Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Taxpayers, Economy and Society Benefit from Prison Reform

According to the U.S. Attorney General's Office in a recent article in "Business Insider," the sequestration could result in a major budget cut to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to the tune of approximately $338 million.

Representatives from the Department of Justice said that they are "acutely concerned" about inmate and staff safety, a sentiment echoed by Attorney General Eric Holder, who said that these cuts could endanger the lives of staff and inmates in the federal prison system.

The recent murder of federal correction officer Eric Williams at the U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan, a high security prison for men, is a vivid reminder of the dangers our nation's correctional staff face daily, but could be worsened by the budget cuts as a result of the sequestration.
In addition to cuts that could jeopardize staff and inmate safety, freezing future hiring  and forcing 36,700 BOP staff to take an average of 12 days unpaid furlough during the remainder of the fiscal year will devastate staff morale to say the least, not to mention the financial burden such actions will have on BOP staff members and their families.

For the past two decades, criminal justice experts around the country, including several former Republican and Democratic attorney's general, state and federal judges and prosecutors, and members of the U.S. Congress have been racking their brains in an attempt to address criminal justice and prison reform.

One thing that has consistently been on the table has been considerations for alternative sentencing for first-time and non-violent offenders, in an attempt to reduce the present federal prison population that has gone from 25,000 in 1980 to more than an estimated 229,300 by this year's end. Another possibility has been to enhance good-time incentives, reward inmates for good behavior, and get them back into society faster, where they can work, pay taxes, take care of their families, and pay their fines and restitutions.

There has never been a better time to muster the courage to address this issue than right now.
The BOP presently allocates 54 days incentivized good-time per year, per inmate, far less than many state prison systems around the country. Enhancing the good time allocation from 54 days a year to 120 or 128 days a year could create nearly $1 billion annual savings to the BOP's staggering $6.6 billion budget. The additional good-time incentives would immediately and substantially reduce inmate overcrowding.  In addition, this would be an added incentive for inmates to comply with institutional rules and regulations, thereby reducing violence, creating safer facilities for staff and inmates alike.

Another possible remedy could be the passing of HR-62, the Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2013, that is presently sitting in the House. The bill was introduced on 3 January 2013, and referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations for review on 25 January 2013.

This bill would require the BOP to change its good time policy to require that prisoners be released if they (1) have served one half or more of their sentence, (2) are age 45 or older, (3) have never been convicted of a crime of violence, and (4) have not engaged in any violation of BOP disciplinary rules involving violent conduct.

The passing of this bill could generate another enormous cost savings to the American tax payer, reduce overcrowding, and also create an incentive for better behavior by the inmate population, which reduces violence, making the facilities safer for inmates and staff.

Lastly, BOP wardens have the statutory authority to recommend up to 12 months halfway house/home detention, in addition to an inmate's present allocation of 54 days a year good time. Historically, maximum halfway house/home detention recommendations have been rare; however, this alone could result in substantial cost savings to the American taxpayer.

These are just a few things that could dramatically and immediately reduce the federal prison population without letting violent offenders back on the streets. Such changes would also create enormous cost savings for the American taxpayer, reduce inmate violence in BOP's higher classification facilities, and generate collateral economic income, by getting these offenders back into society so they can work, pay taxes, take care of their family, and pay their restitutions and fines.
There is no question that criminal justice and prison reform will happen some time in the future, but it must begin today.

We cannot jeopardize the safety and security of the men and women who put their lives on the line day in and day out while staffing and securing our nation's prisons. There are ways to effectively and efficiently cut the BOP's budget without doing so.
The benefit to the American taxpayer and the economy can be enormous. The benefit to society could be immeasurable.

There is no better time to begin addressing this issue than today.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


There are plenty of things that I could say about the former Mayor of New York City, but I thought this was more fitting. It's a letter to my daughter, reflecting on a good and gracious man. May he rest in peace, and may God bless the family and loved ones he left behind.
3 February 2013

Dear Celine:

Two days ago, New York City lost one of its greatest assets, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. He passed away at the age of 88.

He was the Mayor of the City of New York for twelve years, long before you were born...but once on a warm September morning, you and he shared a stage.

It was September 6, 2000, and I was being sworn in as New York City's 40th Police Commissioner. The stage was full of dignitaries, police brass, and religious leaders. At six months old, you were sitting on Mommy's lap, front and center. Grandma and Grandpap sat in the second row and, right next to them, was the former Mayor Ed Koch.

