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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: prison

Autism and Sex Offender Laws

Nickie Phillips

AUTISM AND SEX OFFENDER LAWS
SFC Professor’s New Book Details Trouble With Legal System

St. Francis College Professor Emily Horowitz, with co-editor, law professor Larry Dubin, J.D., are fighting to make the legal system more fair for people on the autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities through the release of their new book, Caught in the Web of the Criminal Justice System: Autism, Developmental Disabilities, and Sex Offenses (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

The book argues that the legal system needs to radically change the way it handles cases involving defendants with developmental disabilities charged with sex offenses; that they are overly harsh and don’t take into account the defendant’s lack of awareness or inability to comprehend the societal values that these laws police.

In addition to many scholarly approaches to the subject, Caught in the Web includes a first person account from Larry Dubin’s son, Nick and his years long legal struggle to put his life back in order after a sex offense conviction that even the defense team specialists determined was unwarranted and overly punitive.

Arguing for reform in the judicial treatment of people convicted of sex offenses, this book examines how sentencing policies are based on emotion rather than research. Using the lens of harsh sex offense prosecutions of those with developmental disabilities, Caught in the Web claims that hysteria is the underlying driver in our approach to sex offenses.

Professor Dubin was recently featured on NPR discussing issues related to sex offenses and autism spectrum disorders; Prof. Emily Horowitz delivered the keynote at the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws annual meeting at Southwestern Law School where she spoke about the disconnect between evidence and sex offense policies, and how even those with disabilities face the consequences of draconian punishments.

Dr. Horowitz is chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College. She is the author of Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us (a Choice American Library Association Book of the Year in 2015) and founder and co-director of the St. Francis Post-Prison program, which was recently featured in Kings County Politics. In recent months, her research on the sex offense registry been cited by publications such as USA Today, The Columbus Dispatch, The Sentinel, Alternet and in testimony to the Ohio Judiciary Committee. Last week, her comments were featured in an article about a major case before the 11th Circuit challenging Alabama’s sex offense laws which are among the harshest in the nation.

With introductions by Alan Gershel, J.D., and Mark Mahoney, J.D., the book is available directly from Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) or from Amazon and other booksellers. JKP is best known for a long established list of publications on the autism spectrum, social work, and arts therapies. In 2016 JKP was named Independent Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards.
— R. Relkin, Director of Media Relations, St. Francis College

Parenting, Prisons, and Pups

Nickie Phillips

By Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox, Associate Professor, Pace University’s Dyson College, Criminal Justice Department; Chief Investigator for Parenting, Prison, and Pups

The Parenting, Prison and Pups Program (PPP) is a combination of several components that work together to benefit incarcerated women. The program is a partnership between Pace University, The Good Dog Foundation, the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC - a federal jail) and the Westchester County Department of Correction (WCDOC - a county jail). The PPP is a first-ever prison-based parenting program that is enhanced by the inclusion of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT).

Incarcerated women face unique challenges. Overwhelmingly, they are mothers and were primary caregivers prior to incarceration. Prison-based parenting programs can help women develop healthy bonds with their children by empowering mothers to feel more confident about their parenting skills by increasing their knowledge of effective parenting techniques and by promoting a healthy parent-child relationship. These programs offer support and attempt to lessen the emotional effects surrounding the separation from their children. A parenting program, in a correctional setting, as part of a larger reunification focus, will enable mothers to maintain a bond with their children, which is beneficial for the mother and the child alike. Incarceration damages the child-parent attachment. Since children of incarcerated mothers are at a high risk for future incarceration, it is important for children to maintain a bond with their mother to reduce intergenerational offending. Relationships with their children can serve as a vehicle toward criminal desistance for female offenders. By improving a woman’s parenting skills and mitigating her future criminality, we also improve the future success of her children.

The PPP incorporates undergraduate Pace students as teaching assistants to help with program delivery. As part of a service learning Corrections course, the program introduces students to the experience of incarceration, a rare opportunity, to help them become caring professionals. They come to understand that regardless of their career choices within the criminal justice system, the decisions they make as lawyers, police officers, case managers, etc., will directly impact this population of women.

