“Ban the Box” is a movement in States and communities to have employers eliminate questions about whether or not an applicant has a criminal background. These questions keep millions of people from even being considered for employment.
America’s passion for imprisonment driven by the “war on drugs” has resulted in a truly incredible proportion of the population with a criminal background.
So, we as a nation are confronted with a policy decision, “Do we make them unemployable as former criminals with all the costs that entails or do we facilitate re-entry into society?” It’s an important decision. The productivity, the potential, of millions of Americans is huge. Equally, the loss in tax money and social disruption of creating a permanent underclass is also huge.
I worked in criminal justice for some years. When I’m teaching my classes, I tell my students that it’s okay to tell me if they have committed a crime but never tell their classmates. I get that people who commit crimes have to re-enter or be some kind of pariah. Most people don’t. Media stoked fear of the other is a vicious ratings builder.
If someone has done their time and paid their penalty, they should have a second chance. Second chances are in a real way what America is about.
Target Will Stop Asking People Their Criminal Histories On Job Applications | ThinkProgress
The big box retailer Target will stop asking prospective employees about their criminal records on job applications, the company announced over the weekend. The decision signals an important move toward helping former inmates who struggle to find work because of employment discrimination.
Advocacy groups for ex-offenders’ rights have pushed for years to “Ban the Box,” a phrase referring to the box on an employment application that asks about someone’s criminal past. The question, administered before a person has a chance to even land an interview, can disqualify otherwise eligible candidates off the bat.
But, starting at the beginning of next year, Target will wait until making a provisional job offer before inquiring about a prospective employee’s criminal record, giving candidates the chance to make their case before an employer passes judgement. The company’s decision comes just a few months after Minnesota — where Target is headquartered — approved a “Ban the Box” statute.
“The Box” can be one of the main barriers of re-entry for people with a criminal past. When an employer sees that box checked, it can be an automatic disqualifier. And the practice is so widespread that it can really hurt the chances for employment for ex-offenders. Surveys show that%
As I noted in my last post, this week is devoted to checking on the status of legislation affecting ex-offenders.
One of the more effective strategies — and one that seems to be gaining steam — is the ”Ban the Box”
grassroots campaign. The box, of course, is that section of the
employment application that asks about whether you have a criminal
record. The question can come in a variety of forms as blogger James Walker notes in his very comprehensive post. Sometimes
it’s even a series of questions, as I discovered when my son recently
applied at our local grocery store for a job as a bag boy. These are
usually yes/no questions, typically followed by a space where you’re
asked to explain any charges in further detail.
The problem is that once you check ”Yes,” your application often
goes no further. One human resources professional recently told me
that in cases where someone answered yes in an online application at
his former employer, the application was automatically deleted.
Since 2003, some 30 cities states and counties have eliminated the box and the question from applications.
If you go down the page you will see a article from the Huffington Post in which an attorney suggests, I suppose the best way to put it, is that in the current case of the Missouri teen, that she was to blame. This makes me very angry. Bizarrely enough, I think you shouldn’t take advantage of 14 year old girls.
I think that it is obvious that rape is wrong but it apparently in many people’s minds carries a lot of caveats. Apparently that caveated definition always begins with the phrase: “What did she expect…”, which I have been hearing now for a good thirty years. This is often followed, in no particular order – when she dressed like that, – when she got into the car with him, – when she drank that much, – when she flirted like that, – when she went to his apartment at two in the morning, etc. You can probably think of a few I missed.
Raping women is wrong. Let me throw a little radical thought your way. Rape is a crime. It is not punishment for women’s misbehavior. It is a crime for which the perpetrator should go to prison. It is not a crime of passion, it is an assertion of power by a male without character or breeding.
And let me add these little thoughts –
A gentleman does not have sex with an unconscious woman.
A gentleman does not get a woman drunk to avoid getting her consent.
A gentleman realizes that no matter how a lady is dressed, how late it is, how drunk she is, that his duty is to protect and honor, all the time, every time.
