Category Archives: re-offend

Statehouse rally Oct 12, reform in reach

Some degree of comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts is likely in the next few months.  The question is how much.

The MA State Senate is expected to vote on its omnibus bill, S.2170, sometime in the next two weeks, perhaps on October 19th.  The House omnibus bill will probably be reported out shortly after that, and Speaker DeLeo said he hopes it will be voted on and the two bills sent to a conference committee before Thanksgiving.  Depending on how arduous that process is, we might have comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts by the end of December.  Exciting times indeed!

The biggest dangers here are that the Senate bill may be weakened by amendments, the House bill might be a lot weaker than the Senate bill, and the resulting law might not have much impact.

There may also be an opportunity to strengthen the Senate bill, especially its provisions regarding the conditions of solitary confinement.

If the proposed MA Senate omnibus became law, it would improve thousands of people’s lives.  Among other things, it would:

+  Reduce fees, fines, and other collateral consequences that trap people in a cycle of poverty and recidivism;
+  Raise the age for being tried as an adult to 19, with a mechanism to consider raising it to 20 or 21 in the future;
+  Promote the use of restorative justice;
+  Repeal mandatory minimums for lower-level drug offenses;
+  Expand eligibility for diversion to drug treatment;
+  Implement the SJC ruling that bail must be affordable;
+  Raise the felony larceny threshold from $250 to $1,500, in keeping with other states;
+  Allow records to be sealed after 3 years for misdemeanors and 7 years for felonies;
+  Restrict the use of solitary confinement and improve its conditions;
+  Provide for medical release of people who are incapacitated or terminally ill; and
+  Decriminalize disturbing a school assembly and sexual activitiy between young people close in age, also know as the Romeo and Juliet provision.

Six things you can do to help make real reform a reality:

(1)  Come to a rally for criminal justice reform today — Thursday, October 12 — 11 a.m. on the grand staircase in the State House.

(2)  Call or email your state senator and ask them to vote for the criminal justice reform omnibus bill, S.2170, without amendments that would compromise its goals.  You could add a request that they support amendments that would further improve the conditions of solitary confinement.

(3)  Call or email your state representative and ask them to make sure that Rep. Claire Cronin, the House Judiciary Committee co-chair, knows that they support a strong omnibus bill.  You could add that you hope the House bill will include some or all of the priorities listed above.  (You can look up your legislators at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator .)

(4)  Send letters to the editor to your local paper explaining why you think these issues are important and supporting the Senate omnibus bill.

(5)  Write supportive comments (questions are fine too) on Sen. Will Brownsberger’s blog at https://willbrownsberger.com/senate-criminal-justice-reform-package/

(6)  Share this information with your friends (by social media, email, or good old-fashioned conversation) and tell them you’re excited by this opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Lori Kenschaft

On behalf of EMIT leadership team

EMIT — End Mass Incarceration Together
a statewide grassroots all-volunteer working group of Unitarian Universalism Mass Action Network

The only way to reform our state’s judicial and corrections systems is through a number of bills passed over several years.
This requires regular contact with your state legislators.

​EMIT
End Mass Incarceration Together
a statewide grassroots volunteer
working group of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network
http://www.endmassincarcerationtogether.wordpress.com

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Prisons becoming obsolete in Holland

The Netherlands is running out of incarcerated people by treating them like individual human beings. From the BBC News and The Marshall Project.

By Lucy Ash BBC News, Veenhuizen 10 November 2016 Magazine While the UK and much of the world struggles with overcrowded prisons, the Netherlands has the opposite problem. It is actually short of people to lock up. In the past few years 19 prisons have closed down and more are slated for closure next year. How has this happened ­ and why do some people think it’s a problem? N

The smell of fried onions wafts up the metal staircase, past the cell doors and along the wing. Down in the kitchen inmates are preparing their evening meal. One man, gripping a long serrated blade, is expertly chopping vegetables. “I’ve had six years to practice so I am getting better!” he says.

It is noisy work because the knife is on a long steel chain attached to the worktop. “They can’t take that knife with them,” says Jan Roelof van der Spoel, deputy governor of Norgerhaven, a high­security prison in the north­east of the Netherlands. “But they can borrow small kitchen knives if they hand in their passes so we know exactly who has what.”

Some of these men are inside for violent offences and the thought of them walking around with knives might seem alarming. But learning to cook is just one of the ways the prison helps offenders to get back on track after their release.

