Sometimes I think we care more about pets than people, which is really
strange when you think about it. I’m sure that couldn’t be true of any
other species on the planet.
We round up stray cats and dogs and
put them in cages where we feed and care for them while arranging to
find loving homes for as many as we can.
away the keys. And when we can’t afford to provide for their care any
longer, we throw them back onto the streets where they are on their own
to live or to die — or to continue the same criminal behavior that got
them jailed in the first place.
Some people — like my friend
Nyabingi Kuti, a community organizer and activist with the MLK Coalition
– think that is a crazy way to deal with the problem.
especially true now when thousands of felons are being shipped from
overcrowded state prisons to overcrowded county jails, or in the case of
the “Nons” (non-serious, non-sexual, nonviolent offenders), getting
released early onto the streets with nothing but $200 in “gate” money –
if they are lucky and their paperwork doesn’t get lost.
governor’s “realignment” plan that started Oct. 1, and it has a lot of
people worried that it will trigger a huge surge in crime after years of
decline. After all, without effective rehabilitation programs re-entry
into society is tough, which is why we have a 70% recidivism rate.
local politicians and law enforcement officials figure are howling for
more money to hire more cops and build more county jails.
others like Nyabingi are working hard to develop alternatives to jail
and tough policing to actually turn realignment into a creative
opportunity to bring resources together to help the “formerly
incarcerated” — a preferred term for ex-convicts — stay out of trouble
and lead productive lives.
Two dozen people with a wide range of
skills and experiences in law enforcement, government, mental and
physical health treatment, nonprofit charities and faith-based groups
met Thursday at the Flintridge Center in Pasadena to launch the Los
Angeles Reintegration Council as an organizing and coordinating tool.
are trying to reform a broken system,” Nyabingi tells them as he
explains his effort to work with probation officers and community groups
to create a groundswell for change in government policies at the local
government levels. “We need a united front to get them to listen.”
was chosen for good reason. The city is far ahead of the curve in
developing and implementing alternative programs that show signs of
helping reduce the recidivism rate.
Two years ago, the Pasadena
Police Department initiated a parolee outreach program with the
Flintridge Center — an incubator for nonprofits — and other groups that
has become a model for how parolees can be helped.