Towards a Policy of Diplomacy – Not War!

War-and-Diplomacy_3x2I was going to call this blog “how to get along with other countries?”  But the above title seemed more erudite and impressive.    As I start to write this blog, I wonder if anyone has a “policy” of diplomacy.  I will soon Google it to find out but first allow me to say a few words on the subject.  I would like to start out with no preconceived bias on the issue.  Of course, this could also subject you to my gross stupidity.  I may at best reinvent the wheel.

For the past two years, I have been reading the journal Foreign Affairs.  I am and continue to be surprised by what I perceive as the impressive understanding that the writers in this journal have concerning a broad array of subjects.  In each issue you may find articles dealing with war, politics, globalization, economics, environment and many other topics.  The articles often are juxtaposed with dissenting positions and many times there are follow-ups to previous articles with critiques and rebuttals.   The level of scholarship and experience of the typical author is almost always impressive.   If I sound like an advertisement for the journal, I am not ashamed to recommend it.

Reading this journal, I am relieved to find that many other people have seen the stupidity and arrogance that I often see in our foreign policy.  Let me state clearly though, that while the USA is guilty of many sins, I have been to thirty three other countries and I have seen the same stupidity and arrogance in every other country as well.

So on the one hand, it seems there are experts out there who have some really good advice and answers on what or how certain international affairs and problems should or could be handled.  On the other hand, it seems no one listens to the experts and instead foreign policy is based largely on emotions, machismo, avarice and stupidity.  I read recently that in 1928, a pact was passed condemning war as an instrument of foreign policy.

“The Kellogg–Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris, officially General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy was a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.” Parties failing to abide by this promise “should be denied of the benefits furnished by this treaty.” It was signed by Germany, France and the United States on August 27, 1928, and by most other nations soon after.”  — Wikipedia

A total of sixty two countries signed the Pact.  In the USA, the Senate approved the pact by a vote of 85-1 with only one dissenting opinion.  Well, something most have been forgotten along the way.  How many wars have we had since 1928?  If my counting is correct, we have had 102 wars in the world since the pact was signed.   The web site Wars and Casualties of the 20th and 21st Centuries lists all the wars and deaths since 1900 throughout the world.

quote-a-congress-of-the-powers-is-deceit-agreed-on-between-diplomats-it-is-the-pen-of-machiavelli-napoleon-bonaparte-212040Thus, what seems like a very good idea (abolishing war as an instrument of foreign policy) is almost totally ignored.  Millions of people have been and still are being killed as the USA and other nations pursue war as an instrument of policy.  In some cases, it is advocated without any deference to reason as an immediate and primary instrument of policy.  First strikes and preemptive attacks are vastly more popular these days as the world deals with a host of international problems.  When Obama’s aide Marie Harf discussed other options than bombing terrorists as a solution to some of the strife in the Mideast she was trounced in the press and by many politicians as dumb and naïve.  However, when the war hawks in the USA Congress or any other nation are quick to cry War, nary a voice can be heard that challenges the sanity or even efficacy of war as an instrument of policy.  The world seems to believe that if we bomb the village, kill all the people and destroy any and all infrastructure, peace can then be resumed and we can all sleep safely and soundly tonight and forevermore.

“A country which proposes to make use of modern war as an instrument of policy must possess a highly centralized, all-powerful executive, hence the absurdity of talking about the defense of democracy by force of arms. A democracy which makes or effectively prepares for modern scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic.”Aldous Huxley

Well, now that you have heard some of my thoughts and opinions on the subject of war and foreign policy, let us see what Google turns up when I type in the phrase “Policy of diplomacy.”  I am going to enter it in brackets so it regards the term as one concept.