Joseph DiBenedetto: ‘I’m Not Saying She Deserved To Be Raped, But…’
“What did she expect to happen at one in the morning after sneaking out?” attorney Joseph DiBenedetto said on Shephard Smith Reports. “I’m not saying — assuming that these facts are accurate and this did happen — I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but knowing the facts as we do here including what the prosecutor has set forth, this case is going nowhere and it\’s going nowhere quick.”
Shep Smith immediately jumped in and refuted his claims.
“What you’ve done, Joseph, is taken an alleged victim of rape and turned her into a liar and a crime committer,” he said. “That’s a far jump from a 1,000 miles away.\”
I call this an epidemic in our military because the numbers are staggering. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women in the military are sexually assaulted. (McDonough) A March 26 report by the Institute of Medicine said sexual assault and rape have “been occurring at high rates throughout U.S. armed forces, including the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters.” (Maze) The DOD (Department of Defense) estimated that last year around 19,000 service members are sexually assaulted each year. Thousands of our brave soldiers are being assaulted by their fellow brothers and sisters. The psychological damage of being betrayed by someone you are supposed to trust with your life has to be incredibly scarring.
The military even has a term for those who are suffering from the effects of sexual assault; it is called MST (Military Sexual Trauma). The military has reports done every year, and they have a division SAPRO (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office) that handles policies and training around sexual assault crimes. So why are the numbers so high? “Only a small fraction of the incidents, 3,192 in 2011, are reported, and a mere 10 percent of those cases proceed to trial — hardly enough to create meaningful deterrence to criminal behavior and establish accountability.”(NYT Editorial)
A few years ago, it was not clear whether or not America’s preoccupation with long prison sentences for even minor crimes would even be possible of change. But now, there is a definite away from such policies as “three strikes,” etc. It is one of the most historically important changes in the history of criminal justice in the United States.
Over the past forty years, we went from a nation that relied much more heavily on rehabilitation to a nation with the highest incarceration in the world. That high incarceration emasculated state budgets causing cuts in all kinds of traditional services and made it impossible for states to deal with long term problems like deteriorating infrastructure.
I am delighted that these policies are changing. The freed up human potential and the enormous sums of money available because of these changes will make American a better place to live.
Why does Norway have a 21-year maximum prison sentence?
There are essentially five goals of sentencing: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. The last of these, rehabilitation, is probably one of the most controversial. In the U.S., for example, rehabilitation is considered a secondary goal, after retribution. Americans want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second.
This appeals to a societal sense of justice and fair play that has considerable cultural inertia in our country. Any talk of prioritizing rehabilitation ahead of retribution very typically generates complaints about how doing so will endanger public safety, ignore the needs of crime victims, and—most damning of all—coddle criminals.Never mind that certain forms of rehabilitation have been shown through research to reduce the risk of future offending, we want our pound of flesh first and foremost.
The same is not true the world over, though. Norway, by contrast, has a very progressive approach to sentencing that prioritizes rehabilitation as a primary strategy for reducing future criminal behavior. That doesn’t mean they don’t use prisons, it just means that the conditions of confinement are geared toward reducing the risk that an offender will return to a life of crime after release
As the author well notes, not everyone shares American’s passion for punishment. As I often tell my students, one of the reasons we should become familiar with other cultures is that any system that has functioned successfully over a long period of time has to have some good ideas, and every culture needs thought renewal and the occasional shake up to develop. This is one of those ideas that deserves examination.
The Washington Monthly – Ten Miles Square – Why The Prison Population is Falling
The number of people incarcerated went up every single year from the mid 1970s until 2009. Over that more than 30 year period, there have been economic booms and contractions, changes in the relative strength of the major political parties, alterations in the demographic makeup of the US general population, the waxing and waning of drug epidemics, and countless other changes in American life. What that should tell us is that any simple explanation for why America has the prison policy it does at any given time is wrong or at least incomplete.
Pew notes that over the past 5 years, incarceration fell in 29 states (ruling out another simple explanation: that this is all due to the court order to reduce overcrowding in California prisons). …
Faith-based prison programs: New study suggests religion may help criminals justify their crimes.