With all the pomp and circumstance, Mayor Koch watched the excitement around him. He smiled and greeted everyone who said hello.

Mommy, who was sitting right in front of Mayor Koch, was holding her hands over your face, trying to protect you from the sun's rays, when the mayor leaned over and handed her his handkerchief.

"Put this over her head," he said, smiling at you. "The sun's no good for her."

Mommy thanked him, took the handkerchief, and placed it over your head, and for the remainder of the ceremony, you slept away.

When it was over, she thanked the kind Mayor, and tried to give the handkerchief back.

"Keep it," he said, "in case you need it."

And there's more to this story.

Twenty-three years earlier, I was working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with dreams of joining the New York City Police Department.

I wasn't sure how to apply for the job, so a friend recommended I call the New York City Department of Personnel and ask to be sent an application to take the NYPD test. I did, but the person I spoke with wasn't very helpful. I called back again and again, all to no avail.

Then my friend said, "Write a letter to the mayor - Mayor Ed Koch - and tell him that you want to join the NYPD and would like an application to apply."

At first I laughed. I knew that the Mayor of New York City had better things to do than respond to employment inquiries, but having nowhere else to turn, I typed out a letter and dropped it in the post.

Three weeks later, I received a short note from Mayor Ed Koch himself, in which he said that he forwarded my request to the appropriate departments, and should I not hear from them in the near future, please write back and let him know.

Within days of receiving his letter, I had more NYPD applications than I knew what to do with!

And the rest is history.

In July of 1986, I stood in the Brooklyn Technical Institute with 2,200 men and women, and was sworn in as a New York City Police Officer by the same mayor who made sure I received the application.

Fourteen years later, we all shared that stage.

Today, a New York City icon, and a great part of the city itself, is gone.

In reflecting on Mayor Koch's life, Chris Ruddy of NewsMax Media said, "He was a model of how a public servant and a good citizen can make a significant difference in the lives of others." In my case, that could never be more true.

When I think of the lessons we learn throughout our lives from others, there are a few very good ones that we could all learn from Mayor Koch.

Patriotism... his was viral!

He loved his city, his country, and his family, more than life itself.

In a recent interview for Vanity Fair, he was asked what was the one thing he most deplored about himself, and he said, "A willingness to go with my gut feeling rather than wait a day and contemplate other options."

When asked if he could change one thing about himself, what would it be, he said, "I would like to be more accepting of the faults of others."

And, one of my favorites, when asked what is the trait he deplored most about others, he replied, "Disloyalty."

Then came a question that took me back to that September morning.

What do you dislike most about your appearance, he was asked. "Sun damage on my face and head," he said. It was the same thing that bothered him about you sitting on that grand stage in the blaring sun.

When Mayor Koch was asked if he were to die and come back as a person or thing, what did he think he would want to be, he responded by saying, "A major political leader here in the United States."

I laughed to myself at that thought. If he were here today, I'd tell him something that he must have known.

Mr. Mayor, you were a major political leader in this country, right up until the day you died. You were relevant, candid, outspoken, and patriotic.

Celine, when Ed Koch was the mayor, no matter where he was or what he was doing, he would ask, "How'm I doing?"

If he were here today, we could tell him together that he did just fine.

I would thank him for his service to New York City and our country. You, my dear, could thank him for his handkerchief. It's a part of a great man that you can cherish forever.

Today, say a prayer for this great American.

Love, Daddy xo


Monday, December 17, 2012


Friday's mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, is one of the most horrifying and unimaginable events in our nation's history.
With it, will come questions about gun control, school safety and security, parenting, and how society responds to, and reports troubled behavior by it's citizens. There will be plenty of time for those debates, but now is not the time.
Although there are no words that will ever ease the pain of those whose loss is incomprehensible, our entire country needs to muster every bit of prayer, compassion and support, for them and their families during this difficult time.

We also need to insure that the courageous teachers and school officials that sheltered surviving students, and those students themselves; and the local, state and federal law enforcement officers, whose job it was to evacuate the school, and process a crime scene that will haunt most of them forever, must be looked after and taken care of.
There is nothing that will erase the images of that day from their minds - ever. I KNOW.
In the aftermath of Newtown, give your own children and loved ones, a special hug and kiss. There are many of our neighbors that will never have that opportunity again.
God Bless them, and remember them always in your thoughts and prayers.