“In the Dutch service we look at the individual,” says Van der Spoel. “If somebody has a drug problem we treat their addiction, if they are aggressive we provide anger management, if they have got money problems we give them debt counselling. So we try to remove whatever it was that caused the crime. The inmate himself or herself must be willing to change but our method has been very effective. Over the last 10 years, our work has improved more and more.”

He adds that some persistent offenders ­ known in the trade as “revolving ­door criminals” ­ are eventually given two ­year sentences and tailor­made rehabilitation programmes. Fewer than 10% then return to prison after their release.

In England and Wales, and in the United States, roughly half of those serving short sentences reoffend within two years, and the figure is often higher for young adults. Norgerhaven, along with Esserheem ­ another almost identical prison in the same village, Veenhuizen ­ have plenty of open space. Exercise yards the size of four football pitches feature oak trees, picnic tables and volleyball nets.

Van der Spoel says the fresh air reduces stress levels for both inmates and staff. Detainees are allowed to walk unaccompanied to the library, to the clinic or to the canteen and this autonomy helps them to adapt to normal life after their sentence. A decade ago the Netherlands had one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe, but it now claims one of the lowest ­ 57 people per 100,000 of the population, compared with 148 in England and Wales.

But better rehabilitation is not the only reason for the sharp decline in the Dutch prison population ­ from 14,468 in 2005 to 8,245 last year ­ a drop of 43%. The peak in 2005 was partly due to improved screening at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, which resulted in an explosion in the numbers of drug mules caught carrying cocaine.

Today the police have new priorities, according to Pauline Schuyt, a criminal law professor from the southern city of Leiden. “They have shifted their focus away from drugs and now concentrate on fighting human trafficking and terrorism,” she says. In addition, Dutch judges often use alternatives to prison such as community service orders, fines and electronic tagging of offenders. Angeline van Dijk, director of the prison service in the Netherlands, says jail is increasingly used for those who are too dangerous to release, or for vulnerable offenders who need the help available inside. “Sometimes it is better for people to stay in their jobs, stay with their families and do the punishment in another way,” she says from her brightly lit office at the top of a tower block in The Hague.

“We have shorter prison sentences and a decreasing crime rate here in the Netherlands so that is leading to empty cells.” But while recorded crime has shrunk by 25% over the past eight years, some argue that this results from the closure of police stations, as a result of budget cuts, which makes crime harder to report.

Find out more

Listen to Lucy Ash’s report Prisons for rent in the Netherlands for Assignment on the BBC World Service Click here for transmission times, or to listen online Other critics, such as Madeleine Van Toorenburg ­ a former prison governor and now the opposition Christian Democratic Appeal party’s spokeswoman on criminal justice ­ blame the shortage of prisoners on low detection rates.

“The police are overwhelmed and can’t handle their work load,” she says. “And what is the government’s response? Closing prisons. We find that surprising.” What is clear is that many of Angeline van Dijk’s staff are not happy about the lack of people to lock up. Frans Carbo, the prison guards’ representative from the FNV union, says his members are “angry and a little bit depressed”.

Young people don’t want to join the prison service he adds “because there is no future in it any more ­ you never know when your prison will be closed”. One empty prison was turned into a fancy hotel south of Amsterdam, its four most expensive suites named the The Lawyer, The Judge, The Governor and The Jailer. But others, converted into asylum reception centres, have provided work for some former prison guards. The desire to protect prison service jobs has sparked another surprising solution ­ the import of foreign inmates from Norway and Belgium.

“At one point our state secretary met the Norwegian minister of justice and said I have some cells to spare ­ you can rent one of our prisons,” says Jan Roelof van der Spoel. So last September Norway began sending some of its convicts south to serve their sentences at Van der Spoel’s prison, Norgerhaven. The governor of the prison is now a Norwegian, Karl Hillesland, but the prison guards keeping an eye on the 234 men locked up here are Dutch.

A mild­mannered former bookseller with a bushy moustache, Hillesland strikes me as an unlikely jailer. His green uniform with epaulettes looks extremely formal, and is nothing like the relaxed clothing of his Dutch colleague, but in fact Norway has a more liberal prison regime than the Netherlands, he says. Norwegian inmates are allowed, for example, to give media interviews and watch DVDs of their choice because the underlying principle is one of “normalisation”, meaning that life in prison should replicate life on the outside as closely as possible to help exoffenders reintegrate into society.

