tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN November 9, 2015 9:00am-11:01am EST
the bill passed out of the senate judiciary committee today does some modest reductions in mandatory minimums. sorry. having a senior moment on my -- on my thought. prosecutors love mandatory minimums, as a rule. this is really a question for you, john. prosecutors love mandatory minimums because they can use them as leverage to drive plea bargains because they can use them to turn low-level offenders and get them to rat out their bosses. how far can you go in eliminating or reducing mandatory minimums, do you think? why not eliminate them altogether? >> let me first start out by thanking the president and also the attorney-general for their incredible leadership in this area. part of the reason we have a moment where all of law enforcement and the entire political spectrum are supporting changes to the sentencing regime is the
leadership that you have shown and the people in this room have shown, including the chief beck. mandatory minimums are an important part of how the federal system is set up, but since 2013 when he smart on crime policy was announced by then-attorney-general holder, federal prosecutors have been instructed not to use mandatory minimums except in cases that really merit their attention. in other words, aggravated felons, the leaders of drug organizations, violent people. what that's meant is that our use of mandatory minimums has probably dropped by about 25% in that time. but so far we have not seen a corresponding drop in the willingness of lower-level conspirators to cooperate with us. in other words, what we are seeing in the "smart on crime" policy is a direct ability to reduce mandatory sentences while still protecting the public.
so the bottom line is, you asked the question should we eliminate mandatory minimums entirely. and i think the answer to that is no. but we have to reserve their usñ for the most severe, dangerous and violent offenders who are out there. >> why not eliminate them, though? why not have sentencing guidelines the way we have now and have had in the past and leave it to the discretion of judges? >> well, i certainly think that part of what prosecutors do is advocate to judges. where that's our job. we're used to it. and i think we're confident about the results we can get. having said that, there is something to be said for mows most aggravated top-level criminals knowing that they're going to get hit if they get caught with a very severe penalty. but that is different than saying we're going to use mandatory minimums to drive what has turned out to be mass incarceration of relatively low-level offenders in the federal system.
similarly, i think on the state side -- and i would turn this over to chief beck -- you know, some of the laws that were enacted on the state side in the 1980s and early '90s also had heavy penalties. whether those are necessary in every instance to accomplish the goals of public safety is a question we could debate. the bottom line is, from a federal prosecutor's point of view keeping mandatory minimums for the most serious offenders still makes sense, but using them sparingly for less serious offenders also makes sense. that's also part of what smart on crime is about. >> chief? >> briefly, if you view the criminal justice system as a response to a sickness in america, if you view it through the medical aspect, you have to look at sentencing as a dosage. i think that we are now experiencing a time in the united states where crime is at a level where we require a
different dosage. and we have to recognize that all crimes do not carry the same weight. and some crimes involve addiction and mental illness and have other pathways that can be more effective than incarceration. and, you know, in states across the nation, you know, some of our prisons and jails are schools for criminality. to put the young people -- and it's mainly young people -- into those schools for criminality based on minor offenses doesn't make any sense. so i think we need to stop wasting money and start investing money. when i talk about investing money -- and you know, i -- i am remiss. i should say that i am privileged to speak for so many great chiefs in the audience here. over 50 of them. and we all believe in the same thing, that we need to invest in our future, not continue to use money to lock the future of the united states up. we need to invest in that.
so that we can move to a place where -- where many of these offenses are looked upon as the illnesses that they are. >> your state has been sort of a laboratory in this regard. you are now in the fifth year of a court order to reduce prison populations. last year california passed prop 47 which reduced a lot of felonies to misdemeanors. how has that played out? what lessons are there for the rest of the states in your experience? >> i think there are really good lessons to be learned. california often leads the way, and sometimes we get things absolutely right, and sometimes things need adjustment. i think it's important to recognize that what california did in 47 is take several hundred felonies, largely drug related, and move them to misdemeanors, a couple things probably should have been included in that. we also took away progressive prosecution.
in other words, you can be arrested and rearrested and rearrested again for the same crime, and even though it's a misdemeanor at this point there is no enhanced sentencing or enhanceability to get folks into treatment. there also needs to be a stronger lever for the courts to encourage folks to go into treatment. you're realizing we're dealing largely with addicts and they don't have self-determination enough to do it. there needs to be a way to help do that. thirdly, and most importantly, there needs to be adequate programs for people to be diverted into. and it does no good, in my estimation, to arrest for these offenses over and over and over again with no place for them to go but back onto the street to continue that cycle. and so one of the things that i would love to see in this discussion is that we all acknowledge the fact that this
is not a cost-saving measure. that we are -- you know, i don't believe that reducing incarceration should be looked at as a way to save money for a state or the federal government. i think it should be looked at as a way to develop money to reinvest into the futures of young people. that will, in turn, eventually save money. in the short term you've got to have another pathway. >> in your first answer, mr. president, you touched on the two -- what i think of as the two biggest myths with criminal justice reform. one of them chief beck addressed, the idea that it's cheap. that you can save a lot of money by letting people out of prisons without reinvesting that money. the other is that you can significantly reduce the populations of prisons by letting out low-level drug offenders, it's true that at the federal level nearly half of the people who are incarcerated are there for drug crimes. at the state level, where most
are incarcerated, it's more like 17%. are americans willing to consider rolling back the sentencing for people who are violent criminals? >> well, first of all, i think it's important to look at the evidence. there is some conflicting data. here is what we know, that we increased our prison population four-fold from 1980. and the best social science seems to indicate that, initially, locking up folks who are violent for more certain, longer stretches reduced violence on the streets. but that there was a diminishing return at a certain point. it kind of flattened out. but we just kept on locking
