After years without funding for prisoners to access higher education, the Michigan Department of Corrections is mounting several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates who are near parole, says the Detroit News. The move comes nearly two decades after the federal government cut Pell grant funding to inmates and essentially ended postsecondary education in prisons. Michigan will join a pilot project that hopes to gather enough evidence to resurrect publicly supported postsecondary education in prisons nationally.
"We want to build the evidence that investment in postsecondary education is a cost-effective intervention and a wise use of public dollars," said Fred Patrick of the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, which awarded Michigan a grant for the work. "We also want to show it succeeds at reducing recidivism, supports families and contributes to the economic base of communities." There are 42,000 inmates in Michigan's 31 state prisons. Of those, nearly half come in with a high school diploma or General Educational Development certificate. Inmates who are released have a 43 percent chance of returning to prison, but research has shown graduating inmates from college programs can decrease recidivism 72 percent, says Vera.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles has applied Band-Aids to ensure oversight of 67,410 former inmates, reports the Birmingham News. Officers carrying an average caseload of 193 can spend less than 10 minutes per month with each offender. Drug testing, counseling, employment assistance, and other services sometimes can’t be delivered. And if probationers don’t check in, there’s little time to hunt them down.
Pardons and Paroles had 403 supervising officers in February 2007; now there are 350. Many officers, especially those in rural parts of the state, are left to supervise nearly 300 former inmates. Cynthia Dillard, the parole board's executive director, said national recommendations call for officers to average seeing 60 to 75 people. As the number of officers falls, judges are placing fewer offenders on probation, opting for split jail sentences and community corrections. That’s because the judges can see probation officers are overloaded, said Eddie Cook, assistant director of the agency. “Last year, or the year before, we were actually bleeding. But right now, we have Band-Aids on.” Still, the number of repeat offenders in Alabama remains low, at 17 percent, while the national average is 37 percent.
Anthony Ibarra, 28, was beaten, stabbed, and tortured for hours, his body ditched in a truck in California. says the San Francisco Chronicle. Potential gubernatorial candidate Abel Maldonado is outraged that four of 10 suspects arrested for the killing were ex-convicts who had been supervised by county probation officers under realignment, Gov. Jerry Brown's solution to state-prison overcrowding. Santa Barbara County probation officials said realignment, in which the state is shifting responsibility for thousands of lower-level offenders to counties, didn't appear to be a factor in Ibarra's killing in March. To Maldonado, the slaying might have been prevented if the men had been under stricter state oversight, and he saw an opportunity to strike in the debate over whether realignment has made the state more dangerous.
The Republican former lieutenant governor said realignment - Brown's response to a federal court order to cut the prison population from 143,000 inmates to about 110,000 by this summer - was a "failed experiment," and that a better solution would be to expand prisons. He said he would seek to repeal realignment with a November 2014 ballot initiative. Maldonado's reliance on anecdotal criminal cases, though, alarmed supporters of the program, which began in October 2011 and allocated more than $2 billion to the counties for the first two years. "There is a lot of fear-mongering going on without data to support the statements," said Wendy Still, head of adult probation in San Francisco. "Instead of looking at isolated cases, we need to look at whether the public is safe. And I believe that when realignment is implemented correctly, the public is a lot safer."
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For a decade, while authorities say Ariel Castro kept three women imprisoned in his dilapidated white colonial, residents of the short stretch of Seymour Avenue in Cleveland where he lived reported a litany of other crimes that brought police to the block, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Since 2002, when Michelle Knight disappeared, police came to Castro's section of the street to take crime reports nearly 160 times — a little more than once month — for fewer than 20 homes. The Plain Dealer analyzed its database of thousands of police crime reports to draw a picture of what drew officers to the now infamous street while the missing women were captives there.
The newspaper found there were more than 35 assaults, many of them domestic crimes against women, which resulted in busted lips, bleeding noses, and violated protection orders. Police investigated a dozen drug-related crimes — including a crop of 9-foot tall marijuana plants growing in a garden within view of the sidewalk. Ten people were reported missing, though several of the cases involved multiple reports about habitual runaways. All appear to have returned home. Ronnie Dunn, an associate professor of urban studies at Cleveland State, said a transient community that lacks block clubs or social supports can lead to a culture of fear where people shutter themselves in their homes and close their blinds. "That is the perfect environment for crimes to proliferate," he said. And for crimes to possibly go unnoticed or unreported.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal asked readers to comment on a Gallup survey finding that only 55 percent of people surveyed in Memphis feel safe walking alone at night--lower than any of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas. (The Detroit figure was 70 percent; Baltimore, 66 percent, New Orleans, 59 percent. (The survey results last month can be found here.)
Noting a divergence of opinion at facebook.com/SafeInMemphis, the newspaper cites a caveat by Gallup that its survey of people in a "Metropolitan Statistical Areas include both a central city and suburban areas, and certainly residents in parts of lower-ranked metro areas may feel very safe, while those in certain parts of other highly ranked metro areas may feel very unsafe."
People convicted of crack cocaine offenses have a right to resentencing hearings under a 2010 law that lessened penalties for possession and dealing, says a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reported by the Associated Press. Expanding the Fair Sentencing Act to people whose cases played out before the law's passage could open the door for thousands of inmates to ask judges to reduce their prison time. The Supreme Curt may end up deciding the issue.
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