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Ambush Attacks Plague Police as Demands to Defund Law Enforcement Continue

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

Peter Burka via Wikimedia Commons

The thin blue line keeping criminals and citizens apart is being stretched to the breaking point as more and more city governments are acceding to progressive demands that local police be “defunded” in the wake of the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.

The movement spawned by the Floyd killing led to demonstrations and riots that paralyzed cities including Louisville, Ky., Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., in the summer of 2020.

In some departments, groups of police officers have quit at the same time, fearing city officials would not back them up in times of crisis. A study featured in The Epoch Times conducted by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum found that from April 2020 to April 2021, police “retirements were up 45 percent and resignations rose by 18 percent” over the previous twelve months.

Across the nation, meanwhile, the number of attacks committed on law enforcement officials has increased, taking just six months in 2021 to surpass the total for the previous year.

The national Fraternal Order of Police said Thursday the number of attacks on police officials had already risen 91 percent from 2020, with 150 officers shot and 28 killed already in 2021. Alarmingly, that includes what the FOP said were 50 “ambush-style” attacks, which suggests progressive, anti-police rhetoric has made law enforcement officials targets for political action.

The 2020 Year-End Summary of Law Enforcement Officers Shot in the Line of Duty describes ambush-style attacks as those “carried out with an element of surprise and intended to deprive officers of the ability to defend against the attack.”

The demands that local police departments be “defunded” is clearly, a new Rasmussen Reports poll shows, outside the mainstream of American thinking. “Fewer than one in five voters think America should spend less on police,” the polling firm said, “and a majority want to spend more.”

According to its latest survey, 52 percent of likely U.S. Voters believed America must spend more on police while just 18 percent said less should be spent, which suggests the reality may be starting to hit home. The perception exists that the crime rate is rising and that the Democrats – President Joe Biden in particular – are responsible.

The recently released Washington Post-ABC News poll found only 38 percent of all Americans approved of the Biden Administration’s handling of crime. Nearly half, 48 percent, disapproved.  Politically, the Democrats’ failure to correct that impression could have profound repercussions in the November 2022 congressional elections, a sentiment echoed in a recent opinion piece written by former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

In 1988, Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee, blew a lead of as much as 17 points, losing the election to then-GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush, largely because Bush managed to convince voters his Democratic opponent was not only soft on crime but insensitive to its victims.

The tide may be turning, but slowly. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Friday that a Hennepin County, Minnesota judge “has ordered Minneapolis leaders to keep the number of police officers at a level required in the city charter,” in what can only be described as a defeat for progressive activists who successfully pressured the city council and the mayor to cut the department’s funding. In doing so, Judge Jamie Anderson said, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council “failed to perform an official duty clearly imposed by law.”

While no police officer is above reproach and no police department is perfectly run, the data indicates the police are not the problem. The problem remains the various criminal elements who disrupt every facet of American life, particularly in the inner cities, with their violent, often lethal behavior. Unfortunately, no one has yet hit on a way to successfully defund them.


Immigration: Tragedy & Human Suffering On The U.S. Borders

By George LandrithNewslooks

migrant children

I did something that neither the President or Vice President of the United States are willing to do.  I went to the border in Texas to learn and see with my own eyes what is going on.  And to be blunt, it is far worse than I imagined — for everyone.  The only people profiting from what is currently happening at the border are the human traffickers and drug cartels.  Everyone else — on both sides — is a loser if this situation persists. 

Here’s what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears when I went to Del Rio, Texas — a town of about 35,000 people about 150 miles west of San Antonio along the Rio Grande.  Local law enforcement are overwhelmed and over run.  The local sheriff’s department was never intended to be a border security force.  Their job is to enforce the law within the county, not monitor the border.  They are stretched thin and only have four deputies to spare along almost 120 miles of border. That means one deputy to cover about 30 miles.

But even the US Border Patrol is overwhelmed. They have been put in an impossible position. Border walls are no longer being built. Technology to help border agents has been turned off. So they are left to patrol the border as best they can and even they believe they are only catching between 1/2 and 1/3 of those racing across the border. 
Imagine living in a town of 35,000 people and having four times that many people flooding across the border in the space of only a few months. And that is only a low-ball estimate. Even the Border Patrol agents said that probably double to triple that many are actually crossing the border. But that they cannot count them all because so many evade detection. 

