“The prison industrial complex is making money . . . millions. What if prisons were transformed into learning institutions? What if there were teachers instead of prison guards?”
Community Leaders and Concerned Citizens Endorse OPE (TM) as Blue Print for Executing National Mandate for Criminal Justice Reform (from left to right), The Honorable Minister Alif Allah of the Nationn of Islam; Pastor Anthony Stevenson, International Men’s Day Tri-State (USA) Regional Coordinator; The Honorable Vanessa Lowery-Brown, State Representative for the 190th Legislative District and Chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Black Caucus; Mr. Kevin Leacock; Mr. S. Archye Leacock, Founder and Executive Director – Institute for Development of African American Youth, Inc.; Dorothy Johnson-Speight, MHS, LPC and Founder of Mothers In Charge; The Honorable James M. DeLeon, veteran jurist in Criminal Division of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court and architect of OPE™; Michael Coard, Esquire; and Mr. Anthony Wallace
On 15 July 2015, the 44th President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, issued a mandate for sweeping criminal justice reform in an impassioned speech he delivered at the annual convention of the NAACP. It was the first time that an American President moved criminal justice reform to the center of the national radar screen. The blueprint for executing President Obama’s national mandate for criminal justice reform can be found in the City of Philadelphia. Yes, that’s right. On Saturday, 1 August 2015, a number of community leaders and key stakeholders:
- The Honorable Minister Alif Allah of the Nation of Islam
- Pastor Anthony Stevenson, International Men’s Day Tri-State (USA) Regional Coordinator
- The Honorable Vanessa Lowery-Brown, State Representative for the 190th Legislative District and Chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Black Caucus
- Kevin Leacock
- Mr. S. Archye Leacock, Founder and Executive Director – Institute for Development of African American Youth, Inc.
- Dorothy Johnson-Speight, MHS, LPC and Founder of Mothers In Charge; and Michael Coard, Esquire
- and Anthony Wallace
They all converged on Four Corner Crusade for Life Community Church at 17th and Tasker Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to endorse OPE ™, the national blue print for execution the Presidential mandate for criminal justice reform and to demonstrate to the nation and the world that the City of Philadelphia stands ready to assist President Obama in getting the job done. Crafted by The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a veteran jurist in the Criminal Division of the Philadelphia Municipal Court, OPE ™ is being heralded as a blueprint for executing the national mandate So, why is OPE ™ considered a blueprint for President Obama’s mandate on criminal justice reform? Judge DeLeon had this to say:
“OPE ™ and the Presidential mandate for criminal justice reform fit one another. On the right hand, we have folks saying that we need criminal justice reform. And on the left hand, we have folks saying that OPE ™ is the reform that we need. OPE ™ is the blueprint for national criminal justice reform which utilizes a ‘shared responsibility’ format. It encompasses a judicial initiative, a community initiative, the Governor’s initiative, an incarceration initiative, and an ecumenical and faith initiative.”
The multi-tiered, results-oriented initiative designed by Judge DeLeon creates pathways for reintegration and redemption for the 700,000 souls who are released annually from correctional facilities throughout the United States. And the fact that these 700,000 souls are returning to our families and communities underscores the OPEO ™.
OPEt ™ is also perceived as a medium for healing communities. When asked why communities should be concerned about the national mandate for criminal justice reform and OPE ™, Judge DeLeon “connects the dots” between resolving the issue of mass incarceration, recidivism, and healing communities:
“ . . . Basically, if we don’t begin to turn mass incarceration back now, it will impact more negatively…back on the community. As the number of incarcerated grow, the aspect of recedivism will grow as well. These ‘Scarlet Letter’ Citizens cannot truly help the community, unless they themselves are helped and ‘The Scarlet Letter’ removed. Otherwise, the weight of so many helpless citizens will cause the community to crumble. So the community has to heal its members in order to heal itself. It takes a community to heal a community.”
Rising crime and recidivism rates also create an economic burden on communities in the form of increased taxes. The average cost of incarceration ranges from as low as US $14,000.per inmate in Indiana to US$60,000 per inmate in New York. Incarceration costs the American taxpayer US $39,000,000,000. Rising recidivism rates have resulted in an increased national prison budget. And what is the estimated national prison budget? US $22,000,000,000 annually! According to a study conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center on the States, 41% of all prisoners – nationally – return to prison three years after their release. The study looked at the recidivism rates of 41 states and concluded that if recidivism rates in these states were reduced by 10%, these states would reap a savings of approximately US$635,000,000 in the first year.
While incarceration and recidivism has become an economic burden for taxpayers, the prison industrial complex has become an economic windfall for others as correctional facilities are privatized. Corporations that manage and operate correctional facilities find that their bottom line is expanding exponentially. This fact is not lost on Judge DeLeon who addresses the issue by raising an interesting question:
“The prison industrial complex is making money . . . millions. But, what if prisons were transformed into learning institutions? What if there were teachers in these institutions instead of prison guards?”
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