As you can imagine, coordinating numerous partner organizations was not simple. We began working on this program in the fall of 2015 but it was not until March 2017 that I launched the first “control” group of 12 female inmates at MCC using the parenting curriculum without AAT. The program provides us with a platform to conduct research on AAT, a growing field that is in need of more empirical data. Strong social science research compares a treatment group to a control group. The first class, recently concluded at MCC, serves as one control group.

Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox and Andre

Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox and Andre

In spite of the delays and numerous challenges and the fact that we are in the control phase, not the test phase, PPP has already made an impact on the lives of our student inmate mothers and our Pace service learning students. What began as a somewhat disconnected and slightly disinterested and occasionally angry group of strangers, morphed, by our third class, into a community of mothers who cared and supported one another through this process. Confidentiality, which is difficult to maintain in the correctional environment, was never broken, demonstrating the true commitment of these moms. We laughed, we cried, and we shared. We spoke about being broken. We encouraged women to break down in our safe space of community but recognized that we would not remain broken. Regardless of past trauma, mistakes, regrets, or shame, each woman worked through her issues week by week with the support of her sisters. We had done the impossible – we created a supportive caring community within a jail. Such communities are easier to develop in a prison, where women have the luxury of time to develop deep and trusting connections with one another. In the jail setting, a place where people come and go, is challenging, appeared improbable but, against all odds, was achieved. We will deliver the course with the AAT starting in the spring of 2018. Given the positive outcomes of the control group, the treatment group also promises to be successful.

The control group of women completed 14 lessons – Parenting Styles; Effective Speaking; Effective Listening; Effective Problem Solving; Understanding the Parent and Child’s Job; Bonding Through Play; Directions and Encouragement; Rewards and Consequences; Time Out With Back-Up Privilege Removal; Yoga, Meditation and Stress Management; Going Home and Expectations With their Children; Healthy Adult Relationships; and the Family Reunification Day. The women in the class, including two who did not want to be there at the beginning, really worked very diligently to enhance their parenting skills and to begin to deal with guilt that they felt as a result of choices which led to their separation from their children. The Pace students felt the change was transformative and each Pace student stated this was the best class at Pace. It really helped to provide them with a realistic view of corrections and, as expected, it was completely different from what they previously imagined. Our moms, who were hesitant about having students in the class, really began to appreciate their presence, their help and their insight.

In fact, PPP became so important to our inmate students, they requested that Good Dog mount a website their families could visit, proving our inmate mothers and grandmothers were working hard to improve parenting skills while in prison.

One woman, who broke down in tears on our first class, worked on repairing the relationship between her family and her in-law’s family. By the end of our class, the lines of communication, once firmly closed, began to open. Another woman, afraid of telling her grandchild about where she was, made the decision to be honest. Although initially upset, the grandson did not rescind his love or his desire to see his grandmother. Another woman, whose son would not talk to her because he said he hated her, began talking to her by the end of our class. Despite her depression, the group’s encouragement motivated her to be consistent in reaching out to him and in utilizing the skills we learned in class; although he has not forgiven her, he will now answer the phone when she calls. Another woman who had difficulty communicating with her child’s caregiver, utilized the skills we learned in class regarding effective communication and was able to receive a visit from her child. As each woman faced challenges, she brought these challenges to the group. The group worked actively to help problem solve and the women would report on their progress. I have to say the love, care and concern shown by each woman throughout our course was very touching. They thanked us after each visit and told us they looked forward to each visit. The Pace students and I looked forward to our visits as well. The hard work and progress of each mom really motivated us to put 100% of our time and energy into making this program successful. During one of our classes, I was given the MCC Volunteer of the Year Award. It was one of the best moments of my professional career.

We recently had our reunification day. Families came to see their loved ones graduate with their parenting certificates. Not all families were present but even if the women do not have anyone visiting, they all made a commitment to attend and to help me work with the children who were able to visit. It is my hope that they will continue to serve as a support for one another, long after our class is completed. I will return to check in with them. Some of them are leaving in the next weeks to begin their new lives. In fall 2017 we will begin the second control group training at the jail in Westchester County, with another group of women. This program serves as the chance for many new beginnings and for the true opportunity to believe when we have a bad day, we can start our day over anytime we like, and we can begin to mend and heal not only the relationships we have with our families and our children, but most importantly, the relationship we have with ourselves.