folks up. without at that point it being the main driver of violent crime reductions. and we have seen incredible historic reductions in crime over the last 20 years. i know that there has been some talk in the press about spikes that have -- are happening this year relative to last year. i have asked my team to look carefully at it. attorney general lynch has pulled together a task force. it does look like there are a handful of cities where we're seeing higher than normal spikes across the 93 or 95 top cities it's very hard to distinguish anything statistically meaningful. that doesn't mean that we don't take seriously what's happening in those cities. but the bottom line is that i think there is a strong consensus in the united states of america that you shouldn't be hit over the head when you're walking down the street, that
you don't want somebody breaking into your house and threatening your family, that somebody who commits violence we don't have a lot of tolerance for. i would distinguish between those situations and whether or not giving somebody whose 25 years old a 40-year sentence versus a 15-year sentence is the smart thing to do, particularly because we know that young people do stupid stuff and, as they get older, they get a little less stupid. i speak from experience. that at least was my -- my experience. and now i am watching my teenaged girls. and they're a lot smarter than me, but there are still gaps in judgment. so here is the bottom line. i think it's smart for us to
start the debate around non-violent drug offenders. you are right that that's not going to suddenly halve our incarceration rate. but, if we get that -- if we do that right and we are reinvesting in treatment and we are reinvesting resources in police departments having more guys and gals on the street who are engaging in community policing and that's improving community relations, then that becomes the foundation upon which the public has confidence in potentially taking a future step and looking at sentencing changes down the road. so i don't think there is anything wrong with us saying, you know what, violent crime we want to keep down. we are going to be a little more hesitant initially in how we think about sentencing on violent crime than we are
non-violent crime. if we can reduce the prison population by 5% in an initial stretch -- by the way, that's not a goal i am setting. i'm just -- that was off the top of my head. but 5%, when you've got 2 million prisoners, that's a lot of people and resources that could be going into other areas. so i think this is a stage process. we will lose the public if we try to do everything at once without having data and evidence and suddenly you see big spikes in crime again. then suddenly we're back into the politics of lock them up. if, on the other hand, we do it systematically, methodically, we see what works, we see what doesn't, the chief's point and john's point about reinvesting i
think is absolutely critical. if we do those things well and we can duplicate what happened last year, which was the first time in 40 years that both the prison population and the crime rate went down at the same time, if we start seeing the same kinds of patterns as we're seeing in some of these other states and the experience we're seeing in the u.s. attorney's office where we're not telling prosecutors, you're going to be promoted based on how many maximum sentences you get but, rather, based on how wise your use of prosecutorial discretion. if all of those things prove that we're still doing a good job controlling crime, then i think we have got something to build on. >> one other drug question. john, you work in a state that was one of the first two to legalize recreational use of marijuana. should congress take marijuana off the schedule one list of illegal drugs? >> i've learned that i always
get a marijuana question. >> sorry for being so predictable. >> i want to reiterate something that i think that the president and the administration has made clear is that the administration is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana. and the decision to move marijuana from schedule one to a different schedule is really -- there is a process behind that. it has to do with medically accepted uses for the drug. i will make this comment about the situation in colorado. one of the things that's been a tremendous positive development in colorado is that the state regulatory system has become clearer so that local law enforcement has a good sense of where its lines are and what enforcement action it can take. that's made our ability to partner with local you law enforcement in federal enforcement of marijuana much clearer. we see an evolving situation where, again, as in so many
things the key is a federal-state law enforcement cooperative to make sure the system works. >> i would like to ask both chief beck and john walsh, are there things that the leader of the free world could be doing on his own without the permission of congress over the next year and change of his administration that would make this problem better, less of a problem? >> let me just amend that question by saying i've got some outstanding members of congress here, and i want to work with them to get stuff done. so -- [ applause ] >> i just wanted to -- [ applause ] >> i get in enough trouble with congress without bill trying to -- >> that's why i asked the other guy. >> -- trying to stir things up. >> first i have to say that i am amazed by the depths of the president's understanding of this issue. the first answer that you gave covered so many of the points that john and i have talked
about in private. it's obvious that you understand the way that the chiefs in this room and the prosecutors in this room feel about this issue, so that's a huge start, in my opinion. but i think that one of the things that we need to look at is, remember that this system is made up of three parts, this criminal justice system. it's a federal level, which we're talking about directly here. but most folks are affected by state level prosecutions, state-level incarceration or even local, even on the local level. and so, when we talk about having treatment available, when we talk about diversionary systems that we can use to get less people in the -- in the -- in the jail system, it needs to apply to all three. it can't just be for the use for the federal system. it has to go down to the state system. because many of the states, and all municipalities struggle economically. putting money into
community-based organizations or to some of the things that the states and the counties run is very difficult. and so, if we could get some federal help with systems that are off-ramps for people that are addicted and off-ramps for people that are arrested for low-level crimes. because the arrests are not stopping. the chiefs in here represent tens and tens of thousands low-level drug offense arrests, my organization included. but we've got to have somewhere for them to go. it can't just be, you know, 48 hours in the local lockup and right back on the street corner where they came from. it just can't be that. >> john, have you got any requests of the president? >> the one thing that i would really emphasize, you know, so much of law enforcement really depends upon local law enforcement, and our partners in police departments and sheriff's offices all over the country. on the federal side we value that tremendously.