Here is the first page from our search:

About 213,000 results (0.38 seconds)

Top of Form

Search Results

A Progressive Foreign Policy—and a Whole Lot of Work …  https://www.americanprogress.org/…/a-pro… Center for American Progress  Oct 28, 2015 – Then as now, CAP supported a policy of diplomacy as the first option for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon—and military force …

Bush Aides Speak of New Policy Of Diplomacy in Central …  www.nytimes.com/…/bush-aides-speak-of-new-policy… The New York Times Nov 20, 1988 – LEAD: Aides to President-elect Bush said today that they were preparing a new strategy for Central America that would place less emphasis on …

Peace – Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations  www.colombiaun…. Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United…  In furtherance of the policy of Diplomacy for Peace, the Colombian government has received expressions of support from the international community and …  Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State …

http://www.examiner.com/…/obama-s-foreign-policy-goes-from-war-to-diplo…Jan 29, 2014 – 28, 2014; Obama defended the new foreign policy of diplomacy over military might. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak. While the core President …

[PDF]Atomic Bomb: Ultimate Failure of Diplomacy – Library  library.uoregon.edu/ec/e-asia/readb/93s25.pdf  University of Oregon by S Frank – ‎Cited by 1 – ‎Related articles  conceived policy of diplomacy with both Japan and the Soviet Union. Before I present my case, however, it is important to step back and revisit the Anglo-.

Obama: Be War-Weary, Not World-Weary – FPIF  fpif.org/obama-war-weary-world-weary/ Foreign Policy in Focus  Jul 9, 2014 – Pursuing the current policy of diplomacy over intervention, Obama can achieve concrete results in several areas. In the post-Arab Awakening …

WomenCrossDMZ on Twitter: “Congressional briefing for … https://twitter.com/womencrossdmz/status/623392574636748800  Jul 21, 2015 – Congressional briefing for new U.S. foreign policy of diplomacy over war 4 P.M. today, July 21 2015, Washington D.C. pic.twitter.com/ …

The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy and … https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1134513135 Piers Robinson – 2005 – ‎Performing Arts The administration had been moving toward a new policy of diplomacy that could have used military force, but this hadn’t involved setting up the special …

diplomatic-insecurityLooking at these results, I find that from 1988 in the first Bush administration through the Obama administration there is talk of a “new” policy of diplomacy.  It seems as though both Bush and Obama decided that maybe war was not as good an idea as diplomacy.  However, I do not find a specific written and described “Policy of Diplomacy.”  What is this new diplomacy that they are or have brought to the world?  Just for the sake of semantics, I went back to Google and tried typing in “Policy for Diplomacy.”  Hits went down from 213,000 to 17,800.  I perused several of the links and I still could not find any specific policy either for or of diplomacy.   So let us try to formulate our own policy.  Here are some key policy points that I think should make up such a policy.

  1. Under no circumstances can another nation be attacked or threatened with an attack
  2. Diplomats must be trained in cultural sensitivity, win-win negotiating and the language of the country they are stationed in
  3. Diplomats should be publicly vetted for their ability to respect other cultures
  4. Bilateral diplomatic discussions should always precede multi-lateral discussions
  5. Multi-lateral parties brought in to discuss a problem should be selected by an objective third party or a selected UN committee established for this purpose
  6. Mediation can and should be used as necessary by third party negotiators
  7. Arbitration should follow failed mediation efforts and may be followed by binding arbitration
  8. Disputes with any binding decisions may be appealed to the World Court
  9. Nations refusing to submit to the agreement of the World Court will be fined an amount determined by the court
  10. Economic sanctions may be used to collect fines
  11. All nations signing this policy will be protected by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force

These policy statements seem self-explanatory and are only meant as a start towards an International Policy of Diplomacy.  Some will argue that they are naïve and that is probably true.  It is undoubtedly “optimistic” to presume that war will cease to be a policy of diplomacy.  There is a saying that I like though.  It goes:  “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  We need to start thinking about peace as a normal state of the world.  All too often, it appears that war is the normal state and peace only an interlude between wars.

