Category Archives: sentencing alternatives

Lindsay Lohan’s jail break

Jail is an awful, dehumanizing place, and I don’t envy Lindsay Lohan for having to spend time there.

In case you’ve fallen behind in your tabloid reading: Lohan, the talented, but increasingly troubled actress, began serving a 90-day sentence today at the women’s jail in Lynwood, California.  She got it for failing to show up to court and violating the terms of her probation on earlier misdemeanor drug and driving charges.  

 In the run-up to her surrender, there was a predictable face-off between those who felt Lohan was getting what she deserved and those who thought she’d be better off in a rehab program.

While I agree that jail isn’t going to cure  a serious substance abuse problem, I have to say I’m glad she’s there.   And no, not just because this proves a famous actress isn’t above the law and has to pay for what she’s done like everyone else.   Initially, I thought that might be why as I’ve often expressed how I feel about rich or celebrated lawbreakers getting special treatment.

But ultimately, I realized it was more because of Lohan’s similarities to others who are doing time  behind bars.   If you take out the spoiled actress part and all the money, she’s actually a  pretty typical inmate.  Consider:

Lohan, who first charmed me playing twin sisters in “The Parent Trap,” has some incredible gifts.  My hope  is that she’s able to see this as a wake-up call and use her time away from society — which is expected in the end to be around 23 days — to face her problems.  Going to rehab is almost fashionable among the Hollywood set.  But sometimes people need a bigger dose of reality to get them to truly want to change.   Just as with Roberty Downey Jr.,  whose drug use ultimately earned him a prison term, this could be a turning point for Lohan. 

Readers, what do you think?  Have any of you ever been prompted to change your life or deal with major shortcomings because of  a jail or prison term?  How did you do it?

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Filed under addiction and recovery, alternatives to incarceration, life in prison, personal responsibility, second chances, sentencing alternatives, starting over, taking responsibility, women ex-offenders

Recognizing those on the front lines of reentry

If one of these folks  has helped you rebuild your life, this is the week to let them know.   And feel free to share your stories here.

Over the years, I’ve volunteered in probation offices in both Indiana and Virginia,  doing interviews and presentence reports, counseling and helping manage caseloads.  In both places,  I’ve been struck by the dedication these always overworked and typically underpaid professionals bring to their jobs.  I know probation and parole officers are often viewed as one more legal  hurdle by those convicted of crimes.   Some of my students have talked about how they feel their P.O. is out to get them and eager to send them back to jail.  But the P.O.’s I’ve worked with work hard to help their clients succeed, and see rearrest, or imprisonment as a last resort.    

For more information,  you can check out the American Probation and Parole Association website.  There’s a lot of great info there on the history of probation, as well as the latest on what’s working in community supervision.     

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Filed under education ex-offenders, personal responsibility, probation and parole, reentry, reentry resources, second chances, sentencing alternatives, starting over, taking responsibility, Uncategorized

Let’s get rid of this ridiculous tax on the poor…

Just finished belatedly reading this NPR series on how so many jail inmates are in there because they can’t afford bail.  Appalling story about how such men and women typically end up getting stiffer sentences in part because they’re in jail so can’t do anything positive like take courses or show evidence of turning their lives around to impact their sentences.

 More than a half-million inmates are sitting in America’s jails — not because they’re dangerous or a threat to society or because a judge thinks they will run. It’s not even because they are guilty; they haven’t been tried yet.

I have had a number students who have lost any stability they’ve had while languishing in jail — jobs, places of residence, etc. Their lives are destroyed by the arrest even before a trial is completed.  What’s worse, according to this article is that the cost of housing all these people is $9 billion a year.

I don’t think it’s being soft to suggest that people with petty or non-violent crimes and nowhere to go be spared the indignity of continued custody and perhaps a more punishing sentence because they don’t have the financial means that wealthier people might.  Not to mention, it’s stupid to spend all that money to incarcerate someone who might not even be convicted.  This is a really important story and it will be interesting to see if it spurs the change it should.

Readers, what do you think?

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Filed under bail, class issues, jobs ex-offenders, sentencing alternatives