we can't get our work done without that partnership. one area where over the years we have seen a decrease in federal assistance to state and local law enforcement is in the cops area, the community policing grants. we have fewer officers on the street with federal money than we used to have. and that's an area that i think would go a long way to enabling the police departments and sheriff's offices to engage in that community oriented policing that really will help prevent crime so that we're not confronted with the situation of trying to decide how much of a sentence to give a violent offender, because maybe we prevented some young person from going down that road in the first place. >> just not to ignore the opportunity. i have to say that the kinds of programs that i know the president wants and the police chiefs want. the kinds of programs with maximum community interaction, where people know the officer on the street, where officers are not there just to enforce the
law but are there to bld community, those are the most resource-intensive programs that we have. and i know the president is familiar with a couple of programs we have in los angeles. and i thank him for bringing the family out here for his state of the union speech. those are exactly the kind of programs that we could expand on with little help. >> bill, one other thing that i think is very important. kind of an amazing number that i only relatively recently became aware of is that we release every year from state and federal prisons 600,000 people. so that's 600,000 prisoners coming back into society every year. do we have 600,000 people's worth of reentry programs? i don't think so. we have a lot to -- we have a lot of work to do in that state and local efforts are great. many of the u.s. attorneys who are present here in this room
have been working on developing great reentry programs all over the country. but that's another area where taking some of these savings and putting it into that kind of programming is going to reduce the re-offending rate and make a big difference. >> let's take a little time to talk about the need to repair the mistrust between police forces and the communities that they serve and protect. i noticed we have solicited questions and thoughts from our readers, through social media. and one thing that recurred was a fairly high level of cynicism about the promises that we're all going to do better at policing, that we have taken the black lives matter movement to heart. there is a -- people say, the people who are now prescribing a return to community policing are the same people who gave us stop and frisk and broken windows and
the other strategies that, as applied in practice, tended to result in over-aggressive policing. i guess the kind of cynical question from the masses would be why should we trust you to get it right this time. >> i'm actually -- chief, i'm going to interject before you -- >> thank you, sir. >> -- before you have to answer this because -- no, no, no. well -- and the reason i say this is because it goes to something i said earlier, and that is when you look at, for example, racial bias in the criminal justice system, the criminal justice system and our law enforcement systems are reflections of us. and so if we as a society are willing to tolerate very poor
neighborhoods with no opportunity, a lot of violence, a lot of substandard education, and then we're surprised that the police, in interacting with a community that hasn't been cared for is going to have tougher interactions then we're passing the buck. now, i take very seriously, as i said before, the need for fairness in our criminal justice system. and bill, we did a little interview before i came out here, and bill asked what had been your experiences, and i fessed up. you know, i have, as a young man, there have been times where i was driving and i got stopped and i didn't know why. but i -- i want to make sure that, when we approach this
issue we recognize that it's not all on the police and everybody else can just sit back and opine. the community and the society and the city and the state and the nation have to be partners with the police so that we're not giving them impossible jobs. because they have the right to come home too to their families. i will say this. where i've seen really smart community policing that rebuilds trust, there is a commitment not only to train police more effectively and make sure that there is accountability if there is misconduct and that there's data being collected around who is being targeted and there are independent investigations when,
you know, excessive force may have been used. but there is also a commitment, typically, to the kinds of treatment programs, the kinds of partnerships with the schools, with businesses getting involved, opportunities being provided to young people, and as a consequence everybody is taking responsibility for this, and the police become part of a team to eliminate bias in a system. you know, the problem of racial justice or injustice in the society has been a running theme in this country's history for a very long time. and so we just have to make sure that all of us own it. now, with that, i do want all the chiefs to look a the task force recommendations we put forward post-ferguson because there are specific things that police departments and police officers can do to rebuild
trust. i don't want to let them off the hook because there are some real problems in certain jurisdictions that we have seen, and i don't think the chief or any of the chiefs here would deny that. >> no, we certainly wouldn't. i think it's important to recognize that the chiefs that are in this room, many of whom, if not all of whom i know have been talking about community trust for a decade. i have been the chief for a mere six years, but when i came into the organization, this was a common theme of our discussion. this is not a new topic to us. the president's exactly right. we are a reflection of a much larger issue in america. there is racial disparity in housing, in employment, in the entire economic system. it is not just in incarceration and policing. we have to look at these things in the totality and address them as a nation. and we will do our part. i thank the president for the task force.
i was lucky enough to be a part of it. i think that there are some very solid recommendations that we all take to heart are being made. we know we can do better. but we have to recognize that we have a country where things are not always equal. and we can fix that. we can work on that. but we've all got to work on it. it's not just the cops. it's everybody. and mr. president, i have been stopped several times too. i always knew why. >> there are a number of times where i knew why also. i don't want to suggest that every stop was uncalled for. there were times where i checked my odometer and i took -- i just took that ticket. >> mr. president, you referred to this earlier as a moment, an opportunity. it's clearly true that people are paying more attention to it. we now that bipartisan sort of cross-idealogical arguments in
favor of reforming the system. how durable is that moment? do you worry at all that we might find ourselves a year down the road, there is a spike in crime, there is a willie horton style horror story or people just don't want to spend the money that it would take to fix the system. and we declare that what passed the senate judiciary committee today was victory and move on to something else. >> i think those are real dangers that we must guard against. that's why i said rather than all think we're going to solve this overnight and when it doesn't get solved overnight we're disappointed. i am much more interested in a sustained, steady process where we're bringing people together, we're listening to everybody and we're trying to maybe start with some low-hanging fruit and then we get deeper into it and we figure out more of what works and what doesn't.
we're balancing that against the public's primary interest, which is making sure that they're safe. and by the way, that's in poor communities and black communities as much as anybody. historically, when you look at it, is one of the ironies here is that, when you look at racial bias in the law enforcement and criminal justice system, historically it was under-policing in african-american communities. the attitude was, you know, let them, you know, do whatever they want as long as they're not coming into our neighborhoods. and there are hard-working, wonderful families and kids who, they want to be safe. they want to be in partnership with the police. they just want to make sure that a police officer is properly trained so that just because a kid has a hoodie they have -- partly because they know the community, they don't
automatically assume, well, that must be somebody i should arrest or frisk. and i can distinguish between kids the same way we -- in -- in their own neighborhood they can distinguish between kids who are causing trouble and kids who are just being kids. so i think the moment is here, but we've got to build on it and be systematic about it. a couple things that have not been said that i want to emphasize. collecting data i think is something that's going to be very important in guiding us forward. and john was talking about federal, state, local cooperation. we don't really do a good job right now in collecting national data on a realtime basis. but we now have the tools and the technology to do it better. and the better our data, the better we can target where is real crime going on, where are
we seeing maybe some problems in police-community interactions that we can catch ahead of time. it's transparent so the community, then, has trust because they're seeing, all right, here is what's been happening. and so we're initiating both internally the a tt the federal level and reaching out to departments to figure out how to get a national database that's effective. that's number one. number two we have the outstanding chief of camden who i had a chance to visit. a great example of community policing and data driving down crime and regaining trust from the community. i chief here has got sort of a war room that has cameras on some of the hot spots around the city, but it's not considered big brother because they've set
up software where the community can direct the cameras so that they don't feel like they're being spied on from the outside but rather it's a tool for the community to be able to monitor what's happening. they're sending that in and, you know, the chief has trained -- retrained his entire department. first thing they did when they brought in new recruits, they put them in the neighborhoods where they're going to be serving and they had to walk basically for 24 hours, right? if they had to go to the restroom, they needed to get to know some people. they started to meet local businesses, creative work where they know there were hot spots and gang shootings related to drugs. chief takes forfeiture money, i think it was and -- this was one of my favorite stories because it's smart. shows us thinking. purchases two ice cream trucks. has police officers drive the
ice cream trucks, park them where the drug dealing has been going on. give out free ice cream from the police. suddenly families are out on the streets and now it's creating a space in which, you know, it's a lot harder for you to just be dealing drugs. and the chief talks about sometimes we know who the drug dealers are instead of arresting them where they're just going to be released, have an officer stand right next to him. and so -- and talking to him. and asking them, why are you doing this. so the point is that, the use of technology, the use of data combined with smart community policing really can have an impact. really can make a difference. but my hope coming out of all of these efforts, including the legislation, is that we put an emphasis on what works and we're not blinded by ideology and we're not blinded by fear.
