Cutting Costs and Crime: Levin Quoted in New York Times

People across the country are beginning to wonder whether or not we are incarcerating ourselves out of an economy. After massive crackdowns on crime in the 90’s created hosts of stringent crimes and punishments, now millions of individuals find it almost impossible to get work. Criminal records, even for low-level non-violent offenses, can mean a life-time of rejection letters and welfare. But both sides of the table are beginning to realize this and are taking steps to mitigate it in the future. Right on Crime policy director Marc Levin was quoted in a New York Times article about the growth of conservatives’ awareness of the subject:

“There’s been a shift in people away from wanting to get even,” said Marc A. Levin, the policy director for Right on Crime, a conservative anti-crime group in Texas. “People are focused now on getting results. It really is a great benefit to public safety if ex-offenders are able to get jobs, find places to live and get occupational licenses — whether it’s from the perspective of the ex-offender or those of us who are going to live next to them.”

Read the article at the New York Times.

Giving Kids Adult Records: Cohen and Fowler in the Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News published a piece by Right on Crime policy analyst Derek Cohen and Deborah Fowler, deputy director for Texas Appleseed. They write that, despite large criminal justice reform waves sweeping across Texas, there is still one area where government over reach and inefficiency is apparent. Truancy, previously a minor misbehavior dealt with by parents and teachers, is today a crime that can earn a child an adult record. This process hurts the child, damages families, and has stunts economic growth. Handing out criminal records for behavior like truancy lowers the likelihood of the child getting a job and raises the likelihood of future welfare support.

Texas is one of only two states (the other is Wyoming) that employ the criminal justice system to punish truancy. The Texas Education Code — the body of law that regulates the activity of all educational institutions in the state — empowers school districts to file a criminal complaint against a child as young as 10 who has missed three days of school. After 10 missed days within a six-month period, however, the district’s discretion is removed and it is required to file against the child.

This is known as “Failure to Attend School,” or FTAS, a Class C misdemeanor that can carry up to $500 in fines and leave an indelible mark on the child’s criminal record. These fines are levied all too often on low-income families who don’t have the savings to pay them. If a child or parent is unable to pay the $500, or if the child misses one more day after adjudication, he or she can face jail time for the violation of a valid court order. In addition to the burden this places on families, the criminalization of truancy is a drain on limited court resources.

In addition, NBC News affiliate KXAN-Austin interviewed Cohen on the issue of truancy in Texas schools. Watch the clip below.

 

 

Overcriminalization in America: No Home for Justice

All Jack and his wife Jill Barron wanted was a home near their family for retirement. After going through all of the necessary permitting, they purchased the land where they intended to build. But soon the EPA alleged that the land might be a wetland and began restricting building on the site. Eventually the EPA brought felony charges on Jack for bringing gravel on to his property. This sparked a legal fight that threatened Jack with federal prison.

After extensive legal fees and a great deal of time and stress on the part of the couple, a jury decided that the property had not been proved to be a wetland and found Jack not guilty. But the EPA continues to require Jack to restore the property to its original state, prohibiting his development. [Read more...]

This is the first of a series of films that looks at what happens in an overcriminalized society. A couple can lose their life savings in legal fights through overgrown bureaucracy.

Representative Ulery Working with Dartmouth on Criminal Costs Project

Represent Ulery is working with the Policy Research Shop of the Nelson D. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College on the costs of incarceration in the New Hampshire State Prison system.  A team of students under the direction of Visiting Assistant Professor Matthew Cravens is using a previously introduced bill which Ulery Co-Sponsored with Senator Sharon Carson to attempt to control the costs of imprisonment as a starting point.  That bill was held for Interim Study and needed additional information.  “The introduction of the bill was an attempt to bring to light the high costs associated with imprisonment and seek alternatives” said Ulery of his support.  Ulery commented that “while New Hampshire is ranked as one of the safest States in the nation, we have some of highest costs per person.  That is an area that can and should be addressed.”

The students in the project hail from as far away as Korea, but include folks from Memphis and Ft. Lauderdale as well.  Ulery will bring his work in Criminal Justice in the past, recommendations from fellow legislators, association with Right On Crime think tank and his participation in ALEC to the task.  The Research Group will examine alternative approaches to incarceration that have reduced costs in Hawai’i and Texas.  Perhaps more importantly, such approaches have reduced recidivism and thus criminal activity in those states. Said Ulery, “It is hoped that the scholastic research of this group will develop data to help New Hampshire reduce criminal behavior and reduce what some estimate as the $33,000/per prisoner annual costs” http://www.jailnation.com/nh/.   Armed with the data developed and analyzed over the next few months effective legislation supporting the goals of reducing recidivism and prison costs is planned to be introduced by Ulery should he be re-elected.

Jordan Ulery
Hillsborough-37
NH State Representative
163rd General Court

Pat Nolan: Fear of Crime and the Prison Build Up

Pat Nolan, Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the American Conservative Union Foundation and Right on Crime Director of Outreach, talks about how being a former legislator and having served time in prison has made it clear for him to see the bureaucracy within the criminal justice system. This is a driving factor in his passion for reform. Here, on The Vera Institute “Justice In Focus”, he shares his experience.