Time for Questions: 

What can we do to help stop war?  Can you support a policy of NO WAR FOR ANY REASON?  Why or why not?  What if we are attacked first?  Can we stop war from being an instrument of policy?  What ideas do you suggest?  What policies do you think we should have in our new Policy of Diplomacy?

Life is just beginning.

A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.”  — Hassan Rouhani

Social Legacy Systems: How They Block Change and Prevent Progress: Part 2- The Legal Correctional System

Responsible_Prison_Reform-e1373996928213No set of institutions in America are more in need of reform than our legal correctional systems. No systems in America cost the taxpayer more money with less return or value to the taxpayer than our prisons and correctional related systems. No institutions in American cause more misery and heartache than our courts, legal system and correctional institutions. Together, our courts, legal systems and correctional systems cost the American taxpayer well over $100 billion dollars a year. The Economics of the American Prison System”  (Listen to Wake Up Dead Man) as you read my blog today. 

And what do we get for this “investment?”

  • Within three years of being released, 67% of ex-prisoners re-offend.
  • Within three years of being released 52% are re-incarcerated
  • The rate of recidivism is so high in the United States that most inmates who enter the system are likely to reenter within a year of their release.
  • In 2008, one of every 48 working-age men (2.1 percent of all working-age men) was in prison or jail.
  • In 2008, the U.S. correctional system held over 2.3 million inmates, about two-thirds in prison and about one-third in jail. 450px-Incarceration_rates_worldwide
  • Non-violent offenders make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population. Non-violent drug offenders now account for about one-fourth of all offenders behind bars, up from less than 10 percent in 1980.
  • The total number of violent crimes was only about three percent higher in 2008 than it was in 1980, while the total number of property crimes was about 20 percent lower. Over the same period, the U.S. population increased about 33 percent and the prison and jail population increased by more than 350 percent.
  • Crime can explain only a small portion of the rise in incarceration between 1980 and the early 1990s, and none of the increase in incarceration since then. If incarceration rates had tracked violent crime rates, for example, the incarceration rate would have peaked at 317 per 100,000 in 1992, and fallen to 227 per 100,000 by 2008 – less than one third of the actual 2008 level and about the same level as in 1980.

These facts are from “The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration” by Schmidt, Warner and Gupta, 2010

US_criminal_justice_cost_timeline

These facts have not gone unnoticed by state legislatures and politicians.

“In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy.” Vera Institute of Justice     US_incarceration_timeline-clean.svg

I have written about this problem before. See my blogs (The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?” It is not a new problem and in the years since I published my first article on it, it has only gotten worse. I published my first article on this issue back in 1995. In it, I applied the concepts of process and quality improvement to the criminal justice System. My article was published in a journal of pro’s and con’s on the justice system. Subsequently, I was asked to speak at a correctional conference in Minnesota and to explain the concepts that I had outlined in my paper.

The conference was attended by hard Right and hard Left people: Correctional Officers, Wardens, Prison Reform Advocates, and Relatives of both victims and prisoners. The Right wanted stronger sentencing guidelines and tougher police policies. The Left wanted more humane treatment for prisoners and more focus on rehabilitation. Each group had read my paper and each group thought I was “on their side.” The fact of the matter was, each side was wrong. I was not on either side. Tougher sentencing (which seems to have won out) has only resulted in prison reasonshigher levels of incarceration, less feeling of safety in society, higher costs and no appreciable decrease in drug usage or correctional costs. The Left may have lost in terms of policy but their solutions would not have fixed the system either. You do not get a better system by fixing defects after they are created. Process improvement focuses on going upstream and preventing defects, not warehousing and reworking them. It became clear as I tried to explain concepts of process control, six sigma system capability, rework, redesign and systems analysis, that I was speaking Greek to the participants, both Left and Right. Neither side had a clue as to what I was talking about. I suspect each side was disappointed that they had not found a new advocate.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” ― Max Planck,

People in the old paradigm cannot see the new paradigm. Both sides might as well have been deaf and mute while I was speaking since the concepts I introduced were so foreign to them. I noted that the Correctional System needs reform. This was an understatement. The Correctional and Legal systems in America need nothing less than a major paradigm shift. Or to put it another way, we need a revolution in thinking about crime, incarceration and justice. Einstein noted that: “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We need new thinking and new ideas. We need creative inspired leaders who are willing to break with conventions and boldly go “Where no one has gone before.” This kind of courage is sadly lacking in our political leaders today.