when i -- all this talk that's getting hyped about this huge spike in violent crime, this is where you step back and say, all right, let's understand statistics. 2014 was a historic low in violent crime. so if there is a spike in some cities, that's something we have to take seriously and pay attention to, but that doesn't automatically suddenly translate into this notion that, you know, a crime wave is coming because it's still lower this year than it was for every year between 1995 and 2013. it's just it may be that last year was the anomaly. and that's an example of us having to make sure that we're not being driven by fear or bias in how we approach this problem, but we're looking at facts and trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. >> our time-keeper carly held up a sign that says "stop."
actually, she held it up about two-thirds of the way through your last answer. >> that's okay. >> i didn't want to put her job at risk by shutting you up. >> this is my house. [ applause ] >> i can go over time generally. so maybe we can hear from chief and john, maybe some closing thoughts. >> you know, i just think this is a tremendous opportunity for law enforcement and the justice system in america. out of crisis comes opportunity. right now we do have a crisis of confidence. there is a tremendous opportunity for us to put out our message, about making sure people are treated fairly and there is effective law enforcement. this will be looked at in history as a door that was opened. hopefully we'll walk through it together. >> i want to echo a comment the
chief made a minute ago. i am just amazed by the command of this area that the president has got among the millions of things that he does. to go back to your first question, though, what is success. in the end we have an opportunity. this is a moment in time and i think we're taking advantage of it collectively to both reduce the rates of incarceration and make our communities safer by taking the savings and investing it in prevention, and effective community-oriented enforcement and in reentry programs. i think we can do that. with the leadership of the president, the attorney general and all the people here, both in congress and local and federal law enforcement, we're well down that road. >> and because this is my house, i'm going to take one last -- i want to drive down -- drive home one point, and that is the relationship between race and the criminal justice system.
because this is where sometimes politics intrudes. black lives matter is a social media movement that tried to gel around ferguson and the gardner case and some other cases that came up. and very rapidly it was posited as being in opposition to the police. sometimes, like any of these loose organizations, some people pop off and say dumb things. but the -- and on the other hand, though, it started being lifted up as these folks are opposed to police and they're opposed to cops and all lives matter, you know, so the notion was somehow saying black lives matter was reverse racism or suggesting that other peoples' lives didn't matter or police
officers' lives didn't matter. whenever we get bogged down in that kind of discussion we know where that goes. i mean, that's just down the old track. so let me just suggest this. i think everybody understands all live matter. everybody wants strong, effective law enforcement. everybody wants their kids to be safe when they're walking to school. nobody wants to see police officers who are doing their job fairly hurt. everybody understands it's a dangerous job. i think the reason that the organizers used the phrase "black lives matter" was not because they were suggesting nobody else's lives matter. rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem happening in the african-american community that's not happening in other communities. and that is a legitimate issue
that we've got to address. i forget which french writer said, you know, there was a law that was passed that really was equal because both rich and poor were forbidden from stealing loe lo loaves of bread and sleeping under the breach. so here is -- that's not a good definition of equality. the situation -- there is a specific concern as to whether african-americans are sometimes not treated in particular jurisdictions fairly or subject to excessive force more frequently. i think it's important for those who are concerned about that to back it up with data, not anecdote. to not paint with a broad brush, so understand the overwhelming majority of law enforcement is doing the right thing and wants
to do the right thing, to recognize that police officers have a really tough job and we're sending them into really tough neighborhoods, that sometimes are really dangerous, and they've got to make split-second decisions. and so we shouldn't be too sakt monio sn sanctamonious. a we have to step back for a second and understand that, you know, the african-american community is not just making this up. and it's not just something being politicized. it's real. and there is a history behind
it. and we have to take it seriously. and it's incumbent, then, on the activists to also take seriously the tough job that police have. and that's one of the things that the ferguson -- post-ferguson task force did. we had activists from -- who were marches in ferguson with police chiefs and law enforcement sitting down and figuring this stuff out. and just assuming good faith in other people, going to the issue of people being cynical. i think it is important. i have rarely gotten much accomplished assuming the worst in other people. usually it works better if i assume the best. i just wanted to make that point. all right. >> thank you. i guess i am here as the representative of the cynical profession. >> you are. absolutely. >> i would like to say there are few issues i feel less cynical about. i share the worry you have that this evaporates because of short attention spans. i guess it's on us and the news
media in part to make sure that that doesn't happen. >> good. well, thank you for hosting this. thanks to everybody in attendance and the chiefs for the good work you're doing. [ applause ] ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until the president has left the room. now we'll hear from former inmates kevin ring and jeff smit smith on their experience behind bars and current efforts advocating for prison reform. ladies and gentlemen, thaum f thank you for coming. i am tim carney. i'm a columnist at the washington examiner. i think you have seen erupt
around the country, especially in the last year, a discussion on criminal justice reform, on over-criminalization, on all sorts of things. we're going to focus today on a specific aspect of that. let me just -- my thoughts on part of why i picked this. this is about prison specifically. i have got libertarian leanings. i think too many things are illegal. i am a catholic. i think justice and mercy need to be played up. on the other hand, i don't know and i don't think necessarily we'll get into today a question of are we maybe locking up all the millions of people we lock up makes our country safer? that's a tricky question to debate. we have lots of opinions on that. my questions once we put people in prison, are we doing anything to help them, or are we just ruining lives. so when you -- having prison sentences serves a deterrent effect.
