California May Ease Restrictions on Media Access to Prisoners

The California State Assembly is considering a bill that would ease restrictions for members of the press to interview prisoners. The legislation, known as AB-1270, passed unanimously out of the Public Safety Committee Jan. 10 before being referred on to the Appropriations Committee. The bill, sponsored by Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Ammiano, requires the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) to permit reporters to interview inmates personally in California's prison unless the warden determines the interview poses an immediate threat to public safety or the security of the institution. Reporters must request the interview in advance.

Grandson Comes Home From Prison, What do You do Now?

Our failure to plan ahead when helping loved ones adjust to life outside of “the Prison Industrial Complex” is comparable to re-teaching a youngster how to walk again after a serious injury. You take it one step at a time.

Here is a letter recently received by the JJIE:

I have a grandson in prison in North Carolina. After he is released, he is coming [to Georgia]. I am trying to get things together for him before he comes. Can you offer me any advice? -- Lynn

This is a common occurrence for far too many grandparents. One of the first things I would advise is gather as much personal information about this young man that his parents, family or former neighbors can offer. It is important to attempt to develop a healthy adult relationship with him.

It is equally important that your expectations are discussed in detail so that misunderstandings can be avoided. I would be careful not to dwell on the past but instead highlight the realistic things this young man can accomplish in the future.

When dealing with young adults it is essential that boundaries be set that are reasonable and productive. Life is full of rules whether we like it or not. I would encourage you to explain to your grandson that this is an opportunity to restart your life and to explain how better opportunities can be available when you constantly put your personal view of the future in proper perspective.

I would emphasize over and over that this can be a new lease on life for your grandson. One that requires being very intentional and committed about what he wants and expects out of life.

This is a time when the emphasis on careful planning must always be highlighted. I would strongly urge you to find out what specific work skills your grandson has. I would take him on a visit to a technical school or career academy that has personnel to assess the level of interest he has in a given profession. These are probably ideas that no one has truly taken the time to explain to your grandson.

I would then encourage you to sit down with him and discuss the options and then insist he commit to one of the professions after careful consideration. I would help him list the pros and cons of his decision making.

Many grandparents will discover that these young men typically have not given much thought to developing long-range personal goals. This is an opportunity to discuss the importance of having significant life goals. It is also an appropriate time to discuss the importance of working hard and smart to achieve personal goals.

This is a key time when grandparents must deliberately guide their grandchildren into healthy relationships that potentially will have a positive impact in their lives. I would try to provide several healthy group options for interactions for your grandson. I would not hesitate to take advantage of some of your personal contacts whether it is in the church, valued friends or other community based organizations.

It is possible that there are already support groups in place that address many of the issues that you and your grandson will be confronted with.

I would challenge your grandson to come up with his own personal plan, with your input, of course, so that he has ownership. I would then encourage you to monitor the success of this personal plan on a weekly then on a monthly basis.

There is much research out there on what it takes to turn around troubled youth. My advice would be to access some of this information as quickly as possible and implement your plan.

Prison and the Crucial Role of Nonviolent Communication

I saw a lot of violence during my years in prison in Georgia. Most of the time, however, this violence happened because of miscommunication. Rumors about what one guy had said about another, or allegations of some misconduct such as stealing, would lead to a confrontation. The accused would feel trapped into responding with violence. The culture was attuned to respect, and instances of disrespect were seen as reasonable grounds for hitting someone, or at least threatening them.

Beyond Scared Straight Renewed for Second Season

The controversial reality television program “Beyond Scared Straight” will return for a second season on the A&E cable network. The show follows a small group of at-risk kids as they are taken inside prison where inmates try to scare them away from lives of crime by yelling at them and describing the brutal reality of prison life. Juvenile justice experts have derided the show for advocating a program that many studies have shown to be not only ineffective, but also counter-effective, increasing the likelihood that kids will commit crimes in the future. John Wilson, a juvenile crime expert said at the time of the show's premier last January, “The research is clear that Scared Straight is a failed program that does more harm than good.”

The show’s producer Arnold Shapiro contends the studies don’t provide an accurate depiction of Scared Straight’s success. He says the best tool to assess the programs is follow-up with the kids.

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John Lash On Restorative Justice, Youth and Adult Prisons

In 1985, at the age of 18, I was sentenced to life in prison for murder. I was sent to Georgia Industrial Institute, commonly known as Alto, after the nearby town. Throughout the system at that time Alto had a reputation for violence. Though I was tried and convicted as an adult, this prison was designed for “youthful offenders.” Only a handful of prisoners were over the age of 22, and many had arrived there at ages 14 – 17. During 25 years of incarceration, I never again lived at a prison with the same levels of assault, robbery and rape.

Flogging is “Unsettling” but Better Than Prison, Says Criminal Justice Expert

At first glance, flogging appears to be an archaic, cruel punishment too reminiscent of the Dark Ages.  But former police officer and current criminal justice professor Peter Moskos thinks flogging could be one solution to many of the problems facing the criminal justice system — problems such as overcrowding.  Moskos’ new book, In Defense of Flogging, lays out his argument. In an interview with Salon.com, Moskos said he thinks when compared to prison, flogging is “the lesser of two evils.”

“Taking away a significant chunk of someone’s life is far worse than any punishment that is virtually instantaneous,” he told Salon.  “We should be honest about prison and recognize that we’re sentencing people to years of confinement and torture.”

Moskos admits that flogging isn’t a likely alternative to incarceration, but hopes his book will get people thinking outside the box. “I wanted to throw a hand grenade into this debate because I don’t really see it going anywhere,” he said.

SaulPaul: From Incarceration to Education

My name is SaulPaul. I’m an ex-offender. As an ex-offender, saying you’ve paid your debt to society is like saying you’ve paid your taxes. Your debt might be paid up for the moment, but if you keep living, more debt will be due. I wish I could paint a prettier picture, but I have the gift and curse of being candid.

One Man’s Journey Through Crime, Drugs, Schizophrenia and Rehabilitation

When Andrew Peterman of Idaho first came into the juvenile justice system at age 15, he did not know that schizophrenia was driving his anger, which in turn was resulting in arrests and illicit drug and alcohol usage. In time, thanks to juvenile detention and treatment for his schizophrenia he has been able to straighten out his life. In fact, he has come so far on his journey that the Coalition for Juvenile Justice awarded him the 2011 National CJJ Spirit of Youth Award to "recognize and celebrate a young adult...who has made great strides through involvement with the juvenile justice system, overcome personal obstacles and is today making significant contributions to society." In the video below by Leonard Witt, Peterman tells of his journey through crime, drugs, schizophrenia and rehabilitation. See the video time splits below.

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Hornberger Advice: Juvenile Offenders Need Alternatives to Prisons

Nancy Gannon Hornberger, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), says research shows that it is important to "keep the kids out of heavy duty lockup as much as possible." In this video interview conducted by Leonard Witt, she says "Reclaim Ohio" is a project that saves money and has better outcomes than the bars and chains approach. See subheads and time split guide below the video. Time splits to help guide you through the video:
Introduction 00:00
Conference theme: Developing sentencing alternatives to harsh punishment 00:30
Research shows that normal settings for sentences work best 01:20
Settings built on relationships is better than bars and chains 02:10
Reclaim Ohio is best practice example; cuts lockups and saves money 3:04