If I had to give my talk over again today, I would not talk about process control or process improvement. I would simply talk about the need for a paradigm shift. I would try with all my might to get the fish to see the water, to get the birds to smell the air and to get the people there to see the failure of the present paradigm. I do not need to recite the facts again. They have been repeated ad nausea. The problem is getting people to open their eyes. More prisons do not mean more safety. Longer sentences do not mean less crime. Tougher policing does not mean less violence on the streets. Witness the wave of protests rocking America today following the Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III shootings by police. Every one of these names represents a killing by a police officer of an unarmed Black man or Black child. To date, not one killing has resulted in the indictment of a single police officer. The apparent message this sends is that: “Black men are guilty until proven innocent and that that they are so dangerous that they need to be shot first and asked questions of later.”

Bill James in his book “Popular Crime” provides the following observation:

“What we are doing, in a sense, is making ourselves constantly more aware of the threats and dangers around us, and then erecting security walls as if these threats were closing in on us, when in reality, we are pushing them further and further away.” P-96

James consistently provides evidence that we are safer and crime is lower than it has ever been in the history of this country. A point I made in my blog Are We Living in More Dangerous Times?  , see Part 1 and Part 2 with numerous statistics from the FBI and other agencies. Nevertheless, as the media treats us to a steady crescendo of violence and terror on the news, radio and TV, it is hard for anyone to feel like they are really safer or that they are less likely to be murdered in their sleep. Gun sales, concealed carry weapons and ammunitions sales have increased dramatically in the US in the past ten years. Smith and Wesson’s stock price has gone from 1.65 per share in 2004 to over $9 per share in 2014.

“The “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States” report from the Crime Prevention Research Center released Wednesday (July 10, 2014) analyzed parallels between a 22 percent drop in the overall violent crime rate in the same time period in which the percentage of the adult population with concealed carry permits soared by 130 percent.

The report finds that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, which are up from 4.5 million in 2007. This 146 percent increase parallels a nearly one-quarter (22 percent) drop in both murder and violent crime rates during the same time period.” —  Number of Permits Surges as Crime Rate Drops

Citizens, police, homeowners, retired people, elderly, minorities and even children are walking the streets with their weapons in Condition O. That is cocked and ready to fire. Only the slightest provocation is needed to shoot. A dark figure lurking in a hallway, a man running towards us down the street, someone knocking on our front door late at night and the response is “shoot, shoot and shoot.” The reaction is even more rapid when the “allegorical” assailant is a minority or a stranger.

We need a paradigm shift. We are going in the wrong direction. We are safer and more secure than ever before, but we are walling everyone away who pose even the most minimal threat to our security. We are walling ourselves away behind security fences, gated communities, threat detection systems, private police forces, concealed weapons and reduction of liberty and spontaneity. We don’t feel safer and we are more suspicious of outsiders and strangers. We resent immigrants and foreigners and anyone who is different from us. Send them all back. The hell with sanctuary or diversity! America for people that look like me, act like me and think like me.

Build more prisons!  Invoke the three strike rule!  Make it a two strike rule!  Get tough on crime!  Platitudes like these get voters on the side of security and restraint. No new taxes does not apply to building new prisons. The contradiction between liberty and safety is ignored. Fear drives irrational behavior. Everyone develops blinders as the police go about harassing would be criminals or even suspected criminals or anyone who even looks suspicious.  “Thank God, once we lock them away, we can throw away the key and not have to deal with them anymore!  If only we could put all the “suspects” away, we good people could go about our lives feeling safe and free from the possibility of crime and violence.”