Chase Madar on Chelsea Manning - Wikileaks Whistleblower

Nickie Phillips

Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower, spoke about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and her conviction for leaking nearly half a million classified government documents to Wikileaks. Madar discussed government transparency, the consequences of overclassification of documents, and the necessity for criminal justice reform.

Madar is a civil rights attorney and has written for numerous outlets including The Nation, Mother Jones, Al Jazeera America, and Vice

The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition at SFC

Nickie Phillips

Solitary confinement is torture...and should completely be abolished.
— Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition
The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition - SFC March 12, 2016

The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition - SFC March 12, 2016

The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition - SFC March 12, 2016

Vice: Fixing the System - Full Episode

Nickie Phillips

“Vice” also takes time to dig into the human side of the criminal justice system, not only in how Obama sits with prisoners and speaks to them about the choices and quirks of the system that led them to this place, but in interviewing family members left behind, whose lives are left with gaping holes, thanks to a generation lost to incarceration. -- LA Times Recap

Post-Prison: How has higher education helped change my life?

Nickie Phillips

Guest Contributer: Johnny Perez

The question of how higher education has changed my life is a question of not only cause and effect, but one of light versus darkness. I see ignorance as a state of darkness and education the illuminating light that so often eliminates it. My relationship with higher education has been an example of this battle; however, to truly appreciate the cure one must first understand the disease.

The worse part of living in a state of ignorance is not knowing about it. That was the situation I found myself in for many years, oblivious of the fact that I did not know that I did not know! As a result, I applied criminal solutions to my problems, reacted aggressively when confronted by others, and often gave up on myself when challenged beyond my comfort zone. Eventually, at the tender age of twenty-one, my self-defeating behaviors restricted me to a concrete cell for the following fifteen years.

I would like to say that receiving such an unbearable sentence served as a catalyst for change in my life, but I cannot. Like any pattern of behavior that takes shape over the course of many years, I continued to break the law despite the contradictory evidence against it around me. It’s important to understand that at the time I did not see my behavior in a negative light. This was mainly because I always shifted responsibility of my actions to others. As a result, I felt justified in my actions and that only served to perpetuate my behavior.

It wasn’t until I tried to do the right thing for the wrong reason that I received the right results. I signed up for the prison’s college program with the idea of spinning a positive light on all the negative behavior I was involved in. Instantly, I knew that I was in a different arena, but instead of quitting like my past indicated, the thought of leaving prison early motivated me enough to continue in the program. Before going to college I was not interested in education. School was were the squares and smart white people went to become lawyers and doctors. I never completed the tenth grade and my General Equivalency Diploma was the result of paying someone ten packs of unfiltered Marlboro Reds to pass the exam for me.

In prison, having reading material is the armor that protects you from the second-by-second attack on your soul that constant repetition can sometimes be. College gave me more protection from monotony that I could have ever hoped for. Within the first semester I traveled the world from inside my cell. I travelled alongside Martin Luther King Jr.; cried with Holocaust survivors; argued the philosophy of laissez-faire with Adam Smith, and even visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I also learned the meaning of new words and terms like multi-generational poverty, culture of violence, and synapse. Before college, I thought serendipity was a dancer at a gentlemen’s club, and a dichotomy was a type of surgery.

After some time, the funniest thing happened…I began to pull my pants up! I started to see opportunities where before I only saw challenges; stepping stones where before only obstacles were in sight; and college where before I only saw prison. I guess you can say that my paradigm shifted. The more I learned, the more I realized that I needed to learn more. The more I began to know, the more I came to the conclusion that I did not know anything at all. More importantly I began to see my behavior through the lens of responsible people, and slowly I became uncomfortable with some of the irresponsible behavior that I once felt so at home with. I could no longer use the N-word because I was conscious of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I refused to continue smoking marijuana because I now knew the effects on the brain, and above all else, I felt compelled to break the cycle of ignorance and poverty within my family by being the first to complete a college education!

