Social systems vs jail time

Almost 20% of the people in jail are under the age of 26 and almost 94% of that number is men.  Most men don’t even wake up until they are 26.  There are obviously exceptions to everything but when someone lands in jail under 26 years old, the chances that they will go on and live a productive life once serving their time is questionable.  Your record could read for the rest of your life “do not hire me”.  Also, consider this, 50% of all black males have been arrested by the time they turn 23.

Our attorney General, Jeff Sessions, seems to be stuck to a theme that didn’t work in the 70’s which is of heavy-handed jail terms and a belief that our streets are riddled with crime.  The data points otherwise but the Trump administration is not interested in data, they are only interested in what they believe with no facts.  They are fabulous at creating fear around unfounded data which is just like hearing fake news spewed at you all day long until at one point you actually believe it.

In California, a place where change is taking place around future thinking, there is a program in the courts based on science.  The data shows that adults under the age of 24 have not fully matured yet they are being tried as adults in court.  Scientists believe that an immature brain may contribute to some criminal behavior. Considering that this generation of 24-year-olds will live to be 100, the concept of just tossing them in jail for a crime and hoping that they get on with their lives or not is a huge expense to all of us.  A program in California took people for this age and instead of putting them in jail, gave them an alternative to meet with the court administrators to help them with employment, housing and education.  They also go to weekly therapy and life-skills classes.

I really like these approaches.  It might not save everyone but this way of thinking can have a better impact on the community, the economy and most important, a human life.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    My ignorance around this topic is profound.I do know that the world has changed and all the structures from government and our justice system need to change as well.Politics as we know it, no matter how ingrained it is into our world and our behaviors, will change cause it must.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Everything must change and not go backward which is where we are heading right now.

      1. awaldstein

        the why is not a mystery. the how unfortunately to stem that slide is one still.

      2. lisa hickey

        “Everything must change and not go backward which is where we are heading right now.” Thanks for that. Agree. Working on it.

  2. pointsnfigures

    I’d like to see them decriminalize a lot of drugs, and end the war on drugs. That would be a game changer. No administration has done this. Nixon engaged in that war for politics, disguised as social value. Economist Milton Friedman told him he would fail. He did, it did.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. awaldstein

      this is not going to happen under current administration but I do agree wholeheartedly.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Didn’t happen under Carter/Clinton/Obama either. Going to take a person like Rand Paul to get in the White House for it to be done-or a big change in national dialogue. Dropping the war on drugs will change the metrics on gun violence in inner city neighborhoods as well as change metrics in rural ares too

        1. awaldstein

          I am not as convinced as you on the impact or how it will transpire but I still agree in the direction.

  3. LE

    A program in California took people for this age and instead of putting them in jail, gave them an alternative to meet with the court administrators to help them with employment, housing and education.Exactly.I know a young person (from a ‘good’ family), a girl (and iim very attractive) that was caught shoplifting at a mall. Something trivial from a clothing store. As a result she was banned from the mall for 1 year. Her parents felt she was lucky to not have the police called. Maybe her race and the way she looked played into this; blond, attractive..A bit later I got to speak with her and asked why she stole. It was simply ‘because I needed what was there and I didn’t have the money’.Something like that.I then gave her all sorts of ideas to earn money, spoke to her at length as well, and told her to call me if she needed any help with the ideas. Never heard from her although when I spoke she sounded sincerely as if she was going to work toward something and give it a shot. (Could see it in her eyes..) But she didn’t. Just continue to get distracted with the life of a teenage. Essentially going nowhere posting pictures on facebook or snapchat etc. So this was a clear case of ‘lead a horse to water’.Later I thought that instead of banning her from the mall (banning a customer; she was someone who went there with friends frequently and spent money!) the mall should have had a program that required the kids to attend in order to not be banned for a year as punishment. I even took up the idea with a psychologist that is a tenant of mine. (Who ironically works part time at a prison with inmates).

  4. lisa hickey

    I’m really glad this topic is getting more exposure and more great minds thinking about it. Our prison system is an archaic system, rooted in racism, and needs more of the type of innovative solutions like the California program you mention. One thing our media company has been studying recently is that their is a high percentage of people in jail with CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) — a progressive degenerative disease of the brain usually caused by repeated hits to the head. The kind of damage that occurs from football, war, abuse, violence, etc. It’s the reason there was a push to study Aaron Hernandez’s brain—we need a lot more research, but it’s starting to happen. We must move forward, we must stop thinking in terms of “some people are good and some are bad” and figure out how to solve the underlying causes that put people in jail in the first place. And we need to find the economic incentives to do so, otherwise change will never happen.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Did not know they were studying his brain. Really interestingI want to believe most people are good.

      1. lisa hickey

        What we believe is that, yes, most people are good. But there are so many pressures—pressures to succeed, to be a financial success in order to “be a man”, to be good at sports, to be seen as sexual (or if you are a woman, to sit there and look pretty). There is untreated mental illness because of societal pressures that is weak. The pressures that drive people to addiction, the lack of alternatives. The stress of poverty, of abuse, of environmental stressors. It’s all connected, and it all causes or amplifies the societal problems like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia. I know it seems overwhelming—but I’d rather solve ALL the problems, because I think if enough people see this we can get it to unravel. But in the meantime—we also need very specific, targeted solutions on some of the individual problems. And more research. Even more “citizen scientists” would help.

