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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  October 30, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT

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the images show unprecedented levels of ammonia surrounding the equator of the moon. you can find more on that story and everything we're covering at that is where you need to go. more comment and analysis right there. ♪ ♪ >> it's the largest one time release of federal prisoners ever. more than 6,000 people mostly drug offenders, the u.s. sentencing commission with the support of the obama administration, is trying to relieve prison overcrowding and give relief to prison sentences at the end of the drug war. are the communities ready to
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receive them? in early spring? it's is "inside story." >> welcome to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. the u.s. sentencing commission has reexamined its glue glieps s for drug crimes and wher rewritn for sentences, either release under the new guidelines. as a group they're part of the world's largest prison population. as individuals, they face serious challenges when they hit the streets again, and need to beat some daunting odds to stay out of trouble. ing al jazeera's ash-har quraishi carries the story. >> with three months of training under his belt, cameron wright
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is studying advanced manufacturing. >> i want to be active. i feel like the sky's the limit and you know in this industry from what i've done my research on, it's almost recession proof. >> reporter: but wright will have a tough hurdle to overcome when he' he gets out of prison. he's facing a sentence for one time marijuana use. >> i've nothing to hide. i didn't hurt anybody. i didn't steal anything. i was just trying to pay rent. >> that's the sound we like to hear. the boss likes to hear that sound okay.. >> reporter: this instructor has been teaching advance machinery to inmates for the past year. he says plugging them in has a chance for them to earn a living wage and turn their lives
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around. >> they have an opportunity to have a career, that's the big word, to have an actual career. and that alone should motivate them to continue and again, make good money, make a good life for themselves. >> a study conducted between 2005 and 2010 of ex prisoners showed more than two-thirds, 68% were reoffended after two years and 77% reoffended within five years. >> when you get a person employed you can drop that recidivism rate significantly. >> an organization that helps form he inmatesesome reenter society. . >> there are enormous barriers for prisoners to get and keep a job. however most prisoners have very little when they are released. they may not even have a state-issued i.d. and from there they start. >> safer offers everything from
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mental health services to high school equivalence programs. the foundation's own data from 2008 to 2011 shows that when an individual gets and stays in a job for 30 days the recidivism rate drops from 38% to 17.5%. cameron wright hopes he's done everything he can to stay on the right track, to stay out of prison. >> coming from where i came from i came the right way, i'm fest on the right path and can i only look up now. >> ash-har quraishi, al jazeera, chicago. >> tonight we're looking at the large release of prisoners from federal prisoners. not for profit news organization covering the criminal justice system. welcome to to the program. i think headlines might be a little deceiving. they're not just throwing open the doors and letting 6,000
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people walk out. some of these people are in various stages of being released, aren't they simone. >> that is correct. i spoke with a spokesman from the bureau muc of prisons yestey and here is what he told me. 6100 individuals leaving federal prison, home confinement meaning they are already home or leaving their halfway house. rest are going to ice custody, meaning facing deportation and roughlroughly 190 will be leavia community somewhere in the united states. >> so out of that 6112 i think the number is, who's going to still be connected under some form of judicial supervision? >> a majority, actually. according to the bureau of prisons it's not like these people will not be monitored anymore.
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actually, federal probation parole will have to supervise them, they'll have to find jobs and be compliant to a curfew, eight, 9:00 p.m. before they have to get home. >> was there bipartisan support for ring examining the formulas for these men and wols? women? >> right. it's a imp in of federal judges, lawyers, those who work for department of justice and by law they have to be a mix of both parties, democrats and republicans. so it happened about 14 months ago there was a vote. these individuals decided to peel back some of the guidelines for those arrested on drug offenses and the owner work began. they began reaching out to probation officers and judges and say let's start selecting
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individuals who would be okay with early release, who has a low risk for recidivism. >> this is not being done if i understand correctly willy-nilly sort of putting names and numbers into grid and just letting a bunch of people out. they are looking at individuals who they think are ready to be on the streets again? >> that is correct. and let's not forget about 3300 of these individuals are already on the street whether they are living in a halfway home or they're actually back at home already. so again it's not like the flood gates are opening and a rash of prisoners going onto city streets. it's a very slow moving process. >> is this a rewrite of the federal justice system at all, rejiggering positions of people at the front end of the system? >> they already looked at the
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system for those convicted of crack cocaine a few years ago. if that bill passes they'll peel back some more federal sentencing and even peel back those held in solitary confinement. there is work within our judicial system to start peeling back the complexities of mass incarceration. >> is there heft behind these folks getting follow up wrap around services to help them stay on the straight and narrow? >> there's been nonprofits around the country working with this population already. we just did a study with the fortune society in new york which provides housing and social services to men and women leaving state prison. the groundwork was laid a decade ago. those leaving prisons, can we leave that to the nonprofit sector or ask the federal system afford to take care of these
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people? >> see malone weizen bawen baumk you for joining us. if is the policy undervaluing a social scourge or is it righting a past wrong? what do people getting an early release need to stay out of trouble? an early spring, it's the "inside story." "inside story." >> tough that the country gave up on me. >> look at the trauma... every day is torture. >> this is our home. >> nobody should have to live like this. >> we made a promise to these heroes... this is one promise americans need to keep.