It has been elleven months now since the sound of steel gates slamming shut has filled my ears every night before I fell asleep. Today, I am a non-attorney mental health advocate at a well-known law firm. I’m responsible for connecting clients, who are reentering society from prison or hospitals, with services like medical treatment, housing, and yes, education. Sometimes, when I visit them prior to their release, they stare down at the handcuffs restricting the movement of their wrists and say, “You have no idea what it is to be in this hell hole.” I usually don’t self-disclose my past to clients, but the hopelessness in their eyes, the frustration painted on their faces, and the smell of their fear motivates me to tell them my story. As I share my past experiences with them I can see their eyes begin to widen with hope, their shoulders raise in confidence, and their smiles shine with joy as they come to realize that I am a living example of the past not dictating the future. An example that nothing is impossible.

So when I’m asked by anyone, how has higher education helped change my life? I can sincerely say that it has changed my life by changing who I am. I could not be a better father, employee, son, volunteer, advocate, or student, if I had not become a better person first. And as a result of higher education changing my life, it has also changed the life of the people who I come I contact with.

Mr. Perez will moderate the panel "'In my neighborhood'…First-hand Stories of Police Interactions" at SFC on September 29, 2015.

Johnny Perez is a non-attorney mental health advocate for the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project, a law firm providing pro-bono legal representation to underserved populations affected by social justice issues.

When he is not advocating on behalf of New York’s most vulnerable populations, Mr. Perez works to change the status quo of unjust policies and practices as a member of pro-social groups including the Jails Action Coalition, the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), and the New York Reentry Education Network. Johnny is also a member of the Bar Association’s Correction and Reentry Committee.

Stanford Prison Experiment: The Movie

Nickie Phillips

The Stanford Prison Experiment movie is a reenactment of Philip Zimbardo's groundbreaking 1971 prison study that randomly assigned volunteers to be either prisoners or guards in a simulated prison setting.

The sad conclusion [from the experiment] is humanity lost - the evil won.
— Philip Zimbardo, interview with The Guardian

Film Journal International wrote,

For David Rothenberg, founder of The Fortune Society, a nonprofit group that helps ex-prisoners re-enter society, The Stanford Prison Experiment has as much resonance, if not more, for prisoners today than ever before, he said to Film Journal International following a recent screening he attended. “It’s a tough, well-made movie that accurately reflects the brutalization and dehumanization of inmates,” noted this nationally known advocate for prison reform. “Only here you see what happens to students who have not committed crimes and have no history of personal violence. Now imagine the dehumanizing effect on prisoners with long criminal records who have never known anything but violence. They find themselves in prison—it’s a violent subculture—and they learn more violence. This experiment was done 40 years ago and nothing has changed and it may even be worse in Southern states.

Crimcast attended a screening at Fortune Society's Fortune Academy Complex, a residential facility designed to support successful reentry. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez and Philip Zimbardo were on hand to answer questions from the audience.

Criminologist Nickie Phillips, psychologist Philip Zimbardo, sociologist Emily Horowitz

Help Support Mike's Defense Fund

Nickie Phillips

Guest Post, Karen Iris Tucker

Thanks to Crimcast for giving me a forum to voice my concerns about my friend, Michael Smith-Baker. Mike is known to many of us as an amazing personal trainer, drill sergeant of a class instructor, and all-around amazing human.

Mike is currently being held at Manhattan Detention Complex for a crime I believe he did not commit and to which he has pled Not Guilty. It seems he has been pulled into a mess that can involve as much as 35 years behind bars if he is convicted. The charges are non-violent and the purported evidence is circumstantial, which makes the amount of time he could serve outrageous.

Mike, like many people who end up wrongly serving time, is having financial difficulty obtaining a good lawyer. Mike's family has recently found an excellent lawyer for Mike and has started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for pre-trial costs, which are very expensive--$20,000. It is vital for him to retain a lawyer who can help him get these charges dismissed or greatly reduced. We have very little time in which to make this happen.

Please contribute if you can—and/or contact me if you’d like to share a message with Mike. Please also share this message via email and/or social media with anyone you think would be interested.

Every Sunday after I trained with Mike, he would hug me and say, “I love you. Have a great week.” I can truly say that Mike has added a lot of light in my life. I feel grateful to know him.