“By age 23, almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime, according to a new study that researchers say is a measure of growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/nearly-a-third-of-americans-are-arrested-by-23-study-says.html?_r=0

Time for Questions:

How safe do you feel: On the street, in your home, late at night, at a movie concert? What makes you feel safe? Have you ever been arrested? Do you know anyone in jail? Can you think of a way that prisons could be eliminated? Do you know how many people are in prison for non-violent crimes? What if they were doing public service instead? What can you do to help bring about prison reform? Are you happy with the present system?

Life is just beginning.

“A moment’s beginning ends in a moment” ― Munia Khan

 

The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex

The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex is an interlocking and interdependent set of institutions whose avowed purpose is to 1. Protect Americans from crime.   2. Fairly punish wrong doers.  3. Provide rehabilitation for errant citizens and 4. Return them as productive members of society.  If we take these as the four main objectives of the system, in actuality, the system accomplishes very little of these objectives.  What it does accomplish, it does so at a high cost to our country.  The system is a gross miscarriage of justice whose complexity, cost, processes and outcomes cost Americans billions of dollars of year with little appreciative results for the money.  True, crime is down in the US for the past ten years but at what cost?  Furthermore, do you or any other Americans actually feel safer in your home or on the streets at night?  In what large American city would any man or women simply take a walk at 10 or 11 PM?

In this blog, I want to dissect each of the components of what I am calling our Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex to demonstrate the monstrous dysfunction of the system and to show how each part feeds off of and helps to sustain dysfunction in the other parts.  Let’s start with the Correctional System.  No doubt you have heard some of the statistics that demonstrate how expensive this system is but a short review might help.

The Correctional System:

The following table shows the number of Americans in jails in the US as of 2010:

Image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

“The cost of the American prison system is enormous.   It is estimated that the yearly cost of over $74 billion eclipses the GDP of 133 nations. What is perhaps most unsettling about this fact is that it is the American taxpayer who foots the bill, and is increasingly padding the pockets of publicly traded corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group. Combined both companies generated over $2.53 billion in revenue in 2012, and represent more than half of the private prison business.”   http://www.smartasset.com/blog/news/the-economics-of-the-american-prison-system/

The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000 population),  Russia has the second highest rate (577 per 100,000), followed by Rwanda (561 per 100,000). The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but 23.4% of the world’s prison and jail population.  As far as rehabilitating prisoners, a 2002 study survey showed that among nearly 275,000 prisoners released in 1994, 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years, and 51.8% were back in prison.  Most studies support a high recidivism rate.

What are you going to do in today’s recession era economy with no job skills, a felony conviction and the past four or five years out of the labor market?   If you tell me you are going to get a job, I will give you one hundred to one odds against it.

However, we are simply looking at one part of the dysfunctional system that I am labeling as the Law Enforcement Legal Judicial Correctional Complex.  The costs of the Correctional system alone are staggering both in terms of financial costs and human lives not to mention human spirits.   But the system is interlocking and like the military industrial complex, each part feeds into and off of the other institutions. Most studies do not show the true cost to the American taxpayer since few take into consideration the cost of courts, lawyers, judges, parole officers, correctional officers and police departments.

