From U.S. News and World Report which listed Corey Booker as one of America's best leaders for 2009:

When he failed to bring down crime in this famously troubled city as much as he'd wanted to during his first year as mayor, Cory Booker decided to take a more hands-on approach. He started accompanying police on street patrols—every night, until 4 a.m. "It was something I vehemently discouraged," says Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy, who didn't want the mayor micromanaging his cops.

But Booker, a Yale Law School graduate and former Rhodes scholar, persevered. "I wanted to show people that I'm willing to work as hard or harder than anybody in city hall," Booker says in his downtown Newark office, "to get the word out to police officers that I was challenging them to show my level of commitment."

This is real leadership, leading by example. When people believe their leaders are working hard and care about people they are more likely to be invested in working towards mutual goals. They also feel more like their work is valued and appreciated.  Believing in what they are doing is huge because it increases their level of commitment.

The message got through. Police productivity increased. Sick days declined. And most crimes, including homicides, have fallen sharply from 2006, the year Booker was elected. The episode captures the 40-year-old Booker's lead-by-example ethos: "My mom used to say that who you are speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say."

Cory Booker, the Mayor of New Jersey is working on changing how former inmates are reintegrated back into society in New York. Essentially as our country has become more like a police state we have dumped huge numbers of citizens into the prisons. As I have said many times before this has been done so corporations can make money, to decrease the numbers of voters for the democratic party, to house the untreated mentally ill, because of prejudice, and because many of the prisons have become a training ground for the ’christian’ right. There is even a unit in Alaska which is based on ‘christian’ principles, funded by the tax payers. Several post prison ’christian’ programs also exist. In Alaska former inmates are basically dumped on the streets. If they have no family to help them and can’t get into a shelter they are thrust into an unsafe situation on many levels. Women are vulnerable for obvious reasons. With poor nutrition in some areas and harsh living conditions health problems are exacerbated.

They are not allowed to get section 8 housing, the stigma makes it nearly impossible to get a job, there are very limited services, they are in an environment which makes drugs and alcohol readily available, and police may harass them on the streets just because they are there. Even if an inmate has money, finding housing is also nearly impossible due to having a criminal record. Available housing is substandard and in other states these rentals would be condemned and closed to habitation making living in a shelter a healthier proposition. When having to live in these conditions people often turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of the living situation and low self esteem. It is well documented that giving chronic alcoholics a place to live decreases the amount they drink.

Imagine having to live in a tent this winter. Imagine having been in prison, being mentally ill or chemically dependent (or both) with no treatment, and now you are living on the streets. The only place you have is a tent because you are not welcome at the shelters because your untreated mental illness causes your behavior to be disruptive(I know Brother Francis does everything they can to accommodate disruptive people including having them sleep in a separate room. They also coordinate with mental health services). The people who have homes in the area your tent is in are angry that you are there, so the city sends the police to give you a notice to leave. Your thinking is disordered and you can’t figure out what to do. You may be on drugs and alcohol as a self treatment of your illness making thinking even more difficult. You go back to your tent after going to find something to eat and what little you had to survive with is gone. Where do you go when you are unwanted by society?

The prison system itself is built on tearing people down. They use differing abusive tactics often done by prison staff who have their own issues which result in people leaving the prison system very broken. It is not hard to break down people who were already having a hard time before they got there. When people feel worthless and are then ground into nothing does the Department of Corrections expect fully integrated adults to emerge from the system? There is very little chemical dependency counseling or vocational training, let alone parenting classes or other types of help to change lives. In fact if these services had been available many may not have ended up incarcerated to begin with. Of course they are going to re-offend. The system is designed to make this happen.

The cost of this system to tax payers is phenomenal. Legislators have been passing laws for years to make sentences of non-violent crimes harsher. The so called war on drugs is the main rationale sited. The corporations which sell supplies to prisons, build them, and corrections officers unions have lobbied for this. Many have been wrongfully incarcerated or given harsh sentences. Those whose case clearly shows that their lives have spiraled out of control and simply need some help to get back on track are sent to prison instead of getting help, therefore causing a life which could have been facilitated to move forward instead destroyed. This is one of the many ways our society is being destroyed, with emphasis on certain populations or classes of people. Instead of spending more money on counseling, programs for jobs, drug and alcohol treatment, and education we spend far greater amounts on arresting, searching for people to arrest, and housing inmates. Looking at the sociological consequence I believe is even more important than the financial consequences.

The parole/probation system is used to send large numbers back to prison without having to do much court room activity. It is based on conditions like not drinking alcohol which if broken say the offender goes back to serve their full sentence. Of course expecting addicts in early recovery to not relapse is totally illogical, especially without any help. This only makes sense if you are the person getting rich off of this system.

From the HuffPo:

New Jersey is being crushed under the cost of capturing, adjudicating and imprisoning the same criminals again and again -- a large portion of which are non-violent drug offenders. In towns, it is no different: the largest expenditure of Newark's budget is for public safety. Over the last ten years, the Department of Corrections budget has increased by 36 percent to a staggering $1.2 billion (this does not include the increased expenditures in city and county jails). It costs $48,000 per inmate per year and when we release them, 62 percent of inmates become repeat offenders within three years.