Karen Iris Tucker (KT) Writer - Reporter

Interview with Prof. Emily Horowitz on Sex Offender Legislation

Nickie Phillips

Leon Neyfakh of Slateinterviewed Prof. Emily Horowitz, on sex offender legislation.

Prof. Horowitz is the director of the Institute for Peace and Justice and founder and director of the Post-Prison College Opportunity Program at St. Francis College.

How do the studies you read show the registry’s effectiveness, or lack thereof?

If the registry was effective, you’d want to see that, after 1996, when Megan’s Law was implemented, there was a big drop in sex offense cases. But the rates didn’t change, or they’d already started going down before Megan’s Law was implemented. Rates of sexual abuse neither increased nor decreased as a result of the registry.

Why?

Because more than 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases—some say 96 percent—involve the family. And the registry only targets stranger danger. It prohibits people from going to parks and malls—whereas most child sexual abuse takes place in the home. Also, most people on the registry have adult victims. It’s just all the rhetoric around the registry is about children.
— Prof. Emily Horowitz

The Marshall Project has launched

Nickie Phillips

In an interview with Huffington Post, Neil Barsky, the founder and chairman of The Marshall Project, stated

“Nobody in their right mind, if they had to start a criminal justice system from scratch, would come up with what we have in America. Nobody.”

In an effort to address injustices in the criminal justice system and spark reform, The Marshall Project will feature news and articles on criminal justice events including "articles written by prisoners, and interviews with corrections officers, police officers and others involved in the criminal justice system."

From the mission statement:

We believe that storytelling can be a powerful agent of social change. Our mission is to raise public awareness around issues of criminal justice and the possibility for reform. But while we are nonpartisan, we are not neutral. Our hope is that by bringing transparency to the systemic problems that plague our courts and prisons, we can help stimulate a national conversation about how best to reform our system of crime and punishment.

Follow The Marshall Project on Twitter.

St. Francis Starts Post-Prison Opportunity Program

Nickie Phillips

Downtown Brooklyn reports on St. Francis' new post-prison opportunity program:

St. Francis recently launched the Post-Prison College Opportunity Program, an initiative that aims to help those from vulnerable, disadvantaged, low-income, and at-risk populations earn a college degree, through intensive student monitoring, ongoing assessment, and integrated social service supports within a rigorous college program, according to program literature.

For more information, go here.

SFC Post-Prison Program

SFC Post-Prison Program

Orange is the New Black and New Perspectives on the Women in Prison Genre, Call for Papers

Nickie Phillips

Call for Papers

Friday 5 June 2015

Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland

Keynote Speaker: Professor Diane Negra (University College Dublin)

We would like to invite proposals for papers for a one-day conference framed around discussions of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black (2013-). The series has received a great deal of critical media attention, particularly surrounding its representation of sexualities and women of colour. The series is the most recent in a sequence of TV programmes and feature films exploring women’s incarceration in a popular format. Considered as part of the ‘women in prison’ genre, the show upholds certain stereotypes while simultaneously using the genre framework to explore new territory. This conference aims to open up scholarly debates surrounding OITNB and to further contextualise it alongside other representations of women in prison from a multidisciplinary range of perspectives. We also welcome contributions from creative practitioners on their engagement with the ‘women in prison’ genre.

Contributors are invited to address OITNB in relation to issues around the representation of women’s experience with imprisonment in any geographical location, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Some of the questions this conference wishes to address are: what defines the ‘women in prison’ genre and how has it changed historically? What effects does it have on specific groups of (incarcerated) women and public audiences? How do new modes of circulation impact on audience reception of the ‘women in prison’ genre?

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

·         OITNB and genre

·         OITNB and questions of adaptation

·         Comparative analyses with other ‘women in prison’ series or feature films

·         Gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality and age in OITNB

·         OITNB and questions of ‘the gaze’

·         OITNB in relation to ‘real world’ criminal justice settings

300 word abstracts should be sent to:

OITNBConference@gmail.com by midnight on 16 January 2015.

For further inquiries please contact the conference organisers:

Dr Sarah Artt and Dr Anne Schwan

Student Post: Youth Crime: Is Imprisonment a Suitable and Effective Solution? 