I attended a townhall meeting where locals came to express their concerns. The auditorium was packed and many people were standing along side and back walls. For more than two hours a parade of local citizens — a slight majority of whom appeared to be people of color — came forward to the microphone an in a couple minutes told their experience. Here’s what I learned: 

Dozens and dozens of locals described how illegals had damaged their property, broken-in to their homes, sheds, and cars.  I listened for more than two hours as they described how their families and children are now living in constant danger and fear.

Some of those who spoke were descendants of the original Mexicans who wanted to be free of the despotism of Gen. Santa Anna. Their ancestors defended and died at the Alamo. Others joined Sam Houston’s army that ultimately defeated the Mexican army and won Texas’ independence. Some of the speakers came to America legally in the last decade or so and spoke English with an accent. Not that any of that matters, but the point, is, it was a diverse audience with a diverse background, but they were all united in one thing — the current situation is unbearable and must be fixed. 

They described how difficult it is to make ends meet even in better times — but that when there is a constant stream of trespassers damaging your property, destroying your fences, allowing your livestock to escape, stealing your vehicles, and putting you and your children in fear for their lives and safety, it just isn’t worth it. 

They described vehicles — stolen by human smugglers — driven recklessly and dangerously and colliding with locals — causing serious injuries.  Several speakers referenced a young girl and her father who miraculously survived but suffered life changing injuries  due to a head on collision with a human smuggler driving a stolen car. 

They described having to hide inside their homes as a group of more than a hundred illegals streamed across their property in the dark of night. 

A woman painfully described how her sister — who works as a house keeper at a local hotel which has been used by federal authorities as a place to house illegals before they are sent to other parts of the United States. This woman tearfully told us that her sister was brutally raped on the job.

They all had their own story, but they all expressed a sense of betrayal. And they also had a sense of anger and frustration that when they express their concerns, all too often, they are labeled as haters or intolerant and that they are ignored as if they don’t matter. 

A woman of hispanic descent holding babies and speaking in an accent described how she and her family had come to America legally years ago to have a better life and become an American. She spoke with pride of their home in America and the life that they had built here. But then she asked why she and her family don’t matter, why their rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness are now irrelevant. 

Even Democrats told us that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and their policies are the primary cause of their problems. In Washington, we are used to partisans covering for their fellow partisans now matter how absurd the defense. But reality has forced this sort of blind partisanship to the side. 

But it isn’t just the locals in Texas who are suffering.  Many of those coming across the border are doing so because they’ve been invited to.  But they, too, have become victims of the human smugglers and drug cartels who make them indentured servants and who threaten with physical harm and death their remaining family who serve as collateral for the cost of being smuggled across the border. These remaining family members live the rest of their lives under constant fear that the cartels and human smugglers will pay them a visit because of a late payment. Simply stated, our current policies are allowing human smugglers and drug cartels to flourish and profit and with those profits, they will not be building hospitals and schools. Instead, they’ll be building armies to expand their human smuggling operations and militarizing the border.

The Biden-Harris administration says it is working on root-causes. But stamping out poverty in central America and around the globe, is not something that will happen this year or even this decade. America has spent literally trillions of dollars in the past generation to stamp out poverty and made little impact. So if they do as well in the rest of the world as they have in the US, 50 years from now, we will still be discussing the root causes of the problem and debating how many more trillions must be spent to fix it. 

But for people on both sides of the border that will be very sad news — a constant flow of crime and fear for generations to come and a perpetual stream of cruel and inhuman treatment from human smugglers and drug cartels. This is what I saw. This is what I heard. It was heart breaking. These are the cruel results of the ill-conceived and poorly thought out policies of the Biden-Harris Administration. False narratives won’t fix the problem. People on both sides of the border need solutions.  And a secure border is where it all starts.


Voters: Biden Can’t Handle Worsening Crime Problem

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

D. Myles Cullen via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly two-thirds of voters say America’s problem with violent crime is on the rise while half the country says President Joe Biden is ill-equipped to deal with it.