there is some good there. it keeps dangerous criminals off the streets, so there is some good there. we call these correctional facilities. are they doing anything to correct or making things work. once people are in prison, are they being harmed? are they -- or are we treating them in a way that will benefit society or hurt society. i think we know the answer to that question, maybe. can we change anything going forward. what i did to discuss this is asked two guys who i know who i dealt with in their -- in their lives. i write about lobbying and politics. so i brought in a former lobbyist and a former politician. on my right is kevin ring, a lawyer and former republican congressional aide. in fact, he was executive director of the republican study committee. he passed through the revolving door and became a lobbyist in 1999. he wrote a book which was big reading in my house with my brother when he was in law
school. it was scalia's dissent. i guess you compiled the book. it was an excellent book. if you're feeling angry and want good things to get your bile up and running, read that. he now is at the families against mandatory minimums. and on my left, jeff smith, former missouri state senator, congressional candidate who a lot of us stumbled upon in a documentary called "can mr. smith still go to washington." he is now an assistant professor at the new school in new york. the reason i bring them here, though, is that they both have served time in prison. so, before we get to the substance quickly, kevin suggested, so as not to hide the ball, why don't you guys quickly, however entertainingly or whatever you want, explain why you spent time in prison. >> i'll make it really funny because it's such a laugh. no. i was a lobbyist and i had the
misfortune of working for jack abramoff who was at the time ended up being the leader of the big scandal in the bush administration. and i was basically charged with -- on a services fraud, a junior varsity form of bribery. i contested the charges at two trials and was found guilty and i served 16 months -- a 20-month sentence. >> i forgot to mention -- i said the documentary name was "can mr. smith still go to washington." i have in my hand jeff's brand-new book "can mr. smith still go to prison." >> when i was in the senate in missouri i was on a panel and the moderator found a question that i took too intrusive and i
took the butt end of a bottle and bludgeoned the moderator. no. actually what happened was that i was running for congress in 2004. we ran like a grass-roots campaign. i was running against a dynasty candidate, russ carn ahaan. his dad was a successful two-term governor. sister secretary of state. we were trying to run a grass-roots campaign and get over the top. three weeks before election day two of my aides were approached by a consultant who billed themselves as a so-called practitioner of the political dark arts. he told my aides that he wanted to put out a postcard detailing my opponent -- it was a ten-way race but detailing carn ahan's dismalattendance record as a legislator. he says he wants to do this. what should we tell him? i replied, i don't want to know what you do. they said, well, so does that mean we should do it?
i said it means you shouldn't tell me anything. do you understand that? they said okay. so they gave him that voting information, which was publicly available, but it violates the mccain-fine gold statute because it constituted a legal coordination between my campaign and a third-party group. i lost by about one percentage point. a week after the campaign my attorney prepared an affidavit to sign in response to a federal election complaint that he filed. he won but pushed this complaint. and the affidavit had 15 statements. 14 were true, one was not. it denied any knowledge about that postcard. even though i knew my aides had met with the person who i figured put it out, i signed a false affidavit. five years later as a missouri state senator my best friend called me. he told me that the man who had done that postcard five years earlier had just been picked up by the feds for mortgage fraud,
bank fraud, wire fraud, illegal weapons possession, spousal abuse -- >> a car bomb. >> cocaine distribution and the chief suspect in a car bombing that nearly killed his ex-wife's lawyer. my best friend what are we going to do? what if the feds knock on do your door because this guys says, five years earlier -- i can deliver somebody to you who is a state senator. my best friend and i talked about that for a couple months. little did i know the entire time he was wearing a wire. so then i was basically, you know, my only chance to stay out of prison was to do something similar, and i didn't do that. and i was sentenced to a year and a day and was in federal custody for ten and a half months. >> thank you. so part of -- i think where i want to start here is with -- from your guys' experience and
from your knowledge professionally, working with families with incarcerated people, does prison dod anything to help criminals, and can it or does it just sort of ruin lives and make people worse off? >> that's a broad question. and i think for some people -- prison serves a purpose. there are dangerous people out there who should be kept away from civil society. i don't think anyone would disagree with that. to the extent that the people are physically dangerous or have a compulsion problem where they will keep offending prison may be the only solution. i think we have come to a point where there is a large swath of people where prison isn't necessary. for those people prison can play different roles. for some there are a lot of people in prison who are uneducated. these are not master criminals. we put a lot of faith in the fact that our criminal laws will
deter bad behavior because, if we ratchet up results people will be more inclined to follow the law. that's not the population i met with. these are people who didn't think they would get u.s. code to figure out what the penalties were. they didn't do cost benefit analysis. they just sold drugs because they wanted extra money. that was most people. and i should say -- and you should read jeff's excellent book. it captured my experience almost perfectly. there's a myth about white-collar prisons. not only are we white, we're white-collar. but there are no white-collar prisons anymore. most of the people in my camp were drugs and guns violations, people searching mandatory minimums for drugs. and so it was a real wide array of people. some people got something out of the prison experience. some people just needed to age out. they were immature. they had just limited brain functioning. and they just needed to grow up and mature. there are other people who didn't speak much english, had very limited education, and they were able to get their ged while
they were there, and that may have helped. for most of the people, though, it's just killing time. and people would say, well, that's okay. if you're bored, that doesn't bother me. but it should because while you're sitting there like a can on a shelf, the job market's advancing. technology's advancing. your family's moving on. everything is changing. and you have no responsibilities, really, when you're in prison. you pave a job, but it's a lot of makeshift jobs. and so your skills atrophy. you know, they said map is a creature who can get used to anything. and i think that's what happens to prisoners. you'll hear they get institutionalized. so you learn what it takes to become a decent prisoner. you stay out of fights. you stay out of stupid arguments. you don't touch other people's laundry, you know, that sort of stuff. you know, but you go to the commissary. you have a limited amount of things you can buy. you learn that lifestyle. and for some people who came from really dangerous areas,
there's a certain comfort in that. and when they got close to leaving, they were very nervous because they were afraid of the choices. so for a lot of people, long sentences without any meaningful programming, and we'll address that, because unless you are able to get drug treatment -- you know, for your addiction or you get your ged, there's really nothing else available that's going to help you reacclimate. and that's a real problem. and so when you look at the recidivism rates and people say these people come out and they reoffend, i know people who are going to try to do the right thing who i served with. some people will be type. some people will try to do the right thing. and after a few years, they won't be able to make ends meet and they are really at risk to going back to the same lifestyle. i want to give jeff a chance, but i want to say there's so much more that can be done on the programming side but it has to be coupled in a way that not only do we treat them more because it's in our interests
because that's who's reoffending, but also we have to shorten the sentences because there's no amount of programming that's going to, you know, sort of satisfy somebody for 10 or 20 years of living in that kind of confinement. >> jeff, did you see anything there where you thought people were being helped or being improved, anybody left sort of, you though, with better impulse control or more prepared for world than they came in? >> not really. i wish i could tell you differently, but in my experience, prison did a lot to create better criminals and almost nothing to rehabilitate people. so there's three ways that i could talk about. so if i'm going on too long, just stop me. but the first way is that prison reinforces people's tendency to operate outside of, like, the rules and outside of the normal economy. and the way it does that is pretty simple. most people have a misconception that when you get locked up, you've got it made.