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>> you're watching "inside story." i'm ray suarez. as the drug war reached its high cry, elected individuals responded to social panic, sweeping up associates, accessories and sending tens of thousands of people to long stretches in jail. details of a crime were fed into a formula that reduced judicial discretion and imposed high mandatory minimum sentences. looks like we're now at the beginning of the end of that system at least for the moment, with reoffending and reincarceration a constant problem, can this new policy achieve its stated goal of reducing prison overcrowding? joining my now mark mower, steven cook and walter boyd.
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steven cook let me start with you. you're part of the profession that sends these people to priz on in thprison in the first pla. does this fairly limited program have a chance of accomplishing some good things? >> well, are you speaking to the mandatory minimums? >> of allowing these 6,000-plus to leave confinement. >> all right, well, so we're very concerned about the release of mass numbers of federal prisoners. the numbers that you've been given of 6,000. the truth is that it's going to be more than that because right now, the judges are processing a large number of eligible defendants as we speak. so the numbers will be higher than that. but we're extremely concerned about the recidivism of those offenders. i'll give you one example from a previous release, roderick bates was supposed to get out in
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december of 2011. in october of 2011 when he should have been in prison he committed a coldblooded murder in chattanooga. we're concerned about the recidivism of those who are going to be released. >> about half play eventually be released by this program. is it really a good rule of thumb that one release going wrong is the way we should understand whether this program works or not? >> no, it isn't. and of course if you look at statistics, the most recent bureau of justice statistics reflect a recidivism rate of about 77%. those are the sorts of things we should be concerned about. but you're absolutely right, we shouldn't use isolated examples like a marijuana trafficker who may have gotten a sentence without hearing all the facts to guide our -- how we proceed from here. the vast majority of people who are in federal prison and who
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are being released have committed very serious offenses. i give you one example of a defendant i prosecuted. his name is robert roberto domi. he was captured with cocaine an $500,000 cash. he was considered a mere courier. those are the folks we are releasing. >> robert mower, is he right, there may be serious blow-back here. >> we need context the 6,000 people getting out in the next week or so. this is in a context of 600,000 people who come home from federal prison each year. yes we have a serious challenge how these people come home whether they're prepared, whether we're radar in the
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community to deal with and yes many of them will reoffend. but we could say let's keep them all there for the rest of their lives. that would be one way to avoid that. i don't think that's fiscally responsible and certainly not compassionate. so we need to talk about real ways to ease that transition. >> well, boyd st. leonard's ministry works with the offenders. what do they need to see that they get back to the community? >> we are reentry home, the thing we offer which we believe is essential to their reentry is food shelter and clothing. beyond that we can begin to do assessments and work on some of the other skills that are required for them to move towards having sustainable lifestyles and become independent and become economically viable. >> you work with people who are getting out of the state system in illinois. illinois has a fairly high recidivism rate but yours is very low. what are you doing that makes the difference? >> well, again, you know, the
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problem is on the other end actually. many of the people who return from prison in the state of illinois return to low income communities that are experiencing negative job growth in this high unemployment already in those communities. so that's not a whole lot for them to nurture their reentry on. so we step in that vacuum and we provide a wholesome reentry household for people to return to that is regulated according to principles of values consistent of the norms of society and we have the resources to nurture their reentry and i think being long on wisdom and patience we are able to reenter them more successfully. oftentimes people will come home to families that really can't do the kind of case managements necessary for people to really get a foothold. they don't know where the services are that they need and they don't have the resources to
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support them in that process. >> gentlemen stay with us. prison sentences are politically sensitive. prosecutors are elected around the country. state legislators and members of congress may have one eye on the research and one eye on the opinion polls when they propose a new formula determining penalties. even as many states have wrestled with severe overcrowding in jails and prisons. arguments for and against release, is this new penalty just one shocking crime with from being redebated relitigated and relegislated? it's "inside story."