The Legal-Judicial System:

Americans are treated almost monthly if not weekly to a real life courtroom drama.  The trial of OJ Simpson and other high profile cases has catapulted crime front and center into part of the American entertainment experience.   There is hardly a day that goes by when we cannot follow a new courtroom drama.  Trials such as the Casey Anthony case, Travon Martin case or the Jodi Arias case occupied front page news and TV time for months.  Even as I write, I am sure that some new bizarre case will soon grace our TV and newspapers.  Judges, lawyers and defendants become actors and Hollywood entertainers as they sacrifice justice for ratings.  The trials may go on for months and the news is quick to pounce on the most titillating and sensationalist elements of the trial in their efforts to increase ratings and advertising revenues. Where once sex reigned supreme to sell ad space and capture viewers, real life crime (often with elements of both sex and violence) are guaranteed to keep viewers welded to their couches.  The secondary effect of this massive bombardment of crime and court time is to persuade us that we are surrounded with and inundated with crime.  Go to Amazon.com and type in Serial Killers and you will find a total of 14.460 books dealing with the subject. Go to your local supermarket and look at the paperback books on the rack. Probably a third will deal with some aspect of murder or mayhem.

What does all this cost Americans in dollars?  It is estimated that the high profile murder case of Jodi Arias has reportedly cost Arizona residents well over $1.5 million to finance her aggressive state-appointed legal team, as well as the continuance of her extensive trial.  Ironically, after months of witnesses in what most thought would be a “slam dunk” case, the jury deadlocked on a verdict and now there must be a retrial.  If you were running the courts and making a fortune off of the advertising, news and TV broadcasts can you think of a better outcome?  More testimony from witnesses, more nude pictures, more sex and more violence; is anybody concerned about justice or the obscene costs of such performances.

Most costs that we associate with these “Hollywood” trials primarily calculate the costs of lawyers, but to obtain “Total Judicial Costs”, we must also include the costs of the courtrooms, the bailiffs, the juries and the judges as part of the entire system.  According to the US Chamber of Commerce, America’s civil justice system is the world’s most expensive, with a direct cost in 2010 of $264.6 billion, or 1.82% of U.S. GDP.  Add to this cost, the cost of the US criminal justice system (well over 300 billion by many estimates) and you now have $76 billion dollars for prisons, $265 billion dollars for civil trials and $300 billion dollars for criminal trials for a total of $641 billion dollars.  BUT WAIT!  We have not included the cost of the US Law Enforcement System.

The Law Enforcement System:

To obtain “Total Costs” we must also include the costs of state, county, municipal police departments, security departments and also such Federal Agencies as the FBI, ATF, and ICE which perform law enforcement activities.  Let’s look at the annual budgets of the three largest Federal agencies first:

  • ICE requested an annual budget of more than $5.8 billion for FY 2012.    ICE
  • The FBI’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request includes a total of $8.1 billion in direct budget authority.  FBI
  • ATF had a fiscal year budget of $1.2 billion dollars.  ATF

Now to include costs of police departments across the US: 

According to the Bureau of Justice, the operating budgets of local police departments totaled $55.4 billion for fiscal year 2007—14% more than in 2003 after adjusting for inflation (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

A more recent report by the Justice Policy Institute for 2012 notes that:

“Despite crime rates being at their lowest levels in more than 30 years, the U.S. continues to maintain large and increasingly militarized police units, spending more than $100 billion every year.  Police forces have grown from locally-funded public safety initiatives into federally subsidized jobs program, with a decreasing focus on community policing and growing concerns about racial profiling and “cuffs for cash,” with success measured not by increased safety and well-being but by more arrests.”

So to our former Total Costs of $641 billion dollars we must now add:

  • $5. 8 billion dollars for ICE
  • $8.1 billion dollars for the FBI
  • $1.2 billion for the ATF
  • $100 billion dollars for police departments across the USA

This brings our Total Costs for The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex to $756 billion dollars and I have not calculated the costs of private security systems or private security agencies which by some estimates now include more total employees than in the US Law Enforcement system.  I have also not included other government agencies or state agencies such as Natural Resources which also have a law or code enforcement function.