you've got three hots in a cot and you're fine. but actually, most prisoners are destitute. they don't have a penny to their name. they get into prison. they don't have someone on the outside to put money on their books. maybe some of them do for their first year, their first two years, but then people fade out of their lives and kind of forget about them. and so the problem with that is that not everything -- you don't have it made. in fact, you have to buy your own soap. you have to buy your own deodorant. you have to buy your own toothpaste. so the basics of personal hygiene are, you know, and if you're living virtually on top of hundreds if not thousands of other people. and hygiene is really, really important for a lot of reasons that i could get into later. but the point is if you want to have a normal lifestyle where you just have basic hygiene needs met, let alone anything else to make your life halfway comfortable, you've got to find a hustle. and so the hustles range from anywhere things that are totally legal, like guys who develop their artistic talent and they
draw portraits of other guys, girlfriends, their children that people can send home for birthdays or mother's day. to things that are a little bit less legal like bookies who make book on the prison basketball games to guys who run barber shops which the prison is fine with to guys who run tattoo parlors which the prison is not fine with to then the most lucrative hustle which is guys smuggling contraband in. i appreciate your words about the book, and i agree with almost everything you said. i found some very skilled men. and i would say that in my experience, there's not a single concept you could learn at wharton that you couldn't learn inside federal prison. new product launch. quality control. territorial expansion. risk management. barriers to entry, supply chain
management. i heard every one of these concepts elucidated numerous times using somewhat different lingo than you would learn it at wharton. but they understood every one of these concepts, and unfortunately there was no training at all to help people translate their intuitive graft of the business world that they had learned through constitutes in the drug world. no formal training to turn those into formal enterprises on the street. there was a computer course that was offered. i'm going to tell a story real quick if you don't mind. about a month -- there were three courses while i was there. there was one ged course that they had a prisoner teach. and so the prisoner didn't really care that much for most of the time. and so if you didn't want to go, you didn't have to go. and then there was a hydroponics course because what better way to prepare someone for successful reentry than to learn how to grow tomatoes in water for two weeks. and then thirdly, there was a computer skills course that was a pre-released course so
everyone on their way out finally, we had been salivating over this room that had 12 brand-new computers but no one ever got to go in it. it was locked the whole time. a month before release, a dozen of us got to go, we sat down at the computers. i was in appalachia in southeast ken kentucky. and the ceo tells us to sign in. and we sign in the form. and he says we all sit down, he says all right. you see that button on the bottom right? push it in. so we push it in. the computer turns on. we sit there for about 90 seconds. then a prisoner says -- starts playing with the mouse. and he says, yo, c.o., if you push the -- shut the [ muted ] okay. we sat in silence for another 35 minutes. and at the end of about 40 minutes in, the c.o. says, y'all remember that little button on
the bottom right? well, push it again. and then get the [ muted ] back to yourself. but since we had all signed in, they could tell the b.o.p. that we had successfully completed a computer skills course, and now the prison could get their stipend from the federal government for having done that. so that i would say was sort of the indicative of the amount of rehabilitation going on. >> so that's where i want to go now is with programming. that it does happen, right? it's supposed to be part of the federal system, the state system and, i mean, do they try it? what can work? i mean, computer seems like a good thing that would learn because that's a huge part of what sort of creates a coming apart in society is that some of us good ability to deal with computers and others don't. are there career-based things? are there -- could you teach somebody some impulse control,
or is it too late by the time they're there? what would you want to see? >> okay. well, i would just say the courses that jeff talked about, we had similar ones. these are called ace courses. they're taught by inmates. most of the programming there is taught by inmates. and so i didn't take hydroponics, but i could take jeopardy. i could take a class on current events. or crocheting. and get credit. and it was -- it was all busy work. and it was just the prison administration wanted to show that they were keeping us busy. and most of the guys wouldn't even go to the class. they would just sign the attendance form to say that they went. then they'd get their certificate. and when you'd go to your review, you'd give them the certificate. oh, i'm so busy working hard. we're rehabilitating you. so everyone felt good about this con we were all in on. but it was really -- i joke about it, but i really think it's so corrosive because these are people who need to learn the rules. as jeff was saying about these hustles. there were people who did all those things. they'd iron shirts. they'd make food. we had bedding.
i didn't care about any of that. i didn't really partake in it, but i didn't care about it. it's just i thought this is the place where you've broken the rules. you're at your lowest of low. this is one the place where you really want to get on board and do the right thing. and the prisoner doesn't care. and so there's nothing there for people so it's sort of idle minds, idle hands. so the program was really lackluster. in terms of the things that i thought, there's drug treatment, but there's fewer addicts i think than people would think at least in the federal system. there were only a couple people who came in that were really strung out and, you know, were in the throes of an addiction that needed help. there were people who had dependency who probably needed help, but it's not necessarily why they committed their crime. they were trying to make money if they were selling drugs or guns. but the thing that i thought was missing the most was some sort of cognitive behavioral therapy, some sort of, you know, psychological work, some therapy. a lot of these folks come from communities where that is frowned upon, and there's people everywhere who frowns upon this.
but the lack of impulse control, the just sort of the emotional disconnect. these are a lot of the behavior there is antisocial. and that's what got them in this position. and now they're going to the most anti-social place in the world where you're walking around with headphones on screaming your music to no one and no one can tell you to be quiet because no one's going to screw with you. i mean, it's just -- it just perpetuates the worst behaviors. and so i think the fights that you'd see would be over turning the tv channel or somebody, you know, calling a foul in a basketball game. and those are things that you have these people in a fishbowl. you have them there. they might not seek this help otherwise. but while you have them there, there are certain things you could do to work with them to get them thinking about their thinking patterns. get them thinking about their behavior and the choices they're making and the roots of those choices.
