Recently in Rehabilitation Category

We are endlessly lectured about how "alternatives to incarceration" will cost less, keep us just as safe, and improve rehabilitation.

And that's true, if one spells "rehabilitation" as  E-S-C-A-P-E.  From the Associated Press:

More than 240 inmates have slipped away from federal custody in the past three years while traveling to halfway houses, including several who committed bank robberies and a carjacking while on the lam, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The current issue of the Journal of Law and Economics has this article by Rasmus Landersø.  Here is the abstract:

This paper studies how longer incarceration spells affect offenders' labor market outcomes by using a reform that increased incarceration lengths by approximately 1 month. I use detailed register data for offenders who predominantly serve incarceration spells of 1-2 months. I analyze the sample for several years prior to and after incarceration and show that the reform led to an exogenous increase in incarceration lengths. I find that the longer incarceration spells result in lower unemployment rates and higher earnings, possibly because marginal increases in short incarceration spells improve conditions and incentives for rehabilitation, while the costs of jail related to these outcomes are unaffected. I show that the estimates are robust to different econometric specifications and further provide evidence that my results are not driven by changes in macroeconomic conditions.

I am skeptical about how that would generalize to different conditions, but it's an interesting result.

Rehab Flops

We are often told that alternatives to prison will do as well to protect us, will cost less, and will mark a step forward in our humanity.  Leading the list of alternatives is more "investment" in rehabilitation.

Only one thing.

An expert with the Heritage Foundation (which disagrees with me on sentencing reform), spills the beans.
...bear in mind Mr. Rehab himself, Jihadist-turned-poet (according to his gushing defense lawyer, Marc Falkoff), Ibrahim al-Rubaish.  As this story relates:

The United States government has put al Qaeda's Ibrahim al-Rubaish on a global terrorist list and offered a $5 million reward for information on his whereabouts. Once we knew his whereabouts -- Guantanamo Bay detention center. But in 2006, the U.S. released Rubaish to Saudi Arabia where he was to be "rehabilitated."

At the time, Rubaysh was a poster child for the terrorist detainee-sympathizing, anti-Gitmo crew. Marc Falkoff, a lawyer for detainees and editor of Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, included in his collection a poem by Rubaysh called "Ode to the Sea." In his introduction to the poetry collection Falkoff, described Rubaysh as follows:

Ibrahim al-Rubaish was teaching in Pakistan when he was arrested by mercenaries and sold to allied forces. A religious scholar who dislikes hostility and was once a candidate for a judgeship, Rubaish has a daughter, born just three months before he was captured, who is now five years old.

Gosh, you really have to wonder what our government was doing incarcerating a sweetie like that.  Indeed, one can only speculate whether Mr. Falkoff could hold himself together while describing such a saintly man.

Well, anyway, now that Ibrahim al-Rubaish has been "rehabilitated," he has returned to  --  guess what?  --  writing more poems plotting to murder Americans, as many as he can count heads to slice off.

Rehab is a great thing, I tell you.

Private Prisons and Recidivism

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Lots of interesting stuff in the weekend Wall Street Journal today.  The nonsubscriber links provided should be good for seven days.  The article most clearly on-topic is by Devlin Barrett on private prison companies and rehabilitation.

Damon Hininger, chief executive of Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, said in an interview that government clients are increasingly concerned about the long-term costs of housing inmates and are pushing CCA and other private operators to save them money by reducing recidivism, the number of inmates who are released only to do a repeat turn in prison.

He plans to expand the company's prison rehabilitation programs, drug counseling and its prisoner re-entry work in cities around the country. It's a significant shift for CCA, which has built a profitable business from incarcerating people--nearly 70,000 inmates are currently housed in more than 60 facilities. The company is the fifth-largest correction system in the country, after only the federal government and the states of California, Florida and Texas.

"This is a watershed moment for our company and we hope it will be for our entire industry,'' Mr. Hininger said. "We are determined to prove that we can play a leadership role in reducing recidivism and that we have every incentive to do so. The interests of government, taxpayers, shareholders, and communities are aligned. We all just need to recognize that and commit to that.''
My reaction to stories like this is "yes, but..."

The Victims of "Smart Sentencing"

Over most of the past decade liberal groups, which originally opposed and have for years sought to eliminate the so-called  "harsh" habitual criminal sentencing policies adopted in the 80s and 90s, have launched collaborative efforts with libertarians and some Republicans to encourage alternative sentencing.  "Right on Crime","Smart on Crime" and "Smart Sentencing" advocates have been successful at changing policies in many parts of the country to reduce sentences for criminals categorized as non-violent, and placing them instead in community programs to help them become law-abiding members of society, with the promise of saving millions in state and federal prison costs.  At a time when crime rates are relatively low, and our European betters and Hollywood movie stars are constantly scolding America as the incarceration nation, the allure of an America where bright, dedicated government employees guide minor offenders off the criminal path is difficult for many to resist. 
Dan Walters had this post, with the above title, on the Sacramento Bee's Capital Alert blog last Friday:

Gov. Jerry Brown's "realignment" of criminal justice procedures, aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons by diverting more felons into local jails and probation, has not resulted in lower rates of new criminal activity among offenders, a study by the Public Policy Institute of California concludes.