Nickie Phillips

Issues surrounding youth crime and justice are one of the longest-standing and most highly debated areas within criminology.  There are many arguments surrounding the imprisonment of children and young offenders, particularly in relation to custodial sentences and whether they are appropriate and effective. There is no single, definitive principle of youth justice in the UK, but according to Hall, the philosophies of youth justice are four-fold and include welfare, punishment, rehabilitation and education.  There is much controversy surrounding the punishment of young offenders in particular, and emphasis is placed on different factors according to changes in time and politics.  This is particularly significant in recent years with the ‘punitive shift’.

As a result of this punitive shift since the 1990’s, the UK has seen considerable focus on punitive approaches in managing youth crime driven by an intense desire for stricter punishment and responsibilisation of young offenders.  According to Goldson, however, the imprisonment of children and young offenders is merely a matter of political convenience and the result of incompetent responses to, and failure to manage, youth crime through other methods.  This approach is supported by current government plans to build a super-prison to manage over 300 children and young offenders.  According to the Howard League, however, children’s prisons are volatile and dangerous environments which are ineffective at rehabilitating young offenders and are not suitable environments for young people. It is argued, therefore, that more emphasis should be placed on alternatives and that imprisonment is not an appropriate response to youth crime.

During a recent visit to East Moor Secure Children’s Unit, it appears that the four philosophies underpinning youth justice are attempting to be implemented in practice; but how effective are these philosophies in reducing youth crime?

According to the statistics for East Moor, 70% of young offenders released from the unit re-offend within the first year and many are subsequently returned to the unit.  Much emphasis is placed on education at East Moor and on getting the young people to address their offending behavior. However, if recidivism rates remain this high, it has to be asked how effective the imprisonment of young offenders is, particularly in relation to rehabilitation and how this can be addressed. The cost, (per person/per annum) of detaining a young person in an institute such as East Moor is up to £220,000. As a result, if the risk of a young person leaving the institute and reoffending is so high, arguably, imprisonment is not an effective method of rehabilitation and the money could be better spent on identifying and implementing alternative strategies.

During the visit, it was also highlighted that 90% of young offenders admitted to East Moor come from families with a recent history of offending behavior.  Perhaps, this highlights the ‘welfare’ philosophy of youth crime and therefore more emphasis should be placed on managing the welfare of young people and addressing the external factors which may contribute to them committing crimes and ending up in institutions. If a young person is admitted to East Moor, or a similar institute, then returned to the same environment and circumstances which may have contributed to their initial offending their chances of re-offending remain high.

Another factor for consideration when addressing the welfare of young offenders surrounds the disproportionately high number of children in these units suffering from mental health or conduct disorders which may be a significant contributory factor in offending.  The resources at East Moor are good, with medical and mental health professionals available as required. However, 20% of the young people there have self-harmed and, as a result, it can be argued that locking up young people with such issues is only going to exacerbate the problems, therefore ethical implications surrounding the welfare needs of young offenders need addressing. It may be more appropriate for these issues to be addressed in the community, and incidentally, by concentrating on treating these underlying problems, the risk of repeat offending would reduce as a result.

The punitive shift may explain why recidivism rates for youth crime remain high despite the education and support provided by institutes such as East Moor.  Perhaps, Goldson’s claim that prison is a political convenience - a result of failure to manage youth crime through other means - may offer some insight into what the focus should be in order to change the future of youth justice for the better.  However, the government’s plans to introduce a super-prison for youths would only exacerbate the problem, continuing to focus on punitive approaches, and avoid dealing with the underlying issues surrounding youth crime and justice and finding suitable alternatives.

Questions:

  1. What are your views on the government’s plans to introduce a super-prison for young offenders?
  2. Do you think that punishment is an appropriate way of managing youth crime or should more focus be placed on alternatives?

 

Post by Rebecca Baird-Parker

 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by  sakhorn38

Bastoy Prison in Norway: A Humane Example of Incarceration

Nickie Phillips

Ana Luisa Crivorot, Guest Blogger

bastoy-prison-island

Imagine being on a beautiful island, in a bungalow where you have your own room with a laptop and television. You can sunbathe, jog, ride your bike, or take care of the farm animals. If you so wish, you may attend class, visit a well-stocked library, or earn any degree you desire. It sounds pretty idyllic, doesn’t it? To many it may actually sound like the perfect vacation. This all can be found in Bastoy an island in Norway. But Bastoy is not a college campus or a vacation resort, it is actually a prison.

