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Reconsidering Incarceration, a new publication from the Vera Institute of Justice, has just been released February 23, 2007

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Although crime is up in many American cities, lawmakers should think twice before raising penalties and extending prison sentences, advises a study released today by the Vera Institute of Justice.

FBI reports of a 3.7 percent nationwide increase in violent crime in the first half of 2006–the largest annual increase in 15 years–may soon have lawmakers calling for tougher measures to protect public safety. However, after surveying the most recent research on the effectiveness of increasing incarceration to reduce crime, Don Stemen, director of research in Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections, argues in Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime that putting more people in prison may not be the most effective solution.

“Thirty years ago, prevailing wisdom was that sending people to prison was the best and only response to rising crime,” says Stemen. “But crime is a complex phenomenon, influenced by many factors. Incarceration is just one potential influence, and research shows that increasing incarceration isn’t the best or only way to reduce crime.”

Instead, Stemen’s research review suggests that policymakers consider investing in areas such as policing or education, which show equal or better correlation with lower rates of crime.
“It’s always reassuring when empirical evidence supports what one’s common sense suggests,” says David Keene of the American Conservative Union, the nation’s oldest and largest conservative lobbying group. “This study does just that for policymakers and others interested in the question of whether anything worth doing is really worth overdoing,” he says.

“The time has come for America to engage in a serious discussion to determine the best way to deal with incarceration,” agrees Richard A. Viguerie, chairman of American Target Advertising and a leading conservative voice. “The old ways have failed us.”

Little empirical study had been done to confirm or refute the effectiveness of incarceration in reducing crime rates when America began its historic reliance on prisons in the 1970s. Today, conversely, policymakers are faced with a large, complex, and sometimes contradictory body of research. By making sense of this information, Reconsidering Incarceration offers a clear, up-to-date understanding of what works best.

Highlights of the report include:

“This report could not have come at a better time,” says Vera Director Michael Jacobson, who ran New York City’s jails and probation system for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “With crime rates going up in many parts of the country, calls for harsher penalties and more prisons are inevitable. Governors, legislators, and the public need to know that more prison doesn’t equal more public safety. You can effectively provide for public safety without overinvesting in prisons.”

Between 1993 and 2005, New York City’s violent crime rate fell 64 percent. During that time, the number of people sent to prison from the city likewise dropped 47 percent, and its jail population fell 27 percent. Similarly, New York State, which leads the 10 most populous states in violent crime reduction, experienced a 58 percent decline in violent crime between 1993 and 2005. Its incarceration rate also fell during that period by 7.9 percent.

“Removing violent repeat offenders from society obviously makes sense,” concludes David Keene, “but the idea of jailing virtually everyone who breaks our laws and throwing them into institutions that are little more than warehouse lock-ups quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns.”

A copy of Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime, may be downloaded from Vera’s web site at www.vera.org/reconsideringincarceration or ordered from the Vera Institute of Justice at (212) 334-1300.

The Vera Institute of Justice is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing safety and justice, promoting fair and efficient policy and practice, and working with leaders of government and civil society to improve the systems people rely upon for safety, security, and justice. Vera is a founding member of the Altus Global Alliance.

Contact: Robin Campbell at (212) 376-3172 or rcampbell@vera.org

Learn more about Vera at www.vera.org.


Inmates pay price

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Friday, January 26, 2007
Regarding “Feds: Prison cost-cutter took bribes,” Jan. 23, since my son’s incarceration in an Oregon prison, I receive firsthand accounts of the meals provided to inmates. During my son’s stint working in the prison kitchen, he told me of preparing fish from crates labeled “Unfit for Human Consumption.”
Frequently, on special holidays, the inmates are served desserts from fast-food restaurants that expired in 2004. Consequently, many inmates pay triple the average cost in the prison commissary for healthy food items such as peanut butter, tuna fish, oatmeal and vitamins.
Many readers might say, “Well, after all, it’s prison.” It’s also a huge, thriving business at the expense of 13,000 human beings behind bars in Oregon.
Farhad “Fred” Monem, his wife and others are profiting illegally off a system that has cut treatment, vocational and educational programs for inmates — 95 percent of whom will eventually return to our Oregon communities.
JUDY FARRELL Northeast Portland

Pro-Measure 11 Mannix Focuses on Additional Ballot Measures February 5, 2007

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You can’t keep Kevin Mannix down for long.

Nine months after the hyperactive Salem lawyer suffered a lopsided defeat in the Republican primary for governor — his fourth loss in a row in a statewide race — Mannix is back in the thick of Oregon politics.

He is working on five ballot measures that could come before voters in November 2008. They range from tough-on-crime proposals to tax credits for public- and private-school parents.

In addition to running his Salem law practice, the former state lawmaker also is lobbying the Legislature for his pet causes and is spending 15 hours a week at the Capitol.

“I thought, ‘How could I be of service?'” Mannix said. “It’s me just returning to some of my old hobbies.”

His renewed focus on initiatives is a return to the arena that gave Mannix a statewide political profile in the mid-1990s.

Fellow conservative Bill Sizemore gets more attention for using the initiative system to rewrite Oregon’s laws and Constitution. But Mannix has been just as prolific getting measures on the ballot, and more effective at getting his passed.

Seven measures passed

In 1994, he helped pass three tough-on-crime initiatives, including one that stiffened prison sentences for violent felons and forced a wave of prison construction in Oregon.

Read the entire story here:


States Look to Adult Basic Education Programs in Prison to Increase Education Levels and Reduce Recidivism February 3, 2007

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Most people in prison or jail have low levels of educational achievement. According to a 2003 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 75% of state prison inmates and 69% of jail inmates did not complete high school, while only 18% of the general population age 18 or older did not complete high school. Yet, barely half of all state prisoners participate in any educational programs during their incarceration, a proportion that has been decreasing over time.

Read the whole article here: http://www.reentrypolicy.org/reentry/Document_Viewer.aspx?DocumentID=1712


Letter to the editor in the Oregonian newspaper dated January 18, 2007

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Here’s a recent letter to the editor in the Oregonian:

Oregon has done a very poor job of managing revenue over the past years. This is not the fault of our forests, rivers, lakes etc. It is the fault of the “leaders” of this state. We have tried to spend as though Oregon is an affluent state. Notice to everyone: OREGON IS NOT AN AFFLUENT STATE. We are currently ranked 29th, which is up from 34th in 2004. Yet, we are still trying to spend more for new programs, “plus raising more taxes and spending them, too”. (Oregonian) Being an affluent “wannabe” does not work. It is time someone recognizes Oregon’s problem.

“Oregon has the worst credit ratings of any state in the nation”. “Oregon’s bond rating is the third lowest of all states.” (Oregonian 1-18-07)