Once again, another “bi-partisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill last week to create a “National Criminal Justice Commission” to review every aspect of the nation’s justice system from policing to prisons. It’s my opinion the national justice reform movement has become just as dysfunctional as our political system. It is time to stop the studies, blue ribbon commissions and right left coalitions and get something accomplished.
I testified to the Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections a while back. In hindsight, I feel it was just another example of politicians, academics and lawyers making non-binding recommendations on the prison reform road to nowhere. These commissions do nothing more than feed egos and drain resources away from tangible reform efforts. It’s frustrating to experience this beltway dysfunction year after year when the answers are right under our noses.
My mantra is, and always has been, many positive reform efforts in all areas of our justice system can be accomplished under the existing policy framework by leadership. The groups driving the reform movement, who I refer to as the “Beltway NGO Mafia” seem to be more concerned with raising money, sponsoring events patting each other on the back about accomplishments when the reality is there has been very little Federal reform attributed to their efforts over the past few decades. I realize this blog is a bit confrontational and has a repetitive theme to previous blogs but I’m hoping someone will eventually listen to the message.
I would like to challenge someone to calculate how much money is spent on justice reform by way of DC organization budgets and lobbying for crime bills going nowhere. Philanthropists and our citizens in general are being taken advantage of given their return on investment especially when it comes to federal prison reform.
The answer in not in the creation of another commission to study the issues from a beltway perspective. The answer is to identify what is already working at the national level and putting resources into evidenced based programs. Diversionary courts, justice education at the elementary level, ombudsman type programs and addressing the myriad of collateral consequences of a conviction are a good start.
At this point you may think “where’s the beef” so I’ll tell you where we can start at the Federal level:
Lets’ form a public/private partnership for a pilot “Comprehensive Community Justice and Treatment Center” (CCJTC). This would be a model, urban center which would include diversionary courts on site, day treatment for drug and mental health issues, educational and vocational training, residential and non residential units not only for re-entry (half way in/halfway out) but for justice involved people who have demonstrated the responsibility to serve their sentences securely within their community.
One of the biggest impediments to correctional treatment is the warehousing of people far from community resources and the family. Correctional treatment can be better accomplished when the stakeholders have more involvement in not only delivering services but obtaining services from our correctional population. Educational institutions, faith based organizations, NGO’s and individual volunteers can also take a more collaborative and active role in our prisons once they are located in or near urban areas. This urban, community and restorative justice approach can result in more effective correctional treatment to lower recidivism.
It’s the formulation of a coalition with a concreate goal like this concept is what is needed not another blue ribbon commission to study the problem Ad Nauseam!