Tag: Prison Reform

In Banter’s third installment of the “Bridging the Dignity Divide” series, AEI Resident Fellow Gerard Robinson once again takes over as guest host. On this episode, he is joined by Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections to discuss prison education and evidence-based criminal justice reform. Duwe also serves as an academic adviser to AEI for criminal justice reform. He joined last week’s guests, Renita Seabrook and Ames Grawert, in an event at AEI hosted by Robinson and AEI Resident Scholar Stan Veuger on prison education reform policies.

About the “Bridging the Dignity Divide” Series

Unlock ’Em Up?


shutterstock_167988596The Justice Department has announced that it will begin releasing 6,000 “non-violent” inmates from federal prisons starting at the end of this month. Welcome to the era of de-incarceration. At a conference named for former New York Mayor David Dinkins (who presided over the city at a time of runaway crime), Hillary Clinton decried the number of Americans behind bars and declared, “It’s time to change our approach. It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration.”

In this, she is joined by Bernie Sanders and other Democrats, and also by Charles Koch, who wrote recently that “Overcriminalization has led to the mass incarceration of those ensnared by our criminal justice system, even though such imprisonment does not always enhance public safety. Indeed, more than half of federal inmates are nonviolent drug offenders.” Senator Rand Paul has called mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow.” And Carly Fiorina suggested during the last debate that “We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug-related. It is clearly not working.”

Not exactly. The U.S. does have the highest incarceration rate in the world (that is, among nations that list these data honestly), but the assertion that most of the people incarcerated are there for non-violent crimes is false. Advocates for de-incarceration often cite the number of federal prisoners who committed non-violent drug offenses. This is highly misleading. Of the 1.6 million inmates in America, only about 200,000 are federal prisoners.

Protecting Inmates From Dangerous Ideas


shutterstock_69674647Christianity is no longer permitted in Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers.

Chaplain David Wells was told he could either sign a state-mandated document promising to never tell inmates that homosexuality is “sinful” or else the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice would revoke his credentials … The Kentucky regulation clearly states that volunteers working with juveniles “shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

One incident doesn’t constitute a trend, but this was predictable, and it’s reasonable to expect similar rule changes following the Supreme Court ruling.

Prison Reform: A Non-Partisan Issue


mentally-ill-man-starved-to-death-in-washington-prisonI got an up close and unsettling look into the need for prison reform when a tragedy and a scandal rocked the little community in which I live. Keaton Farris, a young, mentally troubled man, died of dehydration in solitary confinement in our local county jail. His mental issues were not a surprise. When he was arrested, he clearly informed the officers he was off his medication. During the course of his incarceration, he mentioned he needed medical help.

The official investigation report reads as an increasingly tragic account wherein procedures in place for officer and inmate safety devolved into a formula for death when coupled with negligence and neglect. The peripheral officers in this tragedy seemed to have too much trust in the competence and compassion of their negligent peers.

To suggest the size of this community: I sold Girl Scout cookies with the deceased’s young sisters. I sold Girl Scout cookies to the corrections officer who found the deceased. Keaton Farris’s parents held a protest today. I went to early service and joined them as they walked quietly, carrying signs and handing out water bottles. Down Front Street, up Main Street, to the county jail and courthouse.

Member Post


With a hat tip to Chicks On the Right, this little piggy went to mosque:  In the wake of the brutal murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by two radical Muslims, four British men from Blackpool formulated a plan to exact revenge by tossing the head of a pig into the parking lot of a local mosque. […]

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Who’s Been To Prison?


shutterstock_86779999I don’t necessarily mean as an inmate (though I’d love to hear about that too if anyone has stories they’d like to share). I’m just curious how many people have visited prisons in whatever capacity, and perhaps have interesting stories to tell about it.

I’ve been working the prison reform beat of late, and along the way have been fostering some interesting contacts in the policy world. It’s an exciting issue. While so many areas of American policy are mired in inefficiency and political gridlock, the justice reform movement is very much on the move. Texas and Georgia have both made great strides in this area, saving millions of dollars and actually closing prisons while still keeping crime rates low.

Talking to the people involved is a little bit surreal, because they’re excited and upbeat and have nothing but nice things to say about one another. That includes the people on the other side of the aisle! It’s actually a little disconcerting. What sort of “through the looking glass” politics is this? Bipartisan policy reform? I’m still in 21st century America, right?