New offenses by those released from custody are known as "recidivism" and putting felons under local control was supposed to include more drug treatment and other programs to reduce their criminal activity.

However, the PPIC study concludes, "We find that the post-realignment period has not seen dramatic changes in arrests or convictions of released offenders. In the context of realignment's broad reforms to the corrections system, our findings suggest that offender behavior has not changed substantially."

"Overall arrest rates of released offenders are down slightly, with the proportion of those arrested within a year of release declining by two percentage points," the authors of the study, Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael, and Ryken Grattet, continue. "At the same time, the proportion of those arrested multiple times has increased noticeably, by about seven percentage points. These higher multiple arrest rates may reflect the substantial increase in the time that released offenders spend on the streets--a result of counties' limited jail capacity."

The PPIC study may provide new ammunition for the critics of realignment who contend that the state is solving its prison overcrowding problem under pressure from federal judges but in doing so is putting new burdens on local governments, particularly county jails, that result in more criminal activity.

The Wonders of Rehab

I have frequently posted about the joke called "rehab."  The unending story of Lindsay Lohan is a rehab lesson unto itself, see my posts here, here and here, among numerous others.  

"Rehab" is the defense bar's version of "sentencing."  Some judges buy it because they think the jails are overstuffed; some because they genuinely think the defendant could benefit; and many because they refuse to see reality, or prefer not to.

The latest rehab joke comes from Toronto's version of Hollywood silliness, Mayor Rob Ford. Like many in Hollywood, the Mayor likes his crack cocaine, and would like to convince his constituents that rehab is the answer.  And it is an answer, of sorts.

From USA Today:

Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he is in rehab and enjoying it..."Rehab is amazing," Ford told The Toronto Sun....He compared it to the Washington Redskins camp he went to as a boy.

Would readers please take up a collection so I can go to rehab, too?

BJS Study Tracks Recividism

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The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a study tracking the rearrest rate of 405,000 felons released from prison in 30 states.  The BJS press release is here.  The study examines ex-convicts released in 2005 who were rearrested for a new crimes over the next five years.  More than 57% of those released were rearrested in the first year.   By the third year 68% had been rearrested.  After five years 77% had been rearrested at least one time, with many rearrested more than once.  In total, ex-convicts released from prison in 2005 were rearrested 1.2 million times for new crimes.   Property criminals, including burglars, car thieves, and identity thieves were rearrested at the highest rate of 82%.  77% of drug offenders, typically drug dealers, were rearrested over the five year period.  Recividism was highest among blacks, followed by Hispanics and whites.  Age and sex were also major factors with 84% of those 24 or younger rearrested.  The rearrest rate dropped to 69% for those 40 or older.  78% of males were rearrested compared to 68% of females. 

There will be two varieties of spin put on this study.  The first and most publicized will come from "Smart on Crime" advocates, which includes the ACLU, the Urban Institute, the Sentencing Project and much of academia.  They will point to these findings as proof that fixed and progressively severe consequences for criminals, such as mandatory minimums and habitual criminal sentencing have failed to rehabilitate criminals.  We will be told that the current transition to alternative sentencing featuring "evidence based practices" and treatment programs will help to reform the current racially biased system, lower the recividism rate, improve  public safety, and remove the stigma on America as the "incarceration nation."  

Sasha Volokh has a couple of posts (here and here) at the Volokh Conspiracy on the question of whether faith-based prisons actually "work," i.e. produce a lower recidivism rate than the same prisoners would have had in regular prisons.  The difficulty in answering that question is the "selection bias" problem, as indicated by the title of the second post, "What if faith-based prison programs just attract better prisoners?"

"Evidence-based practices" has become a buzzword in corrections, but for the reasons Volokh points out, much of the "evidence" is nearly worthless.

After yesterday's introduction to the topic, today I'll talk about how the self-selection problem makes any evaluation of faith-based programs with regular programs problematic. I'll illustrate with some of the most problematic studies, which show the self-selection problem in its most naked form. I'll then show some of the better studies, which control for certain important variables, but I'll explain why even those are inadequate to solve the self-selection problem.
The problem is not by any means limited to faith-based programs.  It permeates the whole field.  As long as the "treatment group" and the "control group" are selected in a way that makes them different in their attitude toward going straight, the study is essentially garbage.  Random selection and large sample sizes are necessary to valid studies, but random selection is a tough sell.  Can we really assign people to rehabilitation programs in a lottery, denying the guy who wants it and assigning the one who doesn't give a damn?
Is that "navigator" who is supposed to help you through ObamaCare enrollment, and who gets lots of personal information about you in the process, an honest and trustworthy person?