A new study in the academic journal Theoretical Criminology (hat tip to the Vancouver Sun) suggests that, far from causing offenders to repent of their sins, religious instruction might actually encourage crime. The authors surveyed 48 “hardcore street offenders” in and around Atlanta, in hopes of determining what effect, if any, religion has on their behavior. While the vast majority of those surveyed (45 out of 48 people) claimed to be religious, the authors found that the interviewees “seemed to go out of their way to reconcile their belief in God with their serious predatory offending. They frequently employed elaborate and creative rationalizations in the process and actively exploit religious doctrine to justify their crimes.”
First of all, many interviewees had only a vague notion of the central tenets of their faiths. Take, for example, an 18-year-old robber whose “street name” was Que:
Que: I believe in God and the Bible and stuff. I believe in Christmas, and uh, you know the commitments and what not.
Int: You mean the Commandments?
Que: Yeah that. I believe in that.
Int: Can you name any of them?
Que: Ahhh … well, I don’t know … like don’t steal, and uh, don’t cheat and shit like that. Uhmm … I can’t remember the rest.
Religion has not been a consistent force for morality. Savage wars, greed, theft and torture have all been favored by Christianity at various points in history. Other religions have similar checkered pasts. It is not surprising that prison preaching is not having the quite the effect expected.
It doesn’t help that the Bible is a complex work whose division into single verses complicates understanding. (I promise you that if you read the bible organized as paragraphs and books not verses, you will find that it is a much more consistent and eloquent document than when it is organized into brief comments – that get tossed like missiles by varying denominations and zealots of all stripes.)
It might do well to conduct studies to find out what religious systems are most effective in curbing recidivism.
I doubt that will happen. The results could be very dangerous. After all, what would people say if the Muslim Brotherhood was most effective in curbing later crime.
The United States keeps no official statistics on religious beliefs of inmates. The claim that atheists were under-represented in prisions was seemingly started, by Rod Swift, who wrote it on his website, and publicized the claim through the internet and sceptical magazines. He claims that he received an email from an employee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Denise Golumbaski. According to this email, 0.2% of those surveyed specifically answered they were “atheist” and 19.8% give no answer. This compares with 0.5% of the US population at the time who identified as atheist, and 4 to 6% (according to Gallop) who gave no answer.
From the web site, The Penal System: (This is an interview with Pete Brook – it’s fascinating – you should read it!)
People have to care about each other. It’s just really bizarre in a country that has professed Christian ideals that when it comes to the prison system people don’t seem to love their neighbour, they seem to hate their neighbour. They seem to have an incredible amount of indifference towards the fortune of their neighbour. I mean I’m not a religious person I’m not saying that you should let these people out because of Christian ideals. It makes it easy when I’m chatting to my parents because they’re catholic and I’m like Jesus is all about visiting people in prison and stuff. But it’s a very easy line of argument to use when you’re dealing with conservatives. You should care because that’s what you talk about elsewhere.
Our conservative government has also taken away funding for religious groups other than Christians in an effort to save money. Before the government looks at saving nickels and dimes in the prison system perhaps they should look at how much money is wasted by other government departments, maybe our Defense Minister could not waste billions of taxpayer dollars.
Justice Department’s New Get-Tough Policy Is, Well, Not | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
I get that regulators are worried about job losses. They should be. But the long-term job losses are going to be much greater when investors around the world lose confidence in the U.S. financial system because they recognize that individuals do not face punishment for criminal activity. The individual incentive not to commit crime on Wall Street now is almost zero. Even the worst of the worst – like, say, a certain unindicted co-conspirator in an evolving insider trading case – is only threatened with individual prosecution after years of monstrous and obvious market manipulation, resulting in massive profits that he’ll almost certainly get to keep most of, by the way, if previous settlements are any guide.
It continually amazes, the way all of these law-and-order types are so willing to pontificate about the importance of taking individual responsibility for one’s actions, until the guy in their crosshairs is someone he/she went to college with, or a former client of his or her law firm. Then, suddenly, their idea of drastic justice becomes maybe yanking the license of a foreign subsidiary.
Two standard of justice exist in this country. One for those in the government and the higher circles of income and influence and another for the “common” people. If you have been following my blog for the last few years, you will encounter wrong doing among the banking fraternity and the government going unpunished on a regular basis. When there is some justice, it is almost pathetic how little penalty the investment banks and their enablers face.