people do what, you know, they were raised to do, and they're not thinking about it otherwise. even those of us who try still struggle and we have to remind ourselves, wait a minute, why do i feel this way? these guys aren't thinking of any of that. and it's not cool to think that either. at cumberland, we had 250 prisoners and we had one trained psychologist. and she was the head of the drug treatment program. she didn't want to do any more work than that. so when i was there after a little while and i had two young girls who i was missing terribly and i knew some of the other y guys were missing their kids, we talked about putting together a group that like that was an aa and na, different support groups. we said let's put together a fathers group so that we can talk about ideas about how to stay in touch with our kids, how to use our minutes, how to use things like finding the guy who creates pictures that we can send, anything you can find to stay close to your children, that's what you want to do. and you also want to be able to just say, i am bummed out. i'm dying. i had a visit this week end. i'm really sad. you don't go cry on your
bunkmate's shoulder. it's a men's prison. so to have a group like that, i thought okay, this will be a sure winner. the psychologist wanted no part of it. she wouldn't respond to my e-mails asking if we could put that group together. there's a lot of lip service and talk about family reunification and how important it is to stay close, but there's not a lot that gets done. as jeff said, that c.o. who said, you know, now you can leave, that's the level of concern. it's sort of i checked the box. i gave you your computer training. it doesn't matter if you learned anything. there are things that can be done. they're not being done. i think some states do a better job from what i hear, but the federal government is really far behind. >> so i'm going to ask you in a second about something you alluded to i think you use in your book, the phrase convict code about how you have to behave to not have other prisoners make your life horrible. but before you talk about that, i want you to just say what you can say about programming. do you think psychological help is possible, helpful? what are your thoughts on any of that? >> so i agree with everything
kevin said. you guys had crocheting? wow! we didn't have that. >> and i'm a master now. >> i actually applied to teach current events. i topped out to teach five different courses. instead i was put to work -- i see a couple of you have the book. if you turn the book on the back, then you can see what my job was. those are my -- i, whoed in the warehouse on the loading dock. and you can see my crew that i worked with. you can probably tell which one i was. anyway. so no, i mean, i'm not trying to be like you do the crime, you do the time, you know. and you do the time how they want you to do the time. not how you want to be the time. and so i'm not going to complain about my job. but i definitely think -- you know, i had a decade's worth of teaching experience. and i had been a state senator. and i would have loved to have teach a course. i applied first to teach a black history course because i was a black studies major in college.
and most of the prisoners were black. and i thought that could have been interesting. i wanted to teach a current events course. i applied to teach -- then i realized, like, anything that had any political or ideological charge was never going to fly. and so i applied to teach, like, a job interviewing course and, like, a resume writing that could teach guys a little more about that. but everything got -- they ignored all five requests. although about three weeks before i got out, they did finally move me. which was interesting. i had fallen off of -- i worked -- we moved about 35 or 40,000 pounds of food a day into freezers that were bigger than this room, and i fell off the top of a freezer. a few weeks before i left. and then i don't think they were going to move me, but the lieutenant governor of missouri happened to visit the next day. and then they figured that he might have come in response to me falling, even though it was
totally a coincidence. and when they figured oh, you might have some juice behind you, then they did move me. and then they sent me to the education department. and then i was heartened, at least it wasn't going to be long, but at least i hoped i would get to teach. and the guy in charge of it, he said -- he said inmate, what's your education level? i said a ph.d.. and he said, all right. we'll start you off sweeping the classroom. and so i swept the classroom for my last month. >> one thing i would say, not to put it too much just on the bureau of prisons because i was going to teach a writing class as well because a lot of guys asked me to edit things they were doing either court filings or course work doing correspondence courses. and they would ask me to write. and i think writing is a lost skill anyway. but in prison, it's pretty miserable. and so i said, you know, some guys said oh, would you teach a class in writing? same thing, resume, cover letters, just basic letters like that. and i had to say, part of the problem was that no one would
have come. i mean, a couple of the guys would seek me out privately, but they weren't going to come from 5:00 to 6:00 at night because the prison wasn't going to make them. so there were some guys who were interested, you know, but i don't want to put it all on the prison. the prison should have made them come. and i said to a guy -- >> if anybody can compel someone to do something. >> well, that was the thing. the head of education, he said -- he was talking to another class. how would 50 people go to this class. it was an electrical class. wait a minute, if they're not going, why am i giving them all certificates? because you don't know who's there and who's not. how do i fix that? you stay and you check attendance when people come in and out of class. he said all right, forget it. >> so what you said really spoke volumes. the first thing you said, you said oh, people would come up to me and ask me for help, but they wouldn't go to a class. that's what i experienced all the time, people wanted help. they wanted tutoring on their ged. they wanted me to help write a resume, all that stuff. they would quietly come to my
cell and ask. so there's definitely interest in it. and i would actually say, like, a pretty insatiable thirst to, like, figure out what they're going to do next and how they're going to acquire a skill. but yeah, doing things formally through the prison wasn't always interest in that. so there's a lot of research actually on prison education programming. and the rand corporation just did a study. they did a metastudy of dozens of other studies of prison education programs around the country. and it shows that first of all, there's a 43% reduction in recidivism for prisoners who advance educationally while they're incarcerated. secondly, for every dollar we spend on prison education programs and vocational training, there's an almost $6 return in reduced costs related to that recidivism. and that makes sense if you think of a 43% reduction and you think it's costing on average about $31,000 a year to incarcerate someone, then you can see how much money we could save doing it. so what kind of courses -- so
you talked about therapy. i mean, therapy would be so important because people don't have an outlet. like what prison -- prison teaches you so many things. it teaches you a way to behave like to suppress all emotion all the time. >> this is going to be my next is you do talk in the book about the convict code that, you know, making eye contact or, you know, seeming too friendly. i mean, there's a way you have to behave, which is antisocial in a way. that you have to learn rules of survival that probably are counterproductive outside. is there anything -- i mean, i can't imagine that being something that at all would be easy to fix. or is it rooted in the fact that it's sort of the prison versus prisoners? is there anything that could be done, if you were just dreaming that could make prison not foster that code of -- that pushes people toward antisocial behavior? >> so i would say yes, there is. like that code, you know, what
results is number one, a tendency to suppress all emotion because you learn very quickly that any show of emotion is a show of weakness. right? to be like i'm so excited for the visit i'm going to get this saturday. no. don't say that. okay? you don't -- you don't long -- you don't tell anyone else about your family. you don't -- you know, tell everyone how much you miss, you know, your kids. you don't do anything because then they know how to get to you. right? and people -- there's a lot of people that play a lot of mind games in there. they have a lot of time on their hands. they've developed really sort of acute senses for other people's weaknesses, and they will prey on that. so you learn not to express any emotion. you, of course, develop a tendency to overreact to small slights because if someone cuts in line ahead of you and you don't step to them, then you're weak. and everyone knows you're weak. and then people are going to find other ways to try to exploit that. and so all these tendencies that you develop of course are totally dysfunctional out in society. and that's the root of the problem.
