Saturday, January 31, 2009

Public Support Grows for Rehabilitating Ex-Convicts

By Dr. Henrie M. Treadwell

Atlanta, GA ( - The nation's appetite for mass incarceration appears to be waning, as many states confront the financial challenges of maintaining large prison populations and as public support grows for more services that better prepare prisoners to come home to their communities.

After four decades of tougher sentencing, the incarceration rate in the United States is the highest in the world at 715 inmates per 100,000 residents, far outdistancing the Russians, who are second at 584 per 100,000. But more Americans are recognizing that mass incarceration has largely failed. Their neighborhoods aren't any safer, and funding the expanded prison system has drained resources that could be spent more productively on rehabilitation, healthcare, education and other social services.

A poll conducted in December 2008 by Zogby International for Community Voices at Morehouse School of Medicine found that across the country and in Georgia there is substantial support for progressive rehabilitation and educational services for inmates and those recently released from prison. A majority of respondents said it was "very important" for former inmates to receive access to job training, drug treatment, mental health care, mentoring and family assistance.

Clearly, the public recognizes that the mass incarceration strategy is not working. Both nationally (72 percent) and in Georgia (86 percent), most respondents said they were concerned about crime in their communities. Moreover, at least half of all respondents agreed that when people leave prison, their life skills have not been improved and they experience too many obstacles to living crime-free lives. In fact, a majority of respondents supported the idea of state-funded rehabilitation services for inmates before and after they are released. Respondents also overwhelmingly supported providing former inmates with job training, public housing, student loans and medical services.

Perhaps the most significant finding was that 70 percent of the national respondents and 69 percent of Georgians said they would rather see additional state money spent on treatment programs and other services for ex-offenders than on constructing new prisons.

The key question now, however, is whether this strong public sentiment for ending mass incarceration and launching comprehensive rehabilitation will actually lead to changes in public policy.

It will take bold leadership by our political leaders, ideally starting with President Barack Obama. National, state and local politicians will remain under pressure to take the politically safe route and continue to emphasize locking up offenders. But this policy becomes problematic when states face severe budget shortfalls because of the recession, leaving elected officials to search for ways to cut prison expenses.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to grant early release to more inmates, while in Kentucky temporary cost-saving measures have already led to the early release of nearly 2,000. Other states, such as Virginia and New York, are also debating whether to let out early thousands of inmates. In Michigan, state officials have agreed to make changes in parole policies that will reduce the state's prison population by thousands and save $262 million over the next six years.

Yet some officials are clinging to the status quo, despite its heavy costs and demonstrated ineffectiveness. In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels is under fire from opponents after proposing a budget that includes a $40 million expansion of two prisons, but cuts funding for several agencies and higher education, and offers no new spending on K-12 education. In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell wants fixed prison terms for repeat offenders, rather than flexible ranges.

It's clear, however, that sunset is coming for mass incarceration. Many state officials who are shifting policies to save money will find that this to be a winning strategy--if they steer more resources to rehabilitating ex-inmates. The public already recognizes that this is a better public policy for the safety of their communities. Now, it's time for public officials to get on the bandwagon.

(Dr. Henrie M. Treadwell is director of Community Voices at Morehouse School of Medicine, a nonprofit organization working to improve health services and health-care access for all Americans. Media seeking interviews with Dr. Treadwell please contact Alicia Ingram, 404-493-1724 to schedule.)

State Your Case: Cards or Steelers

Football fans like to debate whether their team is better than the other guy's. So do National Columnists. The AP's Tim Dahlberg and Jim Litke lay out their cases for why either the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers will win. (Jan. 31)

After long wait, Hayes makes Hall of Fame

By BARRY WILNER - AP Football Writer
2009-01-31 17:52

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -The long, slow wait to get into the Hall of Fame ended at last for one of the fastest men to play in the NFL, Bob Hayes.

``Bullet Bob,'' the 1964 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist who went on to star for a decade with the Dallas Cowboys, was elected on Saturday, 28 years after first becoming eligible for induction.

His problems off the field were believed to have contributed to the delay, and though he died in 2002, he made sure his sister would be prepared if, somehow, he made it someday.

``He left a statement for me to read in case this day came,'' Lucille Hester said.

In the letter, Hayes thanked everyone who supported him, even those who may not have voted for him. He thanked teammates, everyone who played for the Cowboys - singling out Roger Staubach - and also thanked the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he finished his career.