But study crime in the United States, and you will note vast penalties handed out for very small crimes indeed particularly drug crimes. My personal favorite is the woman doing fifteen years for a third possession of marijuana. This is what passes for justice.
This poem is from the 17th Century.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.
The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.
Restorative Justice, Culture of Care in Schools, and Restorative Practices in Schools: Increased interest since Friday’s events
Interest in the work of restorative justice in schools has increased since the events of last Friday. Here is an outline of what I offer schools. Restorative Justice in Schools Educators and policymakers’ interest in Restorative Justice is growing as they learn that the results of zero tolerance policies are not working. In fact, the capacity of students and teachers to respond to wrongdoing and conflict in a nonviolent way is lacking. As a result, some schools have adopted restorative justice practices. However, these practices are generally used outside of the classroom. This training is unique in that it focuses on building the capacity of teachers and students to respond in a caring and peaceful way to wrongdoing and conflict in the classroom.
I have taken an interest in the Restorative Justice movement. I am well aware that it is not a panacea for society’s problems in criminal justice but it seems to me like a useful tool for community maintenance and building.
Mr. Cavanagh provides a service that teaches schools how to use restorative justice. This is a very positive step. As he remarks above, the no-tolerance policies of the last few years have been disasters. I’m not going to mince words about no-tolerance. it removed judgment and intelligence in discipline to avoid controversy. It is the job of administrator in schools to deal with controversy. Tossing out thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of students, is a disaster for the country and for them.
The field of criminal justice is full of difficulties. It is full of controversy and ridiculous coverage by the media. We need new ways of thinking. It’s time.
Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders.
Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:
identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
involving all stakeholders, and
transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.
This paper provides a brief overview of restorative justice principles and addresses several key issues the focus group members identified that serve as a promising foundation from which teen courts can begin to move toward integrating more restorative justice-based practices within their programs. Key issues discussed include how youth courts can rethink the role of victims and the community within their programs, how youth courts can alter the way that their proceedings and practices are structured, and how youth courts can rethink and redefine sentencing options so that they are based on the restorative justice philosophy.
And still the question remained… what exactly should I do about it? Obviously they lose the credit for the assignments, but what else? What is an appropriate punishment? This is where Restorative Justice provided an interesting and useful answer. My understanding of the process, limited to just my experience using it today, is that it centers around a series of questions that the transgressor tries to answer:
“What happened?” “What were you thinking about at the time?” “What have you thought about since?” “Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?” “What do you think you need to do to make things right?
What I like about this approach is that it puts the work of figuring out the situation and facing its full complexity on the transgressor. Instead of the authority figure giving a lecture or handing down a punishment that the student endures, they are forced to grind through the whole thing themselves. Of course, as they work on it I can set the bar higher if an answer isn’t satisfactory, and I did have to do that several times today.
For example, one student started out equivocating on the very first question, “What happened?” And instead of getting into an argument about it, I just said, “Well, some of the evidence I have indicates that you’ve done more than just use the posted solutions for ideas or reference.” I put the results of my diff on the table and then I let him try again at answering the question. So this is not a way that people get off the hook for what they’ve done.
Aaron Swartz suicide: Prosecutors have too much power to charge and intimidate people for their crimes. – Slate Magazine
The underlying point Boyd is making, I think, is that the government doesn’t understand hackers and isn’t good at distinguishing between miscreant vigilantes like Swartz who are trying to free information systems and profit-driven or diabolical hackers who are trying to bring down those systems. That’s when an expansive law like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act becomes dangerous. Prosecutors persuaded of their own righteousness, and woodenly equating downloading a deliberately unprotected database with stealing, lose all sense of proportion and bring in the heavy artillery when what’s in order is a far more mild penalty.
I’d like to tell you that the prosecutorial overreach that took place in Swartz’s case rarely happens. But that’s not true. There are many principled prosecutors who only bring charges they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. But there are also some who bring any charge they can think of to induce a defendant who may be guilty of a minor crime to plead guilty to a major one. These cases usually are hard to call attention to: They’re not about innocence, easy and pure. They’re about the muddier concept of proportionality. If any good at all can come from Swartz’s unspeakably sorrowful death, maybe it will be how this case makes prosecutors—and the rest of us—think about the space between guilt and innocence.