How many of these inmates have been arrested for marijuana? Why do we sell the extremely addicting and harmful substance alcohol and not allow marijuana which is much less harmful? How many acts of violence have occurred because someone was under the influence of alcohol? We all know the issues of being from an alcoholic family which contribute greatly to social ills. The drug companies don’t want marijuana legal because it has huge pharmaceutical benefits in a wide range of health issues which could replace their medications and people could grow it at home. We all know from the healthcare reform that big Pharma gets what big Pharma wants. Most of the propaganda about marijuana has been disproved.

As we confront the state budget crisis, we must fix a system otherwise doomed to spiral out of control, with taxpayers spending billions to fund the cycle of re-arrest and re-imprisonment.

In Newark we realized that we could not address crime's many costs to society with improved policing alone. We had to stop this vicious cycle. The most effective way to do this was to help ex-offenders so that they could reenter society with hope and pathways to productivity.

Helping people feel a part of society fosters participation and hope in their future. This is an investiment in the future. The effects on the children of those incarcerated contribute to their potential to end up in the prison system also. What if getting arrested could be viewed as a gateway to a new life rather than a dead end stigmatizing people and forcing them into a life where their success is legislated into oblivion? I used to live in a state where people would help get people arrested for driving while intoxicated because they were safe in the prison and it was known the judge would send them to treatment. This was done not just to protect the intoxicant, but also to protect others. When the prisons and legal system are harsh and unsafe people will not report their friends or family because they are afraid they will be harmed or stigmatized.

To achieve this we formed a significant right-left coalition of groups -- from the Manhattan Institute to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, from the Nicholson Foundation to Public/Private Ventures -- to launch the Newark Prisoner Reentry Initiative, an unprecedented, federal Labor Department-funded effort to address reentry on a citywide scale.

NPRI participants are assisted in their job search and provided with mentoring and training by community organizations. So far, NPRI has served more than 600 formerly incarcerated individuals and pushed participants' one-year recidivism rate below 10 percent.

Our reentry efforts serve hundreds more with our partners across the community. Essex County College hosts the innovative Opportunity Reconnect network of services. ReLeSe, a pro bono corps of lawyers dedicated to assisting individuals with criminal records, developed an innovative driver's license restoration program. And the Fatherhood Center helps formerly incarcerated fathers become stronger parents and engaged citizens.

Our program is early in its development. Yet it's already clear that reductions in the recidivism rate will result in millions of dollars in savings to New Jersey taxpayers.

It has been known all along this type of program would decrease recidivism and save tax payers money. Our system of gulags was designed for people to make money using fear instilled into the public about crime and drugs. The so called war on drugs is a part of the campaign. This has caused people who are patients who got addicted to medication to be criminalized. The drug companies design drugs, lie about their addictive properties thus insuring huge sales, then people commit crimes to get them and are criminalized. We do not fund mental health treatment which has also caused the mentally ill to become criminalized. In fact getting mental health treatment is Alaska can be nearly impossible and the practitioners are often undereducated thus providing substandard treatment which includes abuse.

The package of prisoner reentry bills currently pending in the legislature provides a path toward similar solutions statewide and will greatly strengthen the ground efforts in Newark. These bills, introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson-Coleman, contain an array of measures proven to reduce recidivism, including provisions to eliminate barriers to employment for people with criminal records, establish a high school equivalency program for inmates, and provide inmates with necessary documentation (such as ID) to facilitate a successful transition back into the community.

Some are quick to point out that certain provisions of the state bills would cost money at a time of tremendous fiscal strain -- adding millions to the state budget in the near term. Many of these people are using this understandable concern to reflexively oppose this legislation. However, the cost of doing nothing simply leaves the tremendous expense of arrest, adjudication and incarceration to fester and grow larger and more burdensome in coming years.

What about reversing legislature which is harsh and backwards. Will our country ever be able to recover from this? What about stopping prosecutors from using bad science, deals for testimony, malicious prosecution, and eyewitness accounts(often useless) to incarcerate the innocent. How much will be spent reversing all of these bad convictions? Probably very little. What about stopping judges who sentence people based on their skin color or economic class? What about changing laws that prevent former inmates from getting public housing? What about transition housing? What about decent places for the mentally ill where they can get some assistance with daily living? What about passing legislature to force states to provide mental health and chemically dependency treatment on a federal level?

I would rather see bailout programs to fund something like the CCCs, Civilian Conservation Corps from the 1930s and 1940s, than bailout the banks. The program provided vocational training while getting a huge number of conservation projects done in this country. Three million men were provided jobs and people all over the country benefited from the work they did. The money they made was usually sent to their families to help them survive the great depression. I have never heard anyone who was alive during that time say anything negative about the CCC, in fact they generally have a great love of the program telling stories about, "the boys from the CCC". This program could benefit a wide number of young people who are having trouble getting employment right now. It could provide some mentoring to young people coming from bad family or community situations. Of course the right wing would argue this is socialism and cause problems if congress tried to pass legislature for such a program. The Nazi tactics of running the biggest system of oppressive gulags in the world however doesn’t seem to bother them at all. No, they love having a class of people to look down on.

We cannot be penny-wise and pound-foolish. The time to act is now. If implemented effectively, the bills not only have the ability to pay for themselves but can provide significant savings to taxpayers in future budget years. This is not fantasy or fiction; the proof can be seen in the active bipartisan success so evident in Newark right now.

The deafening roar of those who make money off the incarceration of millions will now begin.


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