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>> welcome back to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. we're talking about an early spring today on the program, thousands of prisoners in federal facilities are being released beginning today with tens of thousands more in the pipeline. we're discussing the wisdom of
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rewriting sentencing guidelines when someone who gets early release reoffends as most surely will happen, will the program be politically viable, officials who back shorter sentences for nonviolent and more violent crimes? senator david vidder candidate for governor of louisiana is using the release program against his democratic program. >> voting for edwards is like making obama louisiana's next governor. edwards joined obama promising it's helping prisoners in louisiana alone, drug dealers, back into our neighborhoods. >> mark mower, steven cook and walter boyd are still with me. when you see an ad like this
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mark mxower do you see how vulnerable this program might be? >> it does, but i remember dozens and dozens of these types of adds. most political candidates we have growing bipartisans -- >> dozens and dozens of ads were being run penalties got harsher and people won office promising to make them even tougher. >> exactly. that's what we're dealing with today all of the outcomes tough on crime tough on drugs day. i'd like to think senator vidder is moarltsdz o more or less on . many of the theme talking about these issues,ing including his colleagues in the senate judiciary committee, thought we went much to far back in those days. >> steven cook you noted someone who was released early who should have still been in prison when they committed a murder. how should we on balance look at
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these 6,000 people over tile to understand whether this program works or not and whether the tens of thousands more who may be released are worthy of that privilege? >> well, let's be clear about the context in which we're considering these issues. we're in the midst of one of the worst heroin and opioid epidemics in our history. we are losing up to 43,000 people in the united states every year to drug overdoses. the notion that the way we're going to attack this epidemic is to release yet thousands of more experienced drug traffickers, strikes me as irresponsible. senator vidder has this exactly right. he's on the money in terms of the risks that we're going to face. in terms of the people that we are releasing back into our communities and in terms of the impact that we're going so have. crime is already going up from early releases.
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california is a perfect example. crime is spiraling there from sentencing reform and this is a mistake. >> walter boyd, these people who are coming back to their home communities, many who were sent up for drug offenses, are coming out to new brands of drugs on the streets. how do you keep them away from what got them in big trouble in the first place? >> i'd like to further contextualize this situation. we are talking about 6,000 folks nationally. but in the state of illinois we're going to receive 260 of those folks. we released 30,000 a year into communities across the state of illinois which amount to about 540 a week. i mean it doesn't take the capacity that will be required to deal with that additional 260
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almost has a negligible impact on the services that are available. now do we need more services? of course we do. is there a lack of capacity to address all the needs of people who are in the reentry process? sure. but i mean when you hear the commercial being run by senator vidder it would almost make it sound like 6,000 people on your lawn. that is not going to be the case and i don't think average people will even feel the impact of it. but in terms of reentry i have yet to meet an individual coming home from prison who is looking to reengage in the same behavior that led to them going to prison. they're looking for opportunities. they're looking for chances to attach themselves to the mainstream and i think that's where, as a society, we need to open our doors, and find ways to transition people and to meanful and gainful employment. and that's what we try do at st.
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glemis ministries. first, what might a person have annal acumen for and be interested in? then we look at training opportunities that allow those people to connect with the services necessary to lead towards the -- that takes them down that path and you know people -- >> let me finish with mark mower, you heard their views of this same situation.are those s. are those first 6,000 carrying the burden of the others? >> it will, if they choose to take this out of proportion that could be a political issue. i'm hoping and i very much believe that because we've got in the senate we have people like senator durbin, leigh hi, the fact that all this come together is a very different climate. >> i want to thank any guest,
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steven cook, president of the association of u.s. attorneys, walter boyd, the executive director of st. leonard's minutes industries, and mark mower, on the sentencing project. santa with us, it's the "inside story." send us your thoughts on twitter @ajinsidestoryam, or follow me and get in touch @raysuareznews. and the upcoming prison release, we'd love to hear from you.
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>> there are several floating values involved in sentencing. their. ment, meant to show the offender how seriously the community takes the crime and sending a message to the wider population at the same time. there's a societal interest in protecting us all from an individual who shows his or her actions make them a threat to us
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but all of these values have to remain in rough relationship to each other. there's a reason the old cliche runs, the punishment should fit the crime. justice has ton done but also has to be seen to be done, has to line up in a rough way with a sense of right and wrong that we carry around in our heads. if someone selling drugs and guns gets a light sentence because they've testified against someone else we might see the wisdom even the necessity of that. but someone riding in the passenger seat of a car that has 50 pounds of marijuana in the trunk often becomes collateral damage sent up to do long time thanks to the rigidity of the sentencing forms, what's finally opening the locks on thousands of sells is the recoiling of long sentences given nonviolent offenders and more important the
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growing realization how expensive these sentences turned out to be. i'm ray suarez and that's the "inside story." this is "al jazeera america" live from new york city. i am david shuster. just ahead, the struggle over sirry -- syria. >> it is nothing less than to chart a course out of hell. >> alleys and opponents are meeting to try to find a solution to the civil war. u.s. special forces are now answering syrian -- entering syrian territory. in the aegean sea, the


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