A new Rasmussen Reports national found 65 percent of voters likely to cast ballots in the next election felt violent crime is getting worse while fully half – 50 percent – said the problem was beyond Biden’s ability to deal with effectively.

Homicide and other violent crimes have soared since the Black Lives Matter protests began in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death last May while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. Awareness of the problem is slowly permeating the national consciousness to the point famed political consultant James Carville recently penned an essay for the Wall Street Journal telling his fellow Democrats to get ahead of the curve by blaming the rise in the crime rate on former President Donald Trump.

The Rasmussen Reports survey found 72 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of Democrats and, 65 percent of voters unaffiliated voters agreeing violent crime in America is getting worse. It also found the issue transcending racial barriers as 67 percent of whites, 68 percent of black voters, and 57 percent of other minorities found themselves agreeing things are getting worse. Women, by six points, 68 percent to 62 percent, led men in expressing their fear things had worsened, a gap some experts suggest may have something to do with the differences in gender regarding the feeling of personal safety.

According to the Rasmussen Reports analysis, “Biden’s strongest supporters are least likely to think the crime problem is getting worse” yet, among those who give him the highest marks for job performance, 51 percent agreed the problem of violent crime was getting worse while just 18 percent said, “It’s getting better.”

Additionally, the polling firm said, “among voters who strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance, 89 percent say the violent crime problem is getting worse and only 3 percent think America’s crime problem is getting better.”

The reduction in violent crime to near historic lows – which not by coincidence began during a time when Republican mayors were in charge in NYC and Los Angeles – is attributed to “tough on crime, tough on criminals” efforts eventually repudiated by successors including current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

These numbers suggest the GOP may have an opening it did not expect in the run-up to the 2022 elections. The 1994 crime bill, which President Joe Biden pushed through the U.S. Senate as its principal sponsor and floor manager, is widely regarded as having helped set the stage for the Republicans to retake control of the U.S. Congress for the first time in 40 years. With that in mind, Carville’s suggestions in his opinion piece – which is long on rhetoric and short on facts – comes across as an effort to help the Democrats find a way to inoculate themselves against the charge they are “soft on crime” before voters go to the polls.

This theory will be tested out in real life in Virginia in November when voters throughout the state will have the opportunity to elect a new governor, attorney general, delegates to the General Assembly, and other officials. In some communities, prosecutors and other local elected swept into office in a blue wave four years ago with the support of groups affiliated with George Soros who have pursued criminal-friendly policies like no cash bail will have to explain to an increasingly wary electorate why they should be re-elected.

The survey of 900 likely U.S. voters was conducted May 25-26, 2021, and has a sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.


Defunding The Police Vs. Meaningful Police Reform

By George LandrithNewslooks

Defunding the Police vs. Meaningful Police Reform

With the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin over the tragic death of George Floyd, recent police shootings, and continuing riots all dominating news coverage, it is time to have a serious conversation that honestly examines the situation.  To be honest, whatever we are doing right now doesn’t seem to be working — unless the goal is to tear the nation apart. 

No reasonable person believed the killing of George Floyd was good policing 

No reasonable person can watch the video of George Floyd’s arrest and say it was good policing.  Likewise, no reasonable person can seriously argue that an officer’s wrongdoing convicts an entire nation of 330 million people. Whatever Chauvin’s motivations may have been, they do not make you or I racists or even complicit. We are each responsible for our own actions — not for the actions of others.  But we are responsible as citizens to create a society based in freedom, opportunity and accountability.

The truth is virtually all of America was horrified by the video of George Floyd’s arrest and tragic death.  While his condition may have been compromised by an overdose of fentanyl, virtually no one who saw that video thought it was good policing, or that Floyd deserved to die.  This fact is proof that America is not broadly or fundamentally racist. 

The mad rush to label America a racist nation and to conclude racism is so ingrained in Americans that we are racist even without knowing it is not factual, accurate, fair or reasonable.  And perhaps even more troubling, it misdiagnoses the problem and thus won’t correct things.  In fact, the so-called cure will only further divide and Balkanize our nation.

The evidence is strong that Americans want justice and opportunity not only for themselves, but for others.  In a nation of 330 million people, there are certainly some who are racists.  But they are a very small minority.  Most Americans properly see racism as loathsome.  That is why people of color from all over the world try to make their way to America — they see it as a land of opportunity. 