    2. Michael Kasdan

      The numbers of homeless people, people in prison, and veterans with brain injuries are staggering. According to a report by the CDC, Traumatic Brain Injury in Prisons and Jails: An Unrecognized Problem: “According to jail and prison studies, 25-87% of inmates report having experienced a head injury or TBI [traumatic brain injury] as compared to 8.5% in a general population reporting.”We are scratching the surface on the CTE problem coming at it from a football and sports perspective.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Really interesting especially thinking about physical sports at a young age

        1. lisa hickey

          Exactly. (Full disclosure, Michael Kasdan is on my team at The Good Men Project). We have been kicking around the idea of doing some sort of PSA that shows a dad and his kid, and the dad is saying “You wouldn’t hit your kid in the head. In fact, if you repeatedly hit your child in the head, it would be called child abuse”. And then cut to quick flashes of head collisions in football. And end with a call to action to get people to better understand CTE. It’s all just in the rough idea stage. But we’re not a traditional media company that just runs content in our website—we actually invite our community to phone calls where we talk about these things and brainstorm ways to solve these problems. One of the people on the calls where we talk about Football and CTE is a woman whose son died of suicide after playing football in high school—and his brain had revealed CTE. The “aha” she got from understanding CTE with her son is the “aha” we are trying to get others to understand. And that call has also included a neurologist and someone studying PTSD in veterans who sees some of the same problems from veterans exposed to the concussive effect of just repeatedly firing artillery. You don’t even have to be overtly injured in battle to get CTE. It’s really important to understand the implications of all this. As Michael says, we are just scratching the surface.

  5. Robin Bobbe

    Ava DuVernay’s great documentary 13th highlighted how the system is rigged to keep young African American men in our prisons. I agree with you. We need more of these programs that will help our youth and in turn that will help us all.

  6. Guest

    Have you not heard of Due Process? Are you not aware of the fact that everyone in jail has been tried and convicted of a crime? How many people do you know who were jailed or prisoned willy nilly?

  7. JLM

    .It is a difficult sell to suggest physiological development has an impact on the ability of a human to recognize the basic outline of right v wrong.The recognition of good v bad behavior is something manifested when children are younger than 10.Criminal policy is a three legged stool — education, prevention (interdiction), enforcement.Education provides the intellectual basis as to why one should not pursue a life of crime. This creates the burden of providing a real avenue to turn from a life of crime. If the most attractive financial alternative in a person’s life is to become an illegal drug distributor, then there has to an alternative which is attractive when balanced against the risk.If crime is the most attractive alternative, then we will spawn criminals.Prevention is the outgrowth of education and the earliest manifestation of enforcement. It is the angel on your shoulder saying, “You don’t want to do that.”Programs like Scared Straight are the bridge between education and prevention. They tell kids they don’t want to become criminals for a number of intellectually sound reasons and then show them the price tag if they do.Kids are, in fact, scared straight.Law enforcement in the US has become incredibly lax. So much so that ignoring laws seems to have no real price tag.Once in the system, a criminal gets as much justice as he can AFFORD. Many of the young men in jail are there because they had no or lousy lawyers.Again, the justice system works differently if you are white, have a good lawyer, and can spin a believable tale about your ability to be rehabilitated. Absent any one of these three and you are screwed.Most of what people are reacting to on this blog is a “hate Trump” knee jerk reaction in which anything Trump does is bad. Anything. Y’all are swimming in a swamp of your own making.AG Sessions is touring the country and telling US Attorneys that his Justice Dept will enforce the existing laws in an impartial, even handed manner. All that “justice is blind” crap.People who put the blame for the War on Drugs on Nixon fail to know the lesson of the Rockefeller drug sentencing laws. As Gov of NY, Rockefeller enacted laws — “draconian” would be a word fairly used — which then swept the country at the state level.Most people in jail for drugs are there because they violated state laws. If you are in jail because the DEA raided you for dealing heroin, then you probably belong in jail.Presidents have no impact on your son being caught with cocaine in the Hamptons. Sorry. It’s nice to rag on Trump, but the reality is they are state laws.The single most important unexplored territory on the issue of crime and drugs is WHY? Most everyone has concluded it has to do with the absence of parenting and the absence of parents.Marijuana possession (personal in small amounts, less than enough for distribution) is, effectively, decriminalized nationwide as we speak. Within 5 years, the possession and use of marijuana will be legal. There is a big cultural difference among indifference, decriminalization, and legalization.I offer a big caution — drugs are pouring across our southern border with Mexico. Illegal immigration may be tamped down by President Trump, but hard drugs are being “muled” across the border like never before. This is an area in which interdiction is the payoff.This is because the demand in the US for hard drugs is increasing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…