Wolf-dogs as Prison Guards, Goldman Sachs to Invest in NYC Jail Program, and New Foster Care Bill to Give Social Workers Access to RecordsAugust 3rd, 2012 by Taylor Walker
WOLF-DOGS PATROL LOUISIANA PRISON IN LIEU OF HUMAN GUARDS
Amid hefty budget (and personnel) cuts, Angola Prison has employed 80 wolf-dogs to patrol parts of the facility at night. (We at WitnessLA are in favor of full employment for wolf-dogs, as illustrated by the photo above.)
The Wall Street Journal’s Gary Fields has the story. Here’s a clip:
The wolf dogs, as they are called here, are the brainchild of Warden Burl Cain and his staff, and they were brought in last year in response to a steady decline in the prison’s annual budget from $135 million five years ago to $115 million today. The prison, which is known as Angola, has laid off 105 out of 1,200 officers, and 35 of the 42 guard towers now stand empty on the 18,000-acre prison grounds.
The animals regularly guard at least three of the seven camps that make up the complex.
Mr. Cain says the wolf dogs are a strong psychological deterrent. “The wolf ate Grandma,” he said.
They also save money. The average correctional officer at Angola earns about $34,000 a year, a prison spokesman said. By comparison, the canine program, which includes about 80 dogs—the wolf hybrids along with other breeds for other tasks— costs about $60,000 annually for medical care, supplies and food.
GOLDMAN SACHS TO INVEST ALMOST $10M IN NYC JAIL PROGRAM TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM RATE
Leviathan investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs, is investing $9.6M in Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience a program aimed at reducing the recidivism rate of male youth at Rikers Island. Goldman use of the new “social impact bonds” means the company will only break even if the recidivism at Rikers drops by 10% at the end of the four-year program. Critics worry that the program will give an incentive for people to cook the stats.
The NY Times’ David W. Chen has the story. Here’s a clip:
The city will be the first in the United States to test “social impact bonds,” also called pay-for-success bonds, which are an effort to find new ways to finance initiatives that might save governments money over the long term.
First used in Britain and now being explored in Australia, the bonds are rapidly capturing the imagination of some public officials in the United States: on Wednesday, Massachusetts announced that it was completing negotiations with two nonprofit groups to finance juvenile justice and homelessness programs, with the promise of repayment only if the programs work.
The federal government, Connecticut, New York State and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, among others, are at various stages of considering using the bonds to harness new funds for human-services programs.
In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release.
The money is not a huge amount for Goldman, which last month reported over $900 million in second-quarter profit, and the investment promises a public-relations benefit for the Wall Street bank. For the city, the money allows the Bloomberg administration to demonstrate, and test, several of its priorities: enlisting private sector help in financing public needs, and tying program money to rigorous outcome evaluations.
The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.
“UNINTERRUPTED SCHOLARS ACT” TO ALLOW FOSTER CARE AGENCIES ACCESS TO STUDENT RECORDS
The Uninterrupted Scholars Act, a new bill introduced Wednesday by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, aims to give social workers access to the school records of kids in foster care. The bill addresses a snag in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that makes it hard for those acting as guardians of foster kids to access school records. (WitnessLA has previously posted about a similar bill—the A+ Act.)
Foster care journalist/advocate Daniel Heimpel has the story in his publication, The Chronicle of Social Change. Here’s a clip:
Yesterday, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced the Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which would amend educational privacy law to allow foster care administrations’ access to student records. The bill was co-sponsored by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa.), Mark Begich (D-Ala.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects students’ records from most parties other than parents or schools. A broad array of advocacy and other groups from around the country have long argued that an unintended consequence of FERPA is that foster care social workers, administrators and even foster parents have a hard time accessing educational records, which are critical to assisting children successfully navigate school.
“There are some real horror stories from the field that we have heard about how this is really impeding our ability to help nurture and love these children and get them to a safer place,” Landrieu said in an interview.