“There are some differences in the way we do things,” says Van der Spoel. “We discipline a prisoner for breaking the rules straight away whereas the Norwegians do an investigation and wait a while before imposing the punishment. For our guards that style of working was a bit tough to begin with.” “But on the whole”, says Hillesland, “we share the same basic values about how to run a prison.” He adds that a few prisoners were forced to come here from Norway but most volunteered, partly because groceries and tobacco are cheaper in Holland.

A recently installed Skype room is another big attraction at Norgerhaven. Relatives who want to visit have to pay their own travel costs, and a round trip costs at least 500 euros with an overnight in a hotel. But many of the long­term prisoners are foreign nationals who very rarely saw their families anyway when they were behind bars in Norway. Michael’s immaculately tidy cell is decorated with pictures of his football team and his four small children. A welder from northern Poland he was convicted in Norway but didn’t have access to Skype in prison there.

“My wife is busy looking after four kids and trying to hold down a job and anyway she doesn’t have the money to come and see me”, he says. “So I opted for this prison so I could see my family and not just hear their voices on the phone.” He stares at the floor for a moment or two. “After the Skype call it’s very hard ­ especially at Christmas and Easter but it is better than nothing.” As I leave through security doors and clanging gates I wonder what will happen to Norgerhaven once the Norwegians have gone in a few years’ time. The guards know that one of the Veenhuizen jails ­ Norgerhaven or Esserheem ­ will be listed for closure next year.

But could the numbers of prisoners in the Netherlands ever rise again? A walk through the village is a reminder that, in the distant past, the Netherlands locked up large numbers of citizens. It’s located in the remote, sparsely populated Drenthe province ­ a land of peat bog, fens and heather known as the “Dutch Siberia”, and a place where beggars, tramps, penniless orphans and other “undesirables” were exiled from the cities in the 19th Century.

An army general founded a reform colony in Veenhuizen, which he believed could eradicate poverty. Over time the institution morphed into a penal colony which was closed to outsiders until the 1980s. According to a demographer, one million of Holland’s 17m citizens alive today are descendants of people exiled to Veenhuizen. “That’s a huge chunk of the population,” says Amsterdam­based author Suzanna Jansen, whose grandfather was sent there for begging. “And being raised in poverty, in a difficult environment is something that could happen to any one of us, so I think we should remember that when we think about those behind bars today.”

More from the Magazine Two Norwegian institutions vie for the title of the world’s “nicest” or “most humane” prison. Inmates on the prison island of Bastoey, south of Oslo, are free to walk around in a village­style setting, tending to farm animals. They ski, cook, play tennis, play cards. They have their own beach, and even run the ferry taking people to and from the island. And in the afternoon when most prison staff go home, only a handful of guards are left to watch the 115 prisoners.

 

PEW study might do some good in MA

Alaska Draws Up Plans to Reduce Expanding Prison Population
Date:  01-20-2016

Recommendations include re-examining the bail bond system and revising drug laws

The Alaska Dispatch News reported that the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission has released recommendations on how to curb the state’s overly populated prison system. The Commission was aided byPew Charitable Trusts in drawing up the plans.

According to the Dispatch News, besides collecting data to measure the effectiveness of new laws and policies, and installing an oversight council, the recommendations include:

  • Expanding the use of citations in place of arrests for low-level, nonviolent offenses.
  • Deciding whether to release someone before trial based on the likelihood they’ll return for subsequent hearings or commit other crimes, instead of on their ability to pay a monetary bond. A review of court files showed the majority of cases required some type of monetary bond and “52 percent of sampled defendants were detained for the entirety of their pretrial period,” the report says.
  • Focusing resources on high-risk defendants — those who are “most likely to fail” or reoffend, the report says. More restrictive release conditions would be reserved for these offenders.
  • Limiting the use of prison space for low-level misdemeanor offenders by reclassifying some misdemeanors and violations, including changing disorderly conduct laws to allow for arrests but limit jail time to 24 hours, among other changes, the report says.
  • Revising drug penalties to focus the most severe punishments on serious drug crimes. Among the specific actions recommended, lawmakers are encouraged to reclassify the simple possession of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine as a misdemeanor.
  • Implementing a specialty parole option for long-term, geriatric inmates.
  • Incentivizing treatment for sex offenders with sentence reductions for completing treatment

Life after life

Mass. commissioner of Corrections Luis Spencer says his biggest expense, after staff salaries,is medical care for an aging population.