Defunding the police doesn’t work

So let’s look for real solutions and leave the slogans out of it.  For example, defunding the police will fix nothing.  In fact, where police departments have been defunded, crime rates and murders have soared and city councils are scrambling to undo the harm they predictably helped cause by their foolishness. 

What might actually help?  We now know that Chauvin had 22 complaints filed against him for inappropriate policing tactics.  Yet the union backed him and only once was he disciplined — when it now seems clear he shouldn’t have been a police officer. Had he been fired years ago, George Floyd would likely be alive and Chauvin would likely be making a living in some other field for which he was better suited.  Perhaps we should look at how public employee unions blindly protect their membership from accountability.  We can also look at police training. 

Likewise, we must honestly admit that many police officers every year are killed in action — some execution style.  And in many of the police shooting cases, the victim fights and/or pulls a weapon.  As a society, we should teach and encourage respect for the police and the law. 

Some commentators now frequently claim that people of color are more afraid of police than of a criminal trying to gain access to their home. That makes no sense at all. The data is very clear that the overwhelming majority of gun shot victims in the minority community are at the hands of violent felons, not police officers. If there are people of color who are more afraid of police than criminals, it is because media coverage has repeatedly misrepresented the facts and exaggerated the risks. This in turn is likely to increase the very circumstances that could lead to more tragedies.

Injustice occurs when people do things that unfairly harm others.  Some of those things may be relatively small — like being cut off in traffic.  And some may be quite significant and even tragic, like George Floyd’s treatment.  But in a nation of 330 million people, we will experience or see small injustices every day.  And we will likely hear of larger more significant injustices every week or month.  That’s just a statistical probability in a large, populous nation. 

Refusing to accept the reason that an officer shot a minority was due to racism is now considered racism itself

But we seem to have entered a very unhealthy and irrational sphere of thinking where every time an officer shoots a minority that is proof of a broadly racist society. In fact, it is not only the most frequently repeated explanation in the media, we have gotten to the point where reluctance to accept this explanation is itself viewed as racist. We should examine the facts of each case, not merely assume or presume that race was the deciding issue.

If we assume that every slight and every injustice is racially based, we will become more racially divided.  If I assume that when I get cut off on the highway by a person of a different race, that it was racially motivated, I’d be wrong almost all the time. They might have been distracted, or not seen me, or misjudged the space available and speed of traffic.  But it’s very unlikely that they saw me and thought, “I’m gonna cut that guy off because I hate him for racial reasons!” 

As a nation, let’s strive as Martin Luther King encouraged, to judge each other “by the content of their character” rather than the “color of their skin.”  Let’s hold police accountable when they act outside the law.  But otherwise, let’s respect and honor the law and the police.  And let’s not rush to label every error or misdeed a racially motivated attack.  Let’s seek to unify and recognize that despite our differences, virtually every America seeks a just and fair society where freedom and opportunity abound and where individuals who break the law are held accountable in accordance with the law.


Liberal Media Misinforms Viewers About Crime in America

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

Derek Bridges via Wikimedia Commons

As a political issue, crime is back. 

Between the uproar over police shootings in Minneapolis and other cities, the demands by activists to “defund the police,” and a spreading “blue flu” pandemic that seeing veteran police officers walk off the job – in some cases not to return – crime in America is on the rise. Even if the national political media hasn’t yet caught on. 

But they will. It’s inevitable because few issues hit home as closely as personal safety does. What drives many BLM adherents into the streets to protest police shootings is not just the sense, amplified by the media coverage, that they aren’t safe in their neighborhoods but that the biggest threat comes from the very people who are supposed to protect them.

It turns out, a new poll says, that your sentiments on the issue are influenced considerably by which television news network you watch. “Fewer than 50 unarmed black suspects were killed by police last year and more people were killed with knives than with so-called ‘assault weapons,’,” the polling firm Rasmussen Reports said Friday, “but viewers of MSNBC and CNN are far more likely than Fox News viewers to get those facts wrong.”