Maybe not.  National Review Franklin Center Fellow Jillian Kay Melchior appears in this video interview with some disturbing findings.

The Latest Re-Entry Program

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Kent has noted today's Senate hearing at which a couple of witnesses were sufficiently impolite to point out that incarceration works better to tamp down crime than a stern lecture and rehab (see, as to the latter, any number of posts I wrote about Ms. Rehab, Lindsay Lohan).

Still, at some point almost all inmates will be released, and we need to find constructive things for them to do.  The Administration has found one.  Here are the first few paragraphs of the story:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted Wednesday that it was possible convicted felons could be hired as ObamaCare 'navigators,' giving them access to personal information like Social Security numbers and addresses of anyone signing up for the program.

Sebelius made the admission in an exchange with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. It was the second time in a week Sebelius was on Capitol Hill, forced to defend the problem-plagued ObamaCare website.

"Isn't it true that there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background check," Cornyn asked her.

"That is true," Sebelius answered. "States could add in additional background checks and other features, but it is not part of the federal requirement."

Cornyn pressed, "So a convicted felon could be a navigator and could acquire sensitive personal information from an individual unbeknownst to them?"

Sebelius answered, "This is possible."

I trust our readers do not include Puritanical dorks who might object to a felon's getting their Social Security numbers.  Don't you people believe in second chances?

What Rehab Actually Looks Like

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Rehab is mostly a con, to the extent it's not a joke.  This is nowhere better illustrated than in the never-ending saga of Ms. Rehab herself, Lindsay Lohan.  I've put up so many posts about Ms. Rehab that I'm not going to try to link them, in part because today's post is about something very different.

The reason rehab is mostly a con is that it takes root in a fundamentally flawed premise  --  that, with the right prison counseling, government programs, employment opportunities, and generally a sufficient degree of Officially Mandated Compassion, wrongdoers will change.  

That is incorrect for the same reason much liberal thinking about crime is incorrect, to wit, it misconceives human nature.  Human beings can change, and they can be redeemed.  But it doesn't happen because of what the government does, no matter how elaborate, expensive or well-intended.  It happens, when it does, because some few people have the courage and honesty to face up to what they've done wrong, and the conscience and inner strength to do better.

That does not mean renting a sleaze-ball shrink to write a long report about how the miscreant has seen the light.  It does not mean taking a brief timeout from your shenanigans before holding a news conference to announce your latest bid to return to prominence, a' la Anthony Wiener, Elliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford.   What rehabilitation actually means is illustrated in today's piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Rehab Strikes Again

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It didn't take even three months.

I wrote here about the latest stern talking-to by the judge directed to Ms. Rehab herself, Lindsay Lohan.  I also bet any reader who cared to take me up that Ms. Rehab, who has been given approximately 74 "last chances," would be back in trouble in less than a year.

I gave her too much credit.

Today comes the report:

Just when Lindsay Lohan seemed to be making progress in her court-ordered rehab, FOX411's Pop Tarts column has learned that the actress endured "several problems" while in lock down at California's Betty Ford clinic, and will now be getting help elsewhere.

Sources close to the situation tell us the District Attorney approved the change earlier this week, and on Thursday Lohan was being relocated to Cliffside Malibu.

In March, Lohan pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges stemming from the June 2012 car accident; reckless driving and providing false information to a police officer. She was sentenced to 90 days in a lock down rehabilitation center, 30 days of community service, and 18 months of mandated psychotherapy.

Well gosh, at least she'll be getting that "mandated psychotherapy"  --  and at a tough-as-nails place like "Cliffside Malibu."

Study on Halfway Houses

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In the 1960s, America made a terrible mistake.  We believed too easily in experts who supposedly had the answers for corrections.  They knew how to "fix" criminals who were, after all, sick and not evil.  When the fixes were actually subjected to scientific scrutiny to determine which of them worked, the stunning answer was that none of them did.  In the meantime, lax sentencing contributed to the horrific rise in crime, a rise that was brought back down only after we got tough.

Fast-forward 50 years, and those who do not remember this history are working to condemn the nation to repeat it, over the vehement objection of those who do remember.  One of the programs touted to rehabilitate criminals so we won't need to lock so many up is halfway houses.  Or maybe not.  Sam Dolnick has this story in the NYT:

The federal government and states across the country have spent billions of dollars in recent years on sprawling, privately run halfway houses, which are supposed to save money and rehabilitate inmates more effectively than prisons do.

But now, a groundbreaking study by officials in Pennsylvania is casting serious doubt on the halfway-house model, concluding that inmates who spent time in these facilities were more likely to return to crime than inmates who were released directly to the street.

The findings startled the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett, which responded last month by drastically overhauling state contracts with the companies that run the 38 private halfway houses in Pennsylvania. The system costs more than $110 million annually.

Pennsylvania's corrections secretary, John E. Wetzel, who oversaw the study, called the system "an abject failure."
Thanks to Michael Santella for the link.

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