Norwegian prisons are very humane and follow a high standard of living. Inmates have their own rooms, and have multiple opportunities to work, learn, or simply relax. Their accommodations are much nicer than most New York City apartments and their living standard infinitely times better than that of an average citizen in some developing nations. Your instinct may be that this all sounds too nice for someone serving a prison sentence, after all, this doesn’t sound too punishing does it? Even Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 individuals, mostly youths, in the summer of 2011, is eligible to move there after a portion of his sentence is completed. But, he must show repentance and a desire to rehabilitate himself in order to have that option. At the current moment Brevik has a three room suite in prison, equipped with his own small gym.

The official policy of the corrections system in Norway is that the only punishment to inmates should be the loss of liberty. Their day-to-day lives are supposed to be as close to the outside as possible and human rights are also a priority. Norway’s maximum prison sentence is twenty-one years, so it is understandable why preventing recidivism is a priority. Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world, 20%, comparable only to a few other Scandinavian countries. Bastoy’s recidivism rate is even lower, at 16%. Its residents include murderers and rapists, but prison officials insist that they are being taught responsibility and to care for themselves and others. Norway’s incredible recidivism rate should be enough to convince many of the merits of such a system.

This is the second of two Crimcast blog posts exploring prisons in Norway.  See also Valeriy Kipelov's post on Norway's approach to prisons and punishment here.

Mugshot

Ana Luisa Crivorot is currently pursuing a Master's in International Crime Justice at John Jay College in New York City. She graduated from New York University with a double major in Psychology and Politics and hopes to pursue a career in Law Enforcement. Ana is originally from Brazil and is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish.

What the U.S. Should Learn From the Norwegian Prison System

Nickie Phillips

Tromso-city-winter-Norway-740

Valeriy Kipelov, Guest Blogger

Having realized that prison trends are pretty sad in the U.S. (mass incarceration), I tried to find an answer to this question: Is there a country in the world that deals with criminal offenders more efficiently than the U.S.? The answer popped up quickly. That country is Norway, and here is my reasoning.

Norway is a rich, highly developed democracy. It has a wide range of natural resources, a huge territory for quite small population of just five million people, and – most importantly – it has rich human capital and a strong respect for law and public order. That order to a great extent is reflected in something quite unique to Scandinavian countries, their approach to prisons. Just read what one Norwegian prison official said during an interview: We don't look at our inmates as criminals,but rather as regular people who have committed a crime. This idea of treating inmates as regular citizens who must (with professional help of the governmental institution) be rehabilitated and eventually brought back into normal society, is in my opinion very simple, yet amazing. Such a philosophy is actually the key to this country’s unbelievable rehabilitative successes.

norwegian flag

In Western countries deprivation of freedom was once believed to be the harshest way to punish criminals. So, deprivation of freedom is already itself a punishment and the main idea thereof: locking offenders up, so that they have a certain amount of time to reflect, to fully realize the gravity and negative effect of their actions. Aggravating the deprivation of freedom with collateral hardships, which are by the way not necessarily legal or moral, is not only unjust, but also counterproductive. The goal of a well-functioning society is to manage crime rates and keep them low by promoting and running effective criminal justice systems. This is exactly what the Norwegian authorities have been able to do during the last few decades, and what we, the United States, are so far not capable of doing.

Look at some self-explanatory statistics: The incarceration ratio per 100,000 is 72 in Norway and 716 in the US. So, we are at the number one in the world in terms of incarceration rate, whereas they, the Norwegians, are at number 176; Murder rates -- 0.6 murder cases per 100,000 citizens in Norway, 5 per 10,000 in the U.S. Finally, the most self explanatory piece of data – the recidivism rates; 68% in the U.S., 20% in Norway.

