Continued LGBT Military Inequalities, Money Incentives for Corrections Facilities, and Dismissing Parole ViolationsNovember 13th, 2012 by Taylor Walker
LGBT SERVICEMEMBERS STILL BRAVE INJUSTICE IN MILITARY
A year after the landmark repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (and a day after Veteran’s Day), the LGBT military community—and their partners—are still faced with the harsh discrimination of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the continued ban on transgender servicemembers serving openly.
The above video was recently released by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Freedom To Marry.
Think Progress’ Zack Ford has the story. Here’s how it opens:
It has been more than a year since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was implemented, ending a legacy of blatant discrimination in the U.S. military. Unfortunately, it did not mark the end of inequality. As the nation honors Veterans Day, various other policies continue to treat the LGBT community second-class citizens. For example, though gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers can now serve openly, the Defense of Marriage Act still prevents them and their families from receiving the same protections and benefits as their straight military brethren.
…In addition, the military still does not allow transgender individuals to serve openly, deeming them “disordered.” Given the American Psychiatric Association is declassifying trans identities as a disorder in the coming year, this could be an important opportunity to advocate for change within the military.
CASH INCENTIVES FOR CORRECTIONS FACILITIES’ PERFORMANCE
A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice takes a look at a new concept to help reduce prison recidivism called Performance Incentive Funding programs or (PIF)s. These PIFs provide funding incentives to local jurisdictions—in other words, cities and counties—to persuade them to provide services that keep men and women from going back to prison. The fewer inmates that return from any given county, the larger their PIF reward.
As it stands now, perversely, local jurisdictions have fiscal and political incentives to allow parolees to return to the state’s care, rather than the reverse. Vera charts how this new system can benefit public safety, both state and local budgets, and the actual human beings who would have otherwise been caught in the revolving prison door cycle.
Here are some clips from the Vera report:
America’s tough-on-crime sentencing policies are often cited as the primary reason the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Yet there is another contributing factor that is often overlooked: a structural flaw in the way most states fund their criminal justice systems that discourages local decision makers from supervising offenders in the community and makes it easier to send them to prison.
It is the state corrections agency that bears the cost of incarcerating people in prison. However, both the decision to send an offender to prison and the cost of keeping an offender in the community almost always rest with a different state agency or a local jurisdiction. This is true for either a new conviction or a revocation from probation or parole. In the eyes of local decision makers and in cases involving low-level offenders, sending someone to prison is all too often the preferred option because it saves the actual expense of supervision and avoids the political cost should an offender commit a serious crime while in the community.
PIF programs are premised on the idea that if the supervision agency or locality sends fewer low-level offenders to prison—thereby causing the state to incur fewer costs—some portion of the state savings should be shared with the agency or locality. With PIF, agencies or localities receive a financial reward for delivering fewer prison commitments through reduced recidivism and revocations that, in turn, must be reinvested into evidence-based programs in the community.
Here’s a clip from what the report has to say about the California PIF program:
In the first year of its PIF program, California experienced a 23-percent drop in prison commitments of felony probationers and a savings of almost $180 million. Nearly $88 million of the savings was distributed to county probation agencies to fund new or expanded supervision programs.
CA TO DROP SOME PAROLE VIOLATION WARRANTS
In an effort to combat the severe overcrowding in CA correctional facilities, next week, state corrections officials will consider releasing certain parole violators from state supervision.
The LA Times’ Paige St. John has the story. Here’s a clip:
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation intends to begin a massive review next week of more than 9,200 outstanding warrants, starting with individuals who were convicted of nonviolent crimes and absconded from supervision. Over the next eight months, parole field offices across the state will be given lists of missing felons, 200 at a time, to review and determine if retaining them on parole “would not be in the interest of justice.”
The mass purge is an attempt to ease the burden on counties in July, when the state hands off responsibility for parole revocations to local courts, said agency spokesman Jeffrey Callison. Weeding out cases that are years old, or of parolees nobody is looking for, will make it easier to focus on those who pose a threat, he said.
“It will not,” Callison said, “allow some parolees to ‘get off the hook.’”
“I have been told that discharging people is not the point of the exercise,” he said Friday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: While this program is potentially a good idea, the key to its success is wise triage—aka looking clearly at parolees’ entire records to determine who should be relieved from these warrants, and who still needs close supervision. In other words, the guy who has no violent convictions anywhere in his (or her) past, but who fails to report to his parole officer because he knows he’s going to test dirty for weed, might not be the guy we need to lock up for another 6 to 10 months. There are more productive approaches.
Nor do we really need to lock up the guy who failed to report because his brother-in-law offered him a job in Riverside, after he could find nothing in South LA where he grew up. Then when he couldn’t get his parole transferred from LA County to Riverside, he stopped reporting. (We’ve seen multiple cases like the two we just describe. Most parole officers have seen a lot more.) However, if a PO thinks the guy on his caseload is truly a danger to public safety, so should be kept under supervision, it would likely behoove us to listen.