The firm found 50 percent of likely U.S. voters who identified CNN or MSNBC as “their favorite cable news outlet” believed the number of unarmed African Americans who were fatally shot by police in 2020 exceeded 100. “By contrast, only 22 percent of Fox News viewers believe police shot more than 100 unarmed black people last year.”

The poll, found just about one in four of CNN viewers and one-in-five MSNBC viewers thought cops “fatally shot more than 500 unarmed black suspects last year” while only one in ten Fox viewers thought the same thing. 

“Fox News viewers (60 percent) were about three times more likely than viewers of MSNBC (19 percent) or CNN (23 percent) to correctly estimate the number of unarmed black people shot and killed by police in 2020 as less than 50. Sixty percent (60 percent) of talk radio listeners also estimated the number correctly,” the firm said the data collected showed.

Each year about 1,500 U.S. homicides annually are committed with knives and fewer than 500 are committed with rifles. However, 30 percent of likely voters thought the number of annual homicides involving rifles was more than 500, including 18 percent who said they believed it was more than 1,000 homicides, Rasmussen Reports said. 

“Thirty percent of MSNBC viewers correctly estimated the number of homicides committed with rifles as between 100 and 500, as did 22 percent of CNN viewers and 19 percent of Fox News viewers. However, while 63 percent of Fox viewers underestimated the number of killings with rifles as less than 100, viewers of CNN and MSNBC were more likely to overestimate the number of homicides committed with rifles. Forty-three percent of CNN viewers and 40 percent of MSNBC viewers believe rifles are used in more than 500 homicides annually, compared to just 19 percent of Fox News viewers. Only 26 percent of talk radio listeners overestimated the number of homicides committed with rifles.”

The survey of 2,000 U.S. likely voters was conducted on April 29-May 3, 2021 by the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. To see survey question wording, click here.)


Biden’s Executive Order On Private Prisons Doesn’t Solve Any Problems

The US should use performance-based contracting tied to reducing recidivism.

By Austill StuartThe Reason Foundation

Biden’s Executive Order On Private Prisons Doesn’t Solve Any Problems
101044573 © Dan Henson | Dreamstime.com

President Biden’s executive order calling for the eventual elimination of the use of private prisons by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) serves as a hasty and misguided attempt to satisfy a political impulse without actually improving federal correctional services.

In fact, the new executive order could make conditions in prisons worse for inmates and staff. The Biden executive order repeats many of the same flawed arguments former President Barack Obama’s then-Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates made in an August 2016 memothat coincided with the release of an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report. At that time Yates said:

“Private prisons … simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department‘s Office of the lnspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security. The rehabilitative services that the Bureau provides, such as educational programs and job training, have proved difficult to replicate and outsource—and these services are essential to reducing recidivism and improving public safety.”

The biggest sticking point of the Yates memo was the allegation that private prisons in the Bureau of Prisons perform poorly when compared to their BOP-operated counterparts. This allegation does not have a basis in the OIG report itself, but it is nonetheless parroted by the new Biden administration’s EO, which says:

“(A)s the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General found in 2016, privately operated criminal detention facilities do not maintain the same levels of safety and security for people in the Federal criminal justice system or for correctional staff.”

As I noted in a report released in 2017, despite Yates’, and now Biden’s strong claims, there’s no evidence, that privately-run BOP prisons are less safe or provide inferior service compared to the BOP’s “in-house” prisons. In fact, the BOP warned against making such comparisons in a response to an earlier draft of the August 2016 OIG report:

“(W)e continue to caution against drawing comparisons of contract prisons to BOP operated facilities as the different nature of the inmate populations and programs offered in each facility limit such comparisons.”

Despite this clear warning from the BOP itself saying not to use the August 2016 OIG report to compare public and private prisons against each other due to the numerous factors that make such comparisons untenable, many continue to do so.

When sample groups share similar characteristics, comparisons tend to be more valid. But the Bureau of Prisons overwhelmingly puts foreign prisoners (mostly from Mexico and a few Central American countries) in privately-run BOP prisons, while the BOP-operated prisons are overwhelmingly filled with Americans. While the distinction may seem subtle, communicating with a mostly non-English speaking population presents additional costs and challenges for the operation of those prisons. Communication with a mostly Spanish-speaking population requires additional staff resources that add costs to operating the facilities. In addition to the communication barriers, there can be other problems related to the prisons having a lack of background information on the inmates themselves. Having a clearer criminal background of inmate populations helps corrections officers plan housing arrangements to minimize potential conflicts. When a prison knows of potential affiliations with hate groups, gang affiliations, and the like, it is available to better inform such decisions.