There are some real villains here. The federal prosecutor, Carmen M. Ortiz and, of course, MIT.
I’m disgusted by the government’s and MIT’s actions in the case. There is nothing that Swartz did that was worthy of a day in prison much less 35 years of prison time. MIT did everything they could to actively push the case while giving the public the impression that they weren’t. Nice try, but the simple fact is, that without MIT’s heavy cooperation, the government would have had great difficulty making a case at all.
A few days ago, the government decided not to prosecute HSBC, a bank, that laundered nine billion dollars of money for drug cartels but they were pursuing a case against a man who “stole” documents that should have been accessible to the public for free, a man who sought no monetary profit at all.
I find these remarks by Lawrence Lessig to be dead on point:
Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.
For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”
This is the most shocking news for the Computer and Internet industries, a deafening blow for all those campaigners who demand internet freedom and for technology enthusiasts in general. Aaron Swartz is dead. Worst still is the fact that he has committed suicide. As the web mourns the demise of a computer prodigy whose body of work had very few parallels, the injustice done to him by the US prosecution and the MIT is very visible and very disheartening, and that’s putting it mildly.
Aaron was facing criminal charges for stealing more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service. And if found guilty he faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine. But then he was also the face of the struggle against US laws of SOPA and PIPA as well as other government imposed sanctions that threatened to restrict internet freedom and which have been opposed by all major internet organizations including Google and Wikipedia.
A lot of people close to Aaron smelled foul play on the part of the US prosecution and the MIT because even JSTOR decided not to press charges against Aaron.
The Guardian quoted the statement given by Aaron’s family, “Aaron’s death in not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
As Aaron said, ” Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” It is really painful to see someone brilliant – in fact, an enfant terrible going by what Aaron had done in a span of handful years – heeding to Plato’s injunction, “The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in Government, is to suffer under the Government of bad men”, ” making an attempt to change the modern powerful structures, go down.
P.S : One of the talks by Swartz How to Get A Job Like Mine, basically his personal story, bookmarked in my folder some time back, is a real classic with “just the facts.”
As I wrote a while ago, the feds decided to push for internet censorship via their last best hope: the free markets.
Big telecom companies are coming up with their own means by which to wipe certain people with certain ideas off the “internets”. I guess it’s payback for all that retroactive immunity they got from the Bush and Obama administrations when they could have been sued out the ying yang for allowing the feds to spy on us.
The idea is basically this: Verizon will tell it’s customers when someone files a claim against them for copyright infringement. Verizon will give their users “x” amount of warnings then reduce their internet speed to something like a dial-up connection which will basically take them off the web for all intents and purposes.
As Aaron pointed out in a lecture he gave a year or so ago, the use of the ubiquitous “copyright infringement” charge is a dangerous and sweeping tool to use to shut down certain people. Everything is copyrighted by someone out there and the laws governing how much of what one can use are mirky at best.
Verizon claims they will set up a review panel with the American Arbitration Association and if you pay them $35 bucks they will review your case and find in favor of Verizon.
I find it very odd that Aaron just happened to take his own life when Verizon was about to launch this new SOPA/PIPA program of theirs own their own customers. I also find it odd that he was going to try his hacking case in court which would have brought tons of negative publicity down on JSTOR, portraying them as the guardians of knowledge for the elites.
Charles Ferguson: How Financial Criminalization Crashed the Economy, and the Culprits Got Off Scot-Free
It is no exaggeration to say that since the 1980s, much of the American (and global) financial sector has become criminalized, creating an industry culture that tolerates or even encourages systematic fraud. The behavior that caused the mortgage bubble and financial crisis was a natural outcome and continuation of this pattern, rather than some kind of economic accident.
It is important to understand that this behavior really is seriously criminal. We are not talking about neglecting some bureaucratic formality. We are talking about deliberate concealment of financial transactions that aided terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation, and large-scale tax evasion; assisting in concealment of criminal assets and activities by others; and directly committing frauds that substantially worsened the worst financial bubbles and crises since the Depression.