Hayes paid tribute to his high school, Florida A&M and concluded by thanking his hometown of Jacksonville, Dallas and the state of Texas.

``Just thank everyone in the whole world. I love you all,'' he wrote.

Hayes had drug and alcohol problems and legal issues in an era when the public wasn't nearly as accustomed to seeing its sports stars struggle off the field. He served 10 months in a Texas prison after pleading guilty in 1979 to delivering narcotics to an undercover officer.

That ``destroyed my life'' Hayes wrote in his autobiography, ``Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes.'' The prison term ended at about the same time he became eligible for the hall.

Earlier in week Staubach said he was pulling for Hayes to get in and spoke about how his teammate revolutionized the passing game, changing the way defenses played. Staubach claimed Hayes would be the fastest player in the NFL if he were playing today.

One of Hayes' biggest supporters for induction was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. In 2001, Jones made sure Hayes was inducted into the team's Ring of Fame.

``This is a deserving honor for one of the Cowboys' most truly gifted stars,'' Jones said. ``We all know he changed the game on the field, but he also brought a unique star quality to the NFL that helped make professional football the most popular sport in the world. He was a world champion in two different sports, and he had a world-class heart.

``This is a great day for Bob Hayes' legacy, his family and the Dallas Cowboys.''

Hayes twice led the NFL in touchdown receptions and in average yards per catch. He also was a terrific kick returner.

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Hayes won the 100 meters, tying the world record of 10.05 seconds. He anchored the U.S. 400-meter relay team to victory in a world-record 39.06. Hayes' relay split was a sensational 8.6 seconds.

That speed translated to the football field, but his other troubles seemed to obscure his accomplishments.

Until Saturday.

``It didn't matter how long it took,'' his sister said, ``The day is here, and it is historic.''

Serena Williams Beats Safina for fourth Australian Open title

Serena Williams Beats Safina for fourth Australian Open title

Melbourne, Australia: In Australian Open finals Serena Williams dominated Russian Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3, for her 10th major championship.

The Williams won this Grand Slam event title, who also won this event in 2003, '05 and '07, will assume the No. 1 ranking in the world come Monday.This Singles titles for Serena came just a day after she and sister Venus took home women's doubles title, topping Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova and Japan's Ai Sugiyama.

Chavez Turns Nazi, Escalates Anti-Semitic Campaign

Chavez Turns Nazi, Escalates Anti-Semitic Campaign

"We don't want Jews here" and "Jews get out" were the slogans daubed on a Caracas synagogue's walls Saturday.

David Bitan, vice president of the Jewish community in Venezuela, told Ynet that late Friday night a number of assailants broke down the synagogue's door and threw scripture books on the floor, then proceeded to graffiti the hateful slogans on the walls.

"We found the guard on the floor, he had been threatened with a gun," Bitan said. "Until 3 am they destroyed the offices, opened the Ark of the Covenant, and threw the Torah books on the floor."

He said the Jewish community had filed an official complaint with the police. "This is a very complicated situation for the Jews in Venezuela. The slogans were not against Israel but against the Jews," he said.

Bitan added that the community has been troubled by numerous anti-Semitic acts over recent years, and a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Venezuela, Daniel Ben-Naim, said the incident testified to the increasing hatred of Jews in the country.

"We've never had such an incident. It looks well-planned," he said. "We were afraid something like this would happen. The official press was becoming more and more anti-Israeli and anti-Jews. There are hundreds of anti-Semitic articles, ads, and fliers."

An Israeli residing in Caracas said images from the ravaged synagogue had been displayed in the local media. He said he had seen that another slogan, "Death to the Jews", was also sprayed in the synagogue.

Relations between Israel and Venezuela became strained over the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Caracas severed its diplomatic ties with Israel after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed Israel's actions as "inhumane".

On Wednesday the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem announced that it had ordered Venezuelan diplomats in Israel to exit the country by the end of the week. In response, Caracas stated that the country was proud its diplomats had been expelled, and called Israeli leaders criminals.

Bishop Apologizes to Pope but Does Not Retract Holocaust Denial

A Holocaust-denying bishop who was readmitted to the Catholic Church apologized Friday to Pope Benedict XVI for the "unnecessary distress and problems" caused by his "imprudent remarks."
Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four leaders of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X whose 1988 excommunications were lifted by the pope Jan. 21, posted the statement on his personal blog.

Jewish groups have voiced outrage that Williamson recently told Swedish television that "historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler."

On Thursday, Israel's chief rabbinate, the country's highest Jewish body, severed ties with the Vatican.

