Monday, June 25, 2007

Second Chance Act author speaks at Kerrville conference

The opening speaker yesterday at the national Restorative Justice Conference in Kerrville was Congressman Danny K. Davis of Illinois, author of the Second Chance Act presently pending in Congress, the most significant piece of federal prisoner re-entry legislation ever proposed.

Davis predicted the legislation would pass the House of Representatives before the August recess, and thanks to Republican support he thought it should be favorably received in the Senate in the fall.

He offered a telling anecdote, though, that displays how nasty politics around these issues can be: "Someone put out a press release" about the bill, he revealed, "that said the US would do more for ex-offenders than they do for soldiers coming home from Iraq." That scared many supporters and caused him to slow down the bill for time to negotiate with critics. Now, though, he thinks obstacles have been cleared for the bill's passage.

This attack on the Second Chance Act brings to mind two observations: First, Incarcerating people in prison is MUCH more expensive than any amount of money spent on re-entry. Plus if that person commits another crime, taxpayers spend even more on them. Failing to spend money on re-entry is penny wise and pound foolish.

Second, whose fault is it besides Congress' that we aren't taking care of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan? We've been at war longer than World War II went on, so they've had plenty of opportunities to take care of soldiers if they really cared to do so. Congressman Davis didn't say who'd attacked his bill, but I'd be willing to bet that whoever it was hasn't proposed services for returning military personnel that would balance the score.

I hope Congressman Davis is right that the Second Chance Act can pass this year. The criticisms of the bill sound more political than substantive.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, your post tells me that you simple do not understand this "war". This is not a war in the classic sense, this is a "tug of war" (for lack of a better term in a comment) for the future.

It not only will take longer than WW2, as you've pointed out, it will be on going. It is not a "war". We need to define it correctly and stop injecting these terms into debates about releasing criminals early or not.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN - First, the Second Chance Act has nothing to do with "releasing criminals." Also, I didn't bring the war into the topic, (probably Republican) opponents of the bill did. I agree about not interjecting one issue into another - if opponents hadn't gone there, I never would have, either.

That said, if this is a tug of war for the future, then Iraq must be the mudpit we fell into - I think that means we lost! I don't think that's the case. The "war for the future" won't be won on the battlefield but because of technology, commerce, and who can most rapidly react to and capitalize on globalization's changing dynamics. In all those areas the Middle East war makes it harder to win the real war for the future, and more likely we just stay bogged down in a big mess while other countries gain, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. We haven't fell "into the mudpit" at all! Quit listening to those you want to hear. Is Iraq a great place to be? Please. But is it a failure? Not at all!

Look, how long did it take you guys to convince a Fed Judge that Texas prisons suck? Waaaaaay longer than we've been in Iraq, no?

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN - We'll have to agree to disagree on that, because I thought we failed the moment we went to Iraq. It was a strategic mistake IMO even if it had gone well. As it turns out it was a strategic disaster.

I'd LOVE to be proven wrong on that, btw - your boy GWB has about 18 months to git-r-done. best,

Anonymous said...

But of course, we are destined to disagree. Check your email. And Git-r-done.

RoAN

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Kerrville....

Just an FYI......


Judge: TYC deal won’t affect district

By Alison Beshur
The Daily Times

Published June 25, 2007

County leaders won’t negotiate with any bidders for part of the Kerr County Juvenile Detention Center if their plans adversely affect the local school district.

Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley said he and Kerr County Commissioner Bill Williams have been designated by the Commissioners’ Court to negotiate with a contractor for the Texas Youth Commission. Tinley said he would not vote for or recommend a contract that adversely affected the Kerrville Independent School District.

He expects other Commissioners’ Court members to agree.

“Myself and Commissioner Williams

have had direct discussions and have informed them (bidders) that we will not enter into a transaction and did not feel the full court would enter into a transaction which would adversely impact KISD,” Tinley said. “I think the court not only trusts our judgment, but sees the wisdom in the position we’re taking.”

Texas Youth Commission recently issued requests for proposals for part of the local facility. Four bids were returned to the state agency, but remain sealed until a contractor is selected, said TYC spokesman Tim Savoy.

Then, the selected contractor has to negotiate with county officials for the use of the 48-bed facility owned by Kerr County. That 20,000-square-foot facility is about 10 years old and unoccupied.

A smaller building in the same complex currently houses between seven and 12 pre-adjudicated youth from the local area.

TYC’s RFP included a section on educational services, and in it, bidders were required to provide an annual school calendar, holiday activity schedule and a description of the on-site educational services. If the bidder plans to use a local educational agency, then it had to provide documentation showing the local school district’s willingness to provide the services, according to the RFP.