This segregated approach also can affect the safety of inmates and staff. The placement of inmates in cells is usually coordinated to avoid potential violent confrontations, so confining one large subset of inmates to one type of prison makes that sort of planning more difficult. The authors of the OIG report make those points pretty clearly:

“We acknowledge that inmates from different countries or who are incarcerated in various geographical regions may have different cultures, behaviors, and communication methods. The BOP stated that incidents in any prison are usually a result of a conflict of cultures, misinterpreting behaviors, or failing to communicate well. One difference within a prison housing a high percentage of non-U.S. citizens is the potential number of different languages and, within languages, different dialects. Without the BOP conducting an in-depth study into the influence of such demographic factors on prison incidents, it would not be possible to determine their impact.”

One way to better ensure safety, equality, and facilitate comparisons between the BOP’s public and private prisons would be to integrate the native Spanish-speaking population into all BOP facilities, so all BOP prisons would have a similar mix of native English and Spanish speakers. The added diversity would force BOP-run prisons to account for serving an entirely new set of inmates in terms of background, while the added ability to separate and strategically place inmates could help to minimize potentially violent incidents in all facilities. Providing services for inmates to a meaningful level of satisfaction is difficult for any prison operator, and it is made even more difficult when language barriers are introduced. Equalizing populations would also force the Bureau of Prisons to undertake those challenges itself, which it will eventually have to do anyway if private prisons are eliminated in the BOP.

Another problem that prevents valid comparisons between public and private prisons in the BOP is the lack of assurance that the two prison types have equal levels of security and monitoring procedures. While both public and private BOP prisons have dedicated resources to monitoring the operations and safety of their facilities, the Bureau of Prisons serving as both operator and monitor in its own facilities raises concerns about the comparability of the operational and monitoring regimes of public and private prisons in the BOP.

The August 2016 report does note that a greater number of security incidents per capita in privately-run BOP prisons, but in addition to communication barriers and other factors that make ensuring safety and security more difficult in contract prisons, there is reason to believe that publicly-run BOP prisons also have problems implementing staff policies and changes related to safety. Far from conclusive and limited to contraband interdiction, the BOP OIG’s own findings at least suggest a culture of distrust exists between staff and management in BOP-operated prisons, hindering opportunities to accurately assess and identify problems, much less improve and innovate practices and procedures in response to those problems.

Another OIG report produced in June 2016, which focused mostly on conducting staff contraband searches in BOP-operated prisons, noted that searching BOP staff at recommended levels has long been a struggle. The June 2016 report notes the BOP was asked to implement recommended staff search procedure changes in 2006, calling on all facilities to randomly search at least five percent of their staff on a monthly basis, only for the BOP prison guard union to stall and avoid implementation. After nearly a decade, it has implemented the policy inadequately and unevenly. The contraband interdiction report notes only one percent of employee shifts had received any pat-down searches between January and June of 2014, and the searches themselves did not follow established protocol for conducting proper searches (which should take two minutes per person, despite at least one search event lasting only a single minute).

While the BOP says that they were not finding contraband in the prisons they operate in-house, the OIG makes it clear that they doubt the validity of their self-reported claims:

“(I)n light of the BOP’s infrequent application of random pat search events and other related issues described in this report, the absence of contraband recoveries may not constitute an accurate performance measure.”

Since the contraband interdiction report’s time span coincides with the August 2016 report’s period of reporting incidents, the OIG seems to be saying that at least some of the contraband numbers reported from BOP-run prisons in their subsequent August report may be inaccurate. And the BOP’s in-house contraband interdiction efforts do not seem to be improving much. According to an OIG report from last year intended to map out the agency’s largest performance challenges, contraband is still a “pervasive problem” in BOP prisons. The report says that “5 of the 11 recommendations (from the 2016 contraband interdiction report) remain open, including those related to revising its contraband staff search policy and upgrading its security camera system.”