Now that it is evident that one country is much more successful in deterring recidivism than the other – how is it possible in practice?  A Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie introduced his own theory that states that every offender deserves "re-socialization.” In Norwegian state prisons such as, for example Bastoy or Halden, they try to re-socialize the inmates through forestry work, gardening, and taking care of the animals. This type of work is believed to have the most pacifying and rehabilitating effect.

Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie (Photo: www.universitetsforlaget.no)

An interesting fact: all Norwegian corrections officers work without weapons, which would probably sound crazy for an American correctional officer. The reason is that weapons create the atmosphere of hostility and aggression that guns normally imply. And one of the main tenets of Norwegian penitentiary system is the like-home environment inside the prison, which has proven to be effective in reforming the inmates. You probably remember the most famous Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who killed 77 people a couple of years ago. That guy, despite the atrocity that he committed, is not rotting in some dungeon. He enjoys himself in Halden prison, where he has a cozy room (instead of a dirty cell), tasty whole food, world-class healthcare, all sorts of amenities including the Internet and television, plenty of free time and even the possibility to earn another higher education degree.

Shocking? Halden’s wardens say they don’t see anything unusual about this approach. The formula of Norwegian success seems clear: you treat inmates as regular people, promote and create a culture of respect within all prisons – and you have less inmates re-entering the system; you treat them harshly, in an inhuman way and without providing for their basic (or even – advanced) needs, allowing violence in the cells and in prison yards – you get more hardened criminals full of hatred, who will never ever return to normal life, and will most likely come back to the lockup again and again.

Different countries highlight different goals of punishment. Norway, as we now clearly see – puts rehabilitation at the top, and this concept pays off exceedingly. I truly believe that the U.S. needs to seriously consider adopting the Norwegian prison model. Our prison population keeps growing. We build more and more correctional institutions and promote the culture of control-- and it has to be reversed.

At the same time I fully realize how much must happen before American society shifts its point of view and accepts such a radical and liberal policy transfer. The cultural differences are huge. The U.S. is a highly diverse, multicultural nation, while about 86% of Norway citizens are ethnic Norwegian, which makes it a much more homogeneous state than the US. It is surely much harder for the American people of wide variety of cultural/ethnic backgrounds to reach some consensus; we don’t have anything remotely liberal in our prison system, while they, Norwegians, have had such a modus operandi for decades.

The U.S. could technically afford liberalizing by decriminalizing certain petty offenses, incarcerating less people, and directing the saved funds to rehabilitating purposes, similar to the Norwegian approach. But this would require clear realization of such necessity and sincere political will. You bet: building golf fields for rapists would not be the best line in a politician’s election campaign. So, the shift in our mindset would require the public will and a lot of political and educational work. Incarcerating more offenders means killing the symptoms of the social disease; rehabilitating the offenders and cutting the recidivism rate means curing that disease. And we need to make the right choice when reforming our prison system.

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Valeriy Kipelov was born in Debrecen, Hungary, and raised in Kiev, Ukraine. He lived in Germany for a year and earned a BA in Linguistics (English, German, Ukrainian) from Kiev National Linguistic University.  He also has a BA in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Currently, he is in the MA Program in International Crime and Justice at John Jay College. He has worked as a news anchor/reporter for RTVi, a Russian television station in NYC. Kipelov is pursuing a career in U.S. law enforcement. 

New Journal Explores Intersection of Health and Justice

Nickie Phillips

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The graying of America's prison population, drug treatment programs in correctional settings, and the lack of social support for inmates re-entering society... these topics and more are the focus of the new journal Health & Justice, aimed at capturing the interaction between criminal justice systems and health services.  Edited by Faye S. Taxman of George Mason University and Lior Gideon of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the journal, which already released its first articles online this year, reaches broadly, including researchers across many disciplines as well as justice practitioners and medical professionals working with justice-involved individuals. "Criminal justice populations are highly prevalent in public health problems that are not being addressed.  We feel that not to address them is an injustice," Gideon explained.

The journal looks forward to reviewing and publishing a variety of perspectives drawn from a wide range of methodologies.  "We like theoretical pieces, protocol studies, reviews of innovations in the field, evaluations of treatment programs, meta analyses, all kinds of work related to health and justice," Gideon told Crimcast.

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Click here to download the first open access articles from Health & Justice.

Click here to learn how you can submit a manuscript for review.