In an apparent response to the controversy, Benedict on Wednesday condemned the Nazi genocide of "millions of Jews" and expressed his "full and indisputable solidarity" with the Jewish people.

The pope has not, however, explicitly condemned Williamson's remarks.

Williamson's apology came in the form of a letter, dated Jan. 28, to Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, head of the Vatican office that deals with the Society of St. Pius X and other traditionalist groups disaffected by church reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

"Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept . . . my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems," Williamson wrote.

The bishop also expressed gratitude for Benedict's cancellation of his excommunication and promised to "offer a Mass" for the pope and Castrillón.

In an introductory comment for readers of his blog, Williamson suggested that critics had exploited his remarks merely to attack Benedict.

"Last week's media uproar" was "surely aimed rather at the Holy Father than at a relatively insignificant bishop," he wrote.

Williamson also hinted that his apology was not a retraction of his inflammatory historical statements but a gesture of deference to the pope.

Introducing the letter to Castrillón, Williamson noted that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X, "gave his Society the example of never so cleaving to God's Truth as to abandon respect for the men holding God's Authority."

Also Friday, an Israeli government official said that the Jewish state maintains good relations with the Vatican despite the controversy over Williamson, the Associated Press reported.

Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy, said that "the climate is good" and that there is "a lot of potential for cooperation" between the Vatican and Israel.

Turkey's Erdogan Walks Out Of Davos Over Israel's Attacks On Gaza

ANKARA, Turkey -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan walked out of a heated debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres about the Gaza Strip conflict, at the Davos World Economic Forum late on Thursday (January 29th). Turkey had criticised Israel's actions throughout the Gaza operation earlier this month. In Davos, Erdogan criticised the Israeli government's attitude towards the Palestinians, as well audience members who applauded Peres as he defended Israel's actions. Erdogan walked out saying the moderator had given him far less time to speak than Peres.

"If we are moderated in this way, we will not leave Davos with what we want to achieve at this meeting and it will cast a shadow on the efforts for reaching peace," Erdogan explained. Arriving back in Istanbul, he received a hero's welcome from a huge crowd at the airport. Erdogan said Peres has phoned him to apologise for his tone. (Sabah, Hurriyet, Milliyet, Zaman, DPA, BBC - 30/01/09)

Limbaugh on Obama: “I hope he fails.”

When asked about his hopes for the Barack Obama presidency, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh infuriated Obama supporters with four simple words: “I hope he fails.” But it is important to take Limbaugh’s words into context with his entire statement on the matter. (You can watch a video here.) Does Limbaugh actually want Obama’s presidency to fail, in that he wants the country to suffer?

What Limbaugh actually said is that he wants Obama’s policies to fail, meaning the defeat of President Obama’s legislative agenda. This is because Limbaugh believes Obama’s policies will be ineffective, counterproductive or destructive. This is a view I share. As I said in my letter to the editor in the Indianapolis Star, many Americans have serious philosophical differences with Obama on matters of public policy, and “it is foolish to expect these differences to be brushed aside in the name of ‘unity’ or bipartisanship.”

I also hope Obama fails, especially regarding his promise to sign the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act.” (I will write more on FOCA later.) I hope the Republicans and enough conservative Democrats defeat that in the House or Senate. I hope Obama fails to increase taxes, which is exactly what he promised to do when he said he supports rolling back President Bush’s tax cuts. I hope Obama fails to get legislation passed to expand “hate crimes” at the federal level.

(Read more after the leap).

The top item on Obama’s legislative agenda right now is a massive economic stimulus package. Back in 1993, President Clinton attempted to push a $16 billion economic stimulus package through the Congress, only to be blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Now, Republicans are considering getting on board with Obama’s stimulus, which leaves the Clinton package in the dust. Have Republicans given up on being the party of limited government? While Republicans have lost a lot of credibility as the party of limited government with Bush’s big-government agenda, there is no reason why they cannot reverse course and stand on libertarian principles as they did in the 1990’s.

Beyond objections to Obama’s legislative agenda based on effectiveness, there are questions about the role of the federal government that must be considered as well. As the government gets bigger, spends more money and takes more in taxes, we lose more and more freedom. The stimulus package pushed through last fall by Bush (after being delayed when the House Republicans revolted) was a huge expansion of government’s role in the economy. Do we really want to give the government even more control of the economy? Do we really want to take several more steps toward socialism?