NPR did a story, Life After Life, on how Colorado is handling this giant problem, that’s only going to further bloat our corrections costs. For every 14 people released, it saves the state an estimated $1 million. 

See more here: http://www.npr.org/2014/06/04/317055077/life-after-life-aging-inmates-struggle-for-redemption

Imagine life without a driver’s license

What would you do without a driver’s license if you lived outside of a city with transit? How would you get to work?

Massachusetts state law mandates that people convicted of a drug crime lose their licenses for five years after release from prison, and must pay $500 to reinstate it. Both hardships for formerly incarcerated people add to the struggle to become employed taxpayers.

EMIT is working to change this injustice. State senators need to hear from across the state, to support the amendment to the Senate Budget proposed by Sen. Harriet Chandler, D-Worcester. Laws sometimes get passed by amendments to other bills.

We are targeting 22 state senators on May 16, 19 and 20, who need encouragement to return justice to those who want a second chance. We especially need callers to join the phone blitz who live outside of Route 128, from all over the state. 

Below is the “ask” and a list of senators who need to hear from us. Ideally, people will call who live in those senators’ districts. Don’t let that stop you! Ask friends who live in those districts to make a call. Find state legislators here.

You can also call your senator, as well as Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, 617-722-1500, and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Brewer, D-Barre, 617-722-1540.

Five to 10 calls get a legislator’s attention. Your call will impact this campaign. Please take five minutes to help. Ask five friends to do the same. It’s a small change that makes a big difference to returning citizens.  CALL on May 16, 19 and 20.

Here’s the info. THANKS!

Friend,

I’m calling to ask you to take a minute to advocate on behalf of people who have few advocates, to remedy an unjust law.

 Imagine how difficult your life would be if unable to drive. How would you work or do much else? Formerly incarcerated people convicted on a drug offense must pay at least $500, often more, to reinstate their driver’s license.

Would you take a minute to join a statewide movement to correct this injustice and make it easier for returning citizens to become employed taxpayers?

I am calling to urge Sen. _________________ [see list below] to support budget amendment 659 by Sen. Harriett Chandler to eliminate three sanctions against returning citizens who have been convicted of a drug offense: a license suspension of one to five years; an RMV* fee of $500 or more to reinstate the license; and references to drug offenses and warrants on an individual’s driving record.

The exorbitant fee of $500, (often more), is a hurdle for a returning citizen to re-join the ranks of employed taxpayers.

Obtaining a driver’s license without a $500 penalty increases the likelihood that a returning citizen will find a legal job and avoid returning to prison. Mass INC** estimates that for every 5 percent reduction in recidivism, the state saves $150 million per year.

Please join your Senate colleagues to restore justice by eliminating this RMV fee.

*Registry of Motor Vehicles

**Page 6, Mass INC free report: Crime, Cost and Consequences, Is it time to get smart on crime?

Senators to target

All numbers begin with 617-722
Stephen Brewer 1540 Barre
Gale Candaras 1291 Wilbraham
Eileen Donoghue 1630 Lowell
Benjamin Downing 1625 Pittsfield, all Berkshire county
Barry Finegold 1612 Andover
Jen Flanagan 1230 Leominster
Don Humason 1415 Westfield
Brian Joyce 1643 Milton
John Keenan 1494 Quincy
Thomas Kennedy 1200 Brockton
Joan Lovely 1410 Salem
Mike Moore 1485 Worcester & suburbs
Richard Moore 1420 Worcester & south
Therese Murray 1500 Plymouth
Kathleen O’Connor Ives 1604 Newburyport
Anthony Petruccelli 1634 E. Boston
Michael Rodrigues 1114 Fall River
Richard Ross 1555 Wrentham
Mike Rush 1348 W. Roxbury
Bruce Tarr 1600 Gloucester
James Timilty 1222 Walpole
James Welch 1660 W. Springfield

 

 

Inmates Who Get Parenting Training Are 95 % Less Likely To Report New Offenses

Education works. Now, it looks like parenting education to incarcerated people REALLY works. Now I could combine my parenting education experience with prison volunteering.

Inmates Who Get Parenting Training Are 95 % Less Likely To Report New Offenses.

via Inmates Who Get Parenting Training Are 95 % Less Likely To Report New Offenses.