does it have to be this way, you ask? no, i don't think it does. i've been in a prison in texas that was the most positive place where the camaraderie and the enthusiasm for learning exceeded anything that i've experienced among ph.d. candidates at the new school. i'm being honest. there was a nonprofit called the prison entrepreneurship program which full disclosure i'm on the board now that operates inside two prisons in texas. they run a nine-month-long mba-level curriculum where it culminates in prisoners who compete in a shark tank-like business plan competition. they have nine months with the help of visiting executives and mba students from all over the world who advise them on the creation of these business plans. and the sort of positivity and just genuine, like, care and concern and even love for one
another was i felt like, you know, it was similar to that of, like, a great winning high school team or college team. and the recidivism rate for graduates of that program over the last 11 years, 6%. >> wow. >> less than one-tenth of our national recidivism rate. and several men have started multimillion-dollar businesses as well. so i think there are ways. we see examples of ways to create an atmosphere that's very different. >> so that's cheering that there are examples of these things being done right. >> yes. i'm going to -- i don't want to disagree. and this is -- and again, when i read the book, it was -- i spared everybody telling my story because he really told it perfectly well. the one thing i would say about that is my sense of some of the folks there was there was too many, you know, bill gates just waiting to be born. and i think i'm afraid that sometimes we romanticize the prison population to think that tease are people you'd have to a dinner party. this is, you know, everybody's
least valuable players. it's not a great group of people to hang around with. i mean, you say that -- i mean, i was there. i'm not trying to be above it. if i said these things there, which i would do, people would put it right back on me that i was with them. and i get that. it's just these are, you know, low skill, low education, bad social skills, all of which i think can be dealt with. but i don't want to mislead people into thinking that they're all budding entrepreneurs because what worried me the most is when people would come up and say, hey, i've got this, you know, business plan. i'm going to come out with an app. they didn't even know what an iphone was. but they had an app that was going to sell. it was going to be like gangbusters if somebody just heard of this idea. and they had been sitting there for six, seven years. they had no market research or anything like that. they didn't know what they didn't know. so i felt like with some people, you shouldn't worry about being your own boss when you get out. you should just go hope to be a cog in a machine somewhere.
like you don't need to compete with walmart. you just need to be a greeter at walmart. just hold a job. get something that pays the bills and supports you, and don't crush your dreams. but you're going out with a felony conviction. you don't know what the job market's like. and so i thought the prison could give people a little realism, too, by giving us so much space, they let people dream really unrealistic dreams, and i thought that was really counterproductive for the people who really needed a dose of reality as to what they were going to face when they got out. i was the exact opposite. i was so fortunate. my circumstances are so much different. so, you toknow, i could exempt myself prosecute that. i knew what i was going to do when i got out, but a lot of these guys don't, and they get scared. but if they're allowed to dream unrealistic dreams, i don't think that's healthy. >> i want questions from all of you guys in a minute. so i have one last topic for these two. reentry when they get out of
prison, you know, is there -- are there existing programs -- i mean, you studied that work and also just so that -- i mean, people here who haven't had anybody close to them go in and come out of prison, i mean, what are the challenges besides not having seen an iphone? >> so a huge challenge is family and community support. you know, we talked about how heartbreaking it is to watch men who work -- i don't know what your wage was for your job, but i made $5.25. >> a week. >> which a lot of people say that's not bad. and then i tell them that was my monthly. >> a month. >> you know, for 40-hour-a-week work in the warehouse. but of course, like you, i was lucky, right? like i had money. i mean, i didn't have a ton of money. and most of it went to my lawyers. and then i had to pay a big fine to the gotvernment. but i still had enough to have someone send me 100 bucks here
and there. i always had money when i needed it. most of these guys, you're working. you're making somewhere between $5 and $25 a month. and not only do you have to buy the basics of like, personal hygiene, but sometimes you have child support arrears accumulating while you're incarcerated. and then, you know, just to try to stay in touch with your family where i was, the interstate phone calls were, like, you know, $1.50 a minute for me to call home. other guys, it was even more. there's some prisons as much as $14 a minute. now, the fcc just changed that in a ruling that came out last week tanks to the great work of f.a.m., kevin's organization and some other organizations as well. but this is, you know, a huge problem upon reentry is the resentment that a lot of family members have because guys didn't stay in touch and they don't fully understand just how hard it was to get the resources to stay in touch, right? and you never tell people how bad it is in there. you don't tell people how hard it is.
that's just part of the code. you don't want people feeling even worse than they already feel. so you say oh, everything's fine. so family and getting family back together, that's a big cal ledge. obviously the fact that 90% of employers perform background checks is a huge obstacle. one of the reasons i'm such an advocate for ent present newership is people won't hire you. i don't want to be misunderstood. >> no, i though. >> i know we might have a slightly friendly disagreement about this stuff. but basically, these guys, like, you know, they could run their own trucking company if they get a cdl. they could run their own landscaping business. they could run their own barber shop. they could run, you know, their own janitorial business. they have that entrepreneurial spirit that in many cases led them into the drug trade because i don't want to work at mcdonald's and make 7 bucks an hour. i want to do better. the challenge is channeling that energy into something that's a legitimate enterprise and then also like literally, like figuring out a way to get them,
you know, just the sort of basics like a halfway house, my halfway house was worse than my prison. i don't know what yours was like. but my halfway house was crazy. you know. and when you put people right back in that place, you know, 650,000 people every year come back to the doorsteps of our communities, the same communities where they've already failed except now they've got the added stigma of a prison record and they're broke and they have to pay for their halfway house rehab, and they have to pay for their drug testing, and they have to pay for transportation and clothes to look decent at a job interview. it surprises me sometimes that one out of, you know, three people don't reoffend. you know, how they're able to get back on their feet. you know, we need much -- we need practical, we need therapy, you know