Last week, KISD board of trustees passed a resolution opposing any contract for the facility “if that endeavor utilizes the Kerrville Independent School District as the educational services provider.”

KISD Superintendent Dan Troxell told board members before the vote that he opposed a contractor operating the facility, because KISD would have to provide educational services. Providing those services would negatively affect the school district’s budget by about $192,000 and hurt its academic performance rating with the state, Troxell said.

To cover that cost, Troxell predicted that KISD would have to tap into additional local taxes by increasing the rate by 1.5 cents per $100,000 valuation or more than a third of the maximum the state allows for revenue increases by public school districts.

“Thus, in the long-term, KISD will most likely cut programs for local children in order to pay for a TYC facility for children who do not reside in our community,” Troxell said in a letter to Tinley that was referenced during last week’s meeting.

Troxell also noted that if it couldn’t recruit five highly qualified teachers, it could face sanctions from the Texas Education Agency and the U.S. Department of Education.

“Ultimately, however, the district might be faced with being designated as ‘Academically Unacceptable’ by the Texas Education Agency,” Troxell wrote. “Such a designation would have a tremendously negative impact not only on the school district, but on Kerr County as well.”

Contrary to Troxell’s arguments about academic performance, the state’s education code made provisions for court-ordered residents of facilities operated by TYC contractors. Those students won’t be included in a local school district’s ratings, said TYC spokesman Savoy.

Troxell responded to only two possible bidders — Eckerd Youth Alternatives and Southwest Key Programs. The latter of the two later informed Troxell that they no longer intended to submit a proposal.

Tom Denham, director of communications for Eckerd Youth Alternatives, said the Florida-based not-for-profit hadn’t completed before the submission deadline all of the negotiating for the educational services portion of the bid.

“We are really flexible in this proposal and would consider all options including coordinating services with a charter school,” Denham said.

Even if academic ratings aren’t affected, Tinley said he still would oppose any contracts that negatively affected KISD in any way.

“I’m still going to protect KISD or Kerr County taxpayers,” Tinley said. “I’m one of them.”

Tinley emphasized that county officials have not negotiated or signed any contracts.

“Nothing’s been proposed,” Tinley said. “We don’t have an agreement. They’re going to have to strike a deal with us if they want to use it.”

Commissioner Buster Baldwin said he also would oppose a contract that hurt the local school district.

“I’m paying close attention to the desires of KISD,” Baldwin said. “The focus should go to KISD as opposed to a state agency. Anything we can do locally for local people with local tax dollars that is where my heart is.”

JT Barrie said...

Even IF there were "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq - GW would have lied to gain support for the war. It's the same with the other "forever war": the one on drugs - or more honestly the war on a specific class of drug abusers. Like early drug warriors GW made absolutely no serious attempt to verify the danger to this country and its citizens before making wild claims and mobilizing the country for war. In both cases the resultant problems were self-inflicted: they did not exist before the war started.
And BTW, the Second Chance Act is an effort to reconnect people who were the targets of the drug war and other punitive legislation. Those people were intended to be victimized by the drug war and this act undermines the real intent of drug prohibition. Of course if the drug war were an act of micromanagement it would be the completion of its deeper true intent: control of the masses.

Charles Benninghoff said...

There are actually two Second Chance Acts! The one written about is by
Congressman Davis and is HR 1593. The other is the "Second Chance Act for
Ex-Offenders of 2007" by Congressman Charles Rangel and is HR 623. I write
extensively about the second on our site The
Rehabilitated Project
(www.rehabilitated.org). A very important recent book
by Professor Bruce Western entitled Punishment and Inequality in America
(Russell Foundation 2006)at chapter 6, entitled "Incarceration, Marriage and
Family Life" cites as the over-riding reason for the break-up of so many black
families the decreased possibility of black ex-offenders to find employment. In
fact, Western cites statistics showing that while more than 60% of white females
aged 28-32 are married, less than 30% of their black counterparts are. 
Both Davis' and Rangel's bills seek to overcome this problem for our entire
nation, because all ex-offenders to some degree are greatly effected by the
inability to obtain employment. Case studies, however, show that ex-offender
employees are less likely to re-offend than their "clean" co-workers. For
example, Mens' Wearhouse has a policy of hiring qualified ex-offenders and their
company reports losses far less than industry averages. Rangel's bill would
allow a federal ex-offender to apply for an expungement of his conviction after
meeting certain, very strict, requirements. Many states have similar solutions
for their own ex-offenders.  It is in America's own best interest to help
ex-offenders find employment and thereby stop the recidivism rate which now
exceed 70% of all released offenders being re-incarcerated within 3 years of
release due, largely, to their inability to become productive members of our
society.
Charles Benninghoff

Webmaster@Rehabilitated.Org