Since insurance companies are the masters at tracking performance and assessing risk, they could provide much needed data on which programs were working. Just knowing that there was insurance could mitigate customer FF jitters. Wait! – this could even be a sales point. Businesses could advertise that they employ Certified FFs much the same way as car dealers certify used cars. And – they could offer free ConFax reports. How about Factory Incentive-like subsidies for businesses who do employ FFs? We are on a roll now. It is like the DOJ wasn’t even trying.
Still some FFs are just not societally ready. They may have had good behavior while in prison, but have not yet developed sufficient self-discipline to succeed in the real world. It is kind of like taking someone straight out of rehab and getting them a job as Charlie Sheen’s driver. If only there was a way they could get technical training, a job to enhance their resume and self-esteem, with more freedom than prison but some imposed discipline until the FFs can develop and demonstrate self-discipline.
Fortunately, there is a successful working prototype that has been saving potential justice-involved individuals from involvement with justice for decades. It is called the US Armed Forces. Maybe a similar system could benefit FFs. My first thought was to call it “The United States Unarmed Forces”. Catchy, but somehow lacking in pizzazz. So, for now my working title is just “The Force”.
A number of young people who were headed down the wrong path have been given the opportunity to serve their country as an alternative to serving time. The military took people of all backgrounds, races, and religions out of their circumstances and deposited them in scenic summer camps for light exercise, fun and games. They shaved heads and faces; replaced everything so that everyone had the same clothes. In fact I believe military clothing was the first green government program. Everyone got equally trained, yelled at and praised by people of all cultures, races, and religions. All started from zero and got the same opportunity. Everyone had to do the same seemingly stupid things like making beds with military precision, cleaning latrines, kitchen police – the equivalent of “wax on, wax off“ for those who remember “The Karate Kid’. Everyone got imposed discipline which was gradually relaxed as they demonstrated greater capacity for self-discipline.
FFs need jobs. They need training to do the jobs. They need education to go on to better jobs. They need health care. The Force will provide for these needs.
Of course, FFs are disqualified from serving in the Armed Forces or for that matter being armed. So The Force will be a new organization patterned to some extent after the armed forces. How is this new force different than being in prison? It is voluntary. FFs can quit any time they want. Initially, they have to live in The Force housing, eat at the chow hall, etc. But they can get passes to leave for defined periods when they are off duty. FFs must participate in physical fitness activities and periodic community service. They will be provided with classroom and on-the-job training, a permanent job, medical benefits, housing, and appropriate attire as well as instruction and monitoring of grooming, decorum and other life skills.
The initial environment will be highly structured and job compensation nominal in recognition of the cost of clothing, housing, training and providing health care. As they demonstrate desire, capability and attitude, they may live off campus, own vehicles and otherwise enjoy the same benefits as other citizens when they are not at work. They are free to quit any time they want but they lose the benefits.
The Force will manage the SCA program itself with staff drawn heavily from the reentry population. Since difficulty getting a job is one of the main stumbling points to reentry, our money where their mouth is.
Of course, these folks will need close supervision. This is a good opportunity for military veterans. A good technical instructor has put many a person on the path to the straight and narrow. Plus, more jobs for veterans! In fact, I was going to name the program, “The Army”, but ran into a copyright issue.
Now, let’s go over the grants themselves. For these we employ techniques developed by a hypothetical program called Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/). We may even have an app.
Groups and individuals who want to apply for a grant have to provide a prospectus, business plan, budget and appropriate tracking and reporting. The initial phase of every grant will be a pilot program with milestones to assure the project is on track. If they miss major milestones, we pull the plug. Once a grant is granted, grantees should take it for granted that the grant expires and will only be regranted based on the performance of the program.
Grantees are subject to the same eligibility restrictions as game show contestants regarding relatives, friends, lobbyists and campaign contributors.
Let’s see if I forgot anything. Oh, yeah. The warranty. This program, much like the SCA is As Is. No warranty is expressed or implied.
I know. That is kind of a cop out, but I told you this wasn’t a simple problem. Besides, I already saved $5 million of tracking and reporting. Plus, we created some real jobs and skill sets that look better on the old resume than “Prison Laundry Technician”, or “License Plate Manufacturing Supervisor”. The Force won’t be with everyone but will accompany some.