Sunday, May 03, 2020

From Behind Bars - Ending Mass Incarceration - Conclusion

Updated 4/07/24

By Michael Liebowitz

A Connecticut prisoner for some 25 years, Liebowitz was formerly housed at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, CT.  He has been a free man since November 2022.
Sadly, Melissa Palmeri passed away on Sunday, March 24th.  She was only 44 yrs. old.  Her obituary can be read, here.  Please consider making a ten-dollar donation to help Melissa's son, Vinny and Michael.  Donate here.
Along with Brett McCall, Liebowitz is also co-author of "Down the Rabbit Hole: How the Culture of Corrections Encourages Crime", available at Amazon.  Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, PhD reviewed the work in a 3/12/21 article in Psychology Today magazine.  In his review he writes, "I have found that Liebowitz and McCall are keen observers with a positive objective - to help others become more effective in helping people like themselves to change and become responsible human beings.  This book is definitely worth a read."  Michael's second book, "View from a Cage" is now in print.
Liebowitz is also a regular guest with Todd Feinburg on WTIC AM 1080.  Podcasts of Todd's segments with Liebowitz can be heard, here.

The previous five segment to this series are titled:

· End the War on Drugs
· Widespread Implementation of Functional Family Therapy (FFT) and Multisystemic Therapy (MST); Hold Juveniles Accountable
· Widespread Implementation of Evidence-Based Programs
· Widespread Implementation of Core Correctional Practices
· Remunerate Correctional Officials and Employees Based on Results, i.e., Reduced Recidivism


Privately Fund a Significant Portion of Reform Programs

I would like to see the bulk of the suggested offender reform programs – including education – privately financed. This could be done through charity, social impact bonds, or some combination of the two. Privately funded programs will likely be cheaper, more effective and would avoid the incessant debates about whether tax dollars should be spent in this manner.

The economist David Friedman asserted that anything done by government could be done in the private sector for half the cost. While I don’t know if anyone has ever tested this hypothesis, or if the ratio is exact, I do believe the principle is accurate. This is because when the government funds a project, those in charge of how the money gets spent know that the government can always get more via taxes. Thus, they have little incentive to monitor how much they’re spending, or how they could spend less and achieve the same result. On the other hand, private donors are likely to take a great interest in how efficiently their money is being spent. And given that they aren’t being forced to provide it, they are likely to stop doing so if it isn’t being spent wisely. Importantly, those making spending decisions know this, and are therefore incentivized to make as efficient use of the funds as they can.

Privately funded programs are likely to be more effective than if funded by the government for the same reason they’d be cheaper. Namely, if the programs don’t achieve the results desired by the donors, those doors will likely discontinue funding them. In other words, privately funded programs are likely to be more effective because the financial managers of private programs will be held accountable by those paying their salaries.

Finally, with taxpayers not being compelled to pay for the programs, they’re unlikely to be concerned with how many are being provided. They will have little incentive to protest, petition their representatives, or otherwise complain. And absent pressure from their constituents, such representatives would have little reason to oppose the programs.

 Core Correctional Practices

Anti-criminal Modeling – Staff serve as an anti-criminal model for offenders by engaging in pro-social behaviors and reinforcing them when they do the same.

Effective Reinforcement – Staff use effective reinforcement to reinforce a specific behavior that includes immediate statement of approval and support and the reasons why this behavior is desirable followed by consideration of the short-and-long-term benefits associated with continued use of the behavior.

Effective Disapproval – Staff use effective disapproval to communicate disapproval for a specific behavior that includes immediate statements of disapproval and the reasons why this behavior is undesirable followed by consideration of the short-and-long-term costs associated with continued use of the behavior and a clear demonstration of an alternate, pro-social behavior.

Effective Use of Authority – Staff make effective use of their authority by guiding offenders toward compliance, which includes focusing their message on the behavior exhibited, being direct and specific concerning their demands, and specifying the offender’s choices and attendant consequences.

Problem Solving – Problem solving is a specific social skill that is taught to offenders to address a variety of high-risk situations.

Relationship Skills – Effective staff possess several critical relationship skills including warm, open, non-judgmental, empathetic, flexible, engaging, solution-focused and directive.

Cognitive Restructuring – Staff need to help offenders understand the link between their thoughts and their behavior: What they think (e.g., attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs) affects how someone emotionally and behaviorally responds to a given situation, as opposed to situations directly dictating a person’s response.

Skill Building – In order for an offender to learn ways to behave, staff need to teach and proactive new skills with offenders. There are cognitive skills (e.g., how well people solve problems, experience empathy toward others, and rationally assess situations) that affect how a person behaves.

Motivational Enhancement - Effective staff help motivate offenders to change by increasing intrinsic motivation (getting them to want to change). Techniques include motivational interviewing, weighing the pros and cons, and goal setting.

Taken from “What Works (and Doesn’t) in Reducing Recidivism”, p. 64, by Edward J. Latessa, Shelley J. Listwan and Deborah Koetzle, (2015)

Typed from the author's hand written essay by Linda Johnson and edited by William Boylan, Editor-in-Chief.

Parts 1thru 5, along with the entire From Behind Bars series, can be seen, here.

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