In contrast, the August 2016 OIG report’s authors do note that the relationship between BOP and private prison company staff (for the oversight and monitoring of contracts) is one that effectively works to improve conditions as problems are confronted:

“We determined that for each of the safety and security-related deficiencies that BOP onsite monitors identified during our study period, the contractor responded to the BOP and took corrective actions to ensure the prison was in compliance with policies and the contract.”

While one cannot conclude that guard searches are not an issue in privately-run BOP prisons, the OIG’s findings show that guard searches remain a big problem in the BOP’s publicly run prisons, despite over a decade of warnings and recommendations from the OIG to improve things. The August 2016 OIG report, in contrast, provides examples of how private BOP prisons changed procedures in immediate response to problems, including improving the interdiction of contraband as well as health care procedures, recordkeeping, and staffing procedures. None of these changes took contracted facilities a decade to implement fully.

The Biden executive order also creates problems on the training, educational and rehabilitation side of corrections.  “We must ensure that our nation’s incarceration and correctional systems are prioritizing rehabilitation and redemption,” the order says.

The BOP itself is currently entered into over 150 contracts with private entities (businesses and nonprofits) for reentry services alone, with centers scattered all over the United States, mostly in or near medium-to-large cities (100,000+). Some of those firms are the same ones that operate reentry facilities, and a new anti-contracting would certainly undermine BOP’s goals on reentry.

Map of Reentry Centers Contracted By the Bureau of Prisons:

Source

GEO and CoreCivic, two companies that manage federal prisons, alone combine for 17 contract facilities that accommodate around 13 percent of the BOP’s total capacity of roughly 9,800 inmates. The 2016 Yates memo chides private prison companies for preventing the reduction of inmate recidivism, even as the BOP continues to rely on these same companies for reentry services.

Prioritizing rehabilitation and redemption in the BOP would undoubtedly include finding the best reentry services and facilities for those transitioning back into society. Banning private prison companies from the equation only ensures that the BOP would be forced to eliminate some of the very arrangements it sees as providing the best answers to the difficult questions of preparing inmates for the final steps of returning to life as citizens.

Few question that prison systems in the United States need significant reforms and changes. Many are finally starting to come to the conclusion that the so-called tough-on-crime mentality has done more harm than good, including in terms of making conditions worse for inmates while in prison and subsequently after their release. Some of these failures have reached the point where federal consent decrees in multiple states have been filed in recent decades that cite prison conditions that violate our Constitution’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

But solutions to improving life inside and after prison have largely remained elusive to governments. Radical and innovative thinking will be needed to improve prison conditions to be more in line with best practices that have been demonstrated in Australia and New Zealandthrough effective use of performance-based contracting where private prison funding levels are tied to reducing recidivism.

A move toward a more rehabilitative and constructive incarceration experience requires policy changes that move away from the real driving factors of mass incarceration.  After decades of courts, politicians, and prosecutors making incarceration harsher and lengthier, a growing consensus is moving toward a more rehabilitative approach that recognizes most inmates will eventually be released and reenter society.

New approaches focus on building inmates’ work and personal skills to help them avoid a return to prison. Innovative and competition-driven corrections services can help make that happen, and such a transformation requires departments of corrections that seek to find solutions wherever they emerge.

Getting prison operators and service providers the right incentives to work toward effective solutions should be the focus of the Bureau of Prisons and state departments of correction, regardless of whether the individuals’ responsible work for the government or private sector.

In the corrections space, reform should hinge on improving health and safety conditions as well as the availability of opportunities for inmates while in prison and after release. That is not what government-run prisons have delivered, and expecting that to change without competition from the private sector ignores how the present situation in corrections has played out for decades.

Given the BOP’s reliance on the private sector, a working relationship with private operators who provide effective rehabilitative and reentry services seems crucial. So let’s continue to develop ways to hold all prisons accountable to similar standards, no matter who runs them, and try to find what works best to ensure inmates and staff are kept in safe, secure environments that provide opportunities for those inmates to improve their lives behind bars and after their release. Looking to end private prisons in no way simplifies the difficult problems facing corrections, and the Biden administration’s proposed ban would, unfortunately, work to make solutions more elusive.


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