Obama has made two significant political miscalculations in the first couple weeks of his Presidency. First, it is a mistake to complain about Limbaugh and encourage Republicans not to listen to him. For the leader of the free world to whine about a radio talk show host shows weakness and an inability to take criticism. Obama does not need to look like a crybaby this early in his presidency, especially considering his party expanded their control over Congress. I expect Limbaugh to be attacked through Obama’s surrogates, but Obama would be well advised to avoid criticizing Limbaugh directly.

Second, in discussions of the stimulus, Obama reminded Republicans that he won the election and said “I’ll trump you on that.” This displays an arrogance that is unbecoming of a President. Yes, elections have consequences and it is expected that Obama will implement his agenda, not a GOP agenda. But there is a difference between governing based on that and acting like a sore winner. Obama would be well advised to remember that the 2010 campaign will be in full swing in less than a year, and he could see his Party’s hold on Congress weaken or vanish.

On a personal level, I wish Obama the best and I hope this country enjoys peace and prosperity for the next four years. However, in terms of policies that expand the role of government, increase taxes, or advance a destructive social agenda, I agree with Rush Limbaugh. I hope Obama fails.

Obama's People Don't Pay Their Taxes... Again

First Geithner, now Daschle. Why can't Obama's people pay their taxes?! Tom Daschle apparently forgot to pay for his driver and car which cost 128,000 dollars. Apparently Daschle corrected the error and paid the fees on January 2nd. But this brings up a question, do we want people running this country who can't remember to pay what they owe in taxes!

Tom Daschle is supposed to be our Health Secretary. Health care is a major component of our national economy, and the high-cost of health care a major part of the economic mess we are in.

Now I have been optimistic about the pick of Tom Daschle, as he has a long history of strong efforts at health care reform. But this "forgetting" to pay taxes is very troubling. What if he "forgets" to conduct financial business when operating our health care system? I have the same fear with respect to Timothy Geithner. What are we to make of the fact that Geithner, who is supposed to be in charge of the national economy, can't file his taxes correctly?!

The natural response to my concern is to point out that many people make errors on their taxes, and that the mistakes of Geithner and Daschle are fairly routine errors. True enough. But, most people who make such routine mistakes are not running our economy, these guys are. Geithner directly, and Daschle indirectly, by running health care.

Now, both men may end up doing a fine job. We shall see. It seems clear to me, however, that these "tax problems" are a real concern, and must be very carefully scrutinized. Our country is in a real mess right now, we cannot afford to be careless.

Super Bowl XLIII Expert Picks

The Patriots may not be in the big game this year, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy a good ol’ fashioned Super Bowl Pick ‘Em.

Two of our staff writers, Geoff and Reid, have the exact same picks. If they tie, a coin flip will decide the winner of the Super Bowl Pick ‘Em. Reid will be heads, and Geoff will be tails.

Of course Geoff and Reid won’t be winners if the Steelers win the game, and if they win big, Chris will win the Pick ‘Em. He’s the only writer choosing Pittsburgh to beat the spread. View the whole list of picks below…

Super Bowl XLIII: Arizona vs. Pittsburgh Score Vs. Spread (PIT by 6.5) Over/Under (46.5) More Passing Yds? MVP
KC ARI 20, PIT 17 Cardinals Under Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald
Jeff PIT 27, ARI 23 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Willie Parker
Mike PIT 24, ARI 19 Cardinals Under Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald
Pete ARI 33, PIT 30 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Kurt Warner
Chris PIT 31, ARI 20 Steelers Over Kurt Warner Willie Parker
Geoff ARI 27, PIT 24 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald
Adam PIT 28, ARI 24 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner James Harrison
Dan PIT 20, ARI 17 Cardinals Under Kurt Warner Ben Roethlisberger
Reid ARI 27, PIT 24 Cardinals Over Kurt Warner Larry Fitzgerald

Participants will receive one point for each correct answer. For example, if Kurt Warner throws for 800 yards and the Cardinals win 92-30, choosing Kurt Warner as the MVP and the leader in Passing Yards would earn you two points, and choosing the Cardinals to win by more than 6.5 points and to combine with the Steelers to score more than 46.5 points would also earn you two additional points for four total.

In the case of a tie, we would follow this procedure:

The person closest to guessing Pittsburgh’s point total without going over wins.
If still tied, the person closest to guessing Arizona’s point total without going over wins.
If still tied, the person with the closest amount of total points to the game’s final score wins.
If still tied, fight to the death.
If still tied, coin flip.