Thanks to cost-cutting, or rather, thanks to the fact that there are lots of criminals in California, Los Angeles County is going to have to provide jail beds and parole supervision for 7,000 additional inmates a year who would have otherwise been sent to state prisons.
In the L.A. Times, County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich had this to say:
“It’s a system that’s meant to fail,” Antonovich said, “and who is it going to fail? Every neighborhood, every community where these people are going to be running around….It’s a Pandora’s box. It’s the bar scene — a violent bar scene that you saw in ‘Star Wars’ — except they’re all crazy and nuts.”
This is the only picture I could find of the bar scene in Star Wars. Everyone looks pretty calm. I imagine Los Angeles County is about to start looking a whole lot worse.
Meanwhile, San Francisco is predictably responding to the collapse of the justice system by trying to pass a law that would prevent landlords and employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories, because doing so unfairly stigmatizes them. Times criminal-activist-cum-reporter Alexandria Le Tellier predictably scolds people for being small-minded and “scared” at the prospect:
I understand the instinct to feel scared and to wonder if criminals deserve jobs when unemployment is so high. But people deserve second chances. They deserve an opportunity to reintegrate into society and to get it right this time. If we create obstacles rather than opening the door to a life that’s worth living, then, as a society, we fail. Beyond compassion, we need to give people a way out of the life that got them in trouble in the first place.
Wow, that’s big of her. Because, you see, people aren’t trying to protect their employees and businesses, or homes and neighborhoods, by making informed decisions about the character of ex-cons: they’re just being vindictive and scared. I’m sure Ms. Le Tellier won’t mind when the next violent thug comes knocking to share her loft space. She’s already sharing her confusion about the difference between “compassion” and “lying to vulnerable people about threats of violence” with the equally contemptuous Father Gregory Boyle of the controversial Homeboy Industries. Like Le Tellier, Boyle loudly and repeatedly accuses ordinary, non-criminal people of being “heartless” and hateful while insisting that his charges are choirboys underneath all that social misunderstanding. It’s all our fault, you see, that they’re forced to commit crimes: Los Angeles is just one big scene from Les Miserables where gang members set out to steal loaves of bread to feed their starving young-uns.
Like many self-appointed saintly types, Father Boyle’s sermonizing is laced with threats and insinuations that the heartless public will get what it deserves if it doesn’t yield to his superior example:
We lose our right to be surprised that California has the highest recidivism rate in the country if we refuse to hire folks who have taken responsibility for their crimes and have done their time . . . As a society, we come up lacking in many of the marks of compassion and wisdom by which we measure ourselves as civilized.
Lose our right to be surprised? There’s something very ugly about so-called religious leaders claiming the moral high ground through this sort of ethical shakedown. How do offenders “take responsibility” for the harm they have done to society by lying about their pasts to those who would employ or house them?
The dishonest, accusatory, and self-serving moral drama enacted by people like Father Boyle (aka “G-Dog”) and Alexandria Le Tellier is the real barrier standing between offenders’ pasts and their potential for real redemption. “Doing time” doesn’t really “repay” society, or offenders’ victims: that’s a mere metaphor, no matter how many times it gets repeated. Remorse isn’t possible without acknowledgment of harm. And, like it or not, recidivism arises from criminal intentions, not career disappointment, as Boyle should know, having personally buried “173 of his homies” who apparently failed to find adequate satisfaction in building solar panels or baking bread at Homeboy Industry’s very pricey “campus.”
Romanticizing criminals while busking up their feelings of entitlement is a recipe for more crime, not less.
But if the federal government has anything to do with it, the insanity in San Francisco is poised to become national policy, now that the E.E.O.C. is getting into the “prisoner re-entry” game. “Re-entry,” also know as showering offenders with public resources — from massages to green jobs to paid positions as “community organizers” — is Eric Holder’s pet project and has been elevated to Cabinet status by President Obama.
The E.E.O.C. recently announced that they’re in the “information and best practices gathering” mode regarding criminal histories and employers, a sure sign that craziness lies ahead. Who wants to bet that the “best practice” they find turns out to be precisely what the most radical activists want: a right to sue for discrimination if employers or landlords deign to ask applicants to tell the truth about their criminal pasts?