$756 billion dollars is admittedly a rough estimate.  I would not stake my name or reputation on this figure.  However, the point of this exercise is to demonstrate that we are looking at a huge cost to achieve the aforementioned objectives of:

1. Protect Americans from crime.

2. Fairly punish wrong doers.

3. Provide rehabilitation for errant citizens

4. Return criminals as productive members of society.

At a rough cost of $5000 dollars per every America taxpayer per year, this might not seem like such a high cost if we could actually say that we are achieving our objectives.  But by no stretch of the imagination could anyone think we are actually doing a good job on any of the four objectives I described.  I could write volumes on the unfairness of prison sentences, the injustices in the court system, the unfair rates of incarceration for minorities, the lack of effectiveness of capital punishment to deter crime and the useless war on drugs which nets billions for the Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex but has been zero percent effective in decreasing drug use.  No doubt though, you have heard these statistics and facts over and over again.  So the question really is where can or should we go from here. We know the system (if not irreparably broke) is in need of major repair.  What should these repairs be and how do we go about instituting them?

Caveats:

I want to clarify a few issues before I move onto my suggestions for change.  First, I do not want to nor do I think it possible or desirable to eliminate police, FBI and even the ICE group.  We need protective services and the world will never be a perfect place with perfect people. There are too many immoral and unethical people to expect that society will self-organize into peaceful crime free communities.

Second, the workers in the system are doing their best but as Deming often said, it is the fault of the system not the employees. The police, judges, lawyers, correction officers, parole officers, administrative people and security services are all doing the best they can in systems that are basically dysfunctional.

Third, we need to change the hearts and minds of Americans who stubbornly think that more prisons, more police, more trials, stricter sentencing and more guns will lead to a safer community.  This is a fallacy that empirically has little support. Wherever it is true, the cost in human lives and spirit not to mention the costs in dollars is not worth the results.

We need to fundamentally change our attitudes about the causes and solutions of crime.  We need to take the same scientific approach to crime that we take to physics, biology, chemistry and genetics.  Too much of our criminal justice system is based on superstition, intuition and emotions.  No doubt crime is a tragedy but the solution must be as analytic as Sherlock Holmes.   Punishments and sentencing based on political and emotional appeal to the populace have no place in the system.

Changes Needed:

 There are a plethora of crimes that need to be decriminalized.  Many crimes should not be felonies and could be resolved with the use of fines or some type of community service.  Once we stamp someone with the mark of felon, we can almost guarantee that we will create someone who can no longer fit into society.  Some types of crimes that could be dealt with without resort to prisons or felony convictions include prostitution, drugs, white collar crimes, domestic and sexual abuse crimes.  In cases where the offenders pose no threat to the physical well-being of others, we should avoid prison sentences and felony convictions at all costs.  Think of a system wherein we declared “War on the Abuse of Women” and put the same amount of money into efforts to stop violence against women as we presently are spending to stop drugs.  We need a multi-national and multi-cultural offensive against the abuse of women which (while needing funding) also needs intelligent interventions to stop abuse.   We do not need most of the men involved in violence against women labeled as felons and sent to prison for long sentences.

Do away with mandatory sentencing guidelines.  These guidelines increase the incarceration rate without any real impact on long-term crime.  Drug sentencing is one example where mandatory sentencing laws have had little or no impact on drug use in this country.

Review trial and court records for evidence of adverse impact and discrimination against minorities.  Change laws and policies which show a disproportionate number of convictions or longer sentences for any income, ethnic, age, or gender groups.

Eliminate the use of past criminal records in hiring for Federal, state, county and municipal jobs.   Allow ex-felons the same voting rights as regular citizens in all states.  Once a person has served his/her time, they should be allowed the same rights that all other citizens have. Their past records should not be used against them.  The only exception I can make here would be in cases involving child abuse and jobs wherein the ex-offender would potentially be working with or around children.

 Time for Questions:

Do you feel safer today than you did ten years ago?  How much are you willing to pay for more security?  Are you willing to give up your freedom for security?  Do you know any criminals? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?  What “second” chance do you think you should have been given?  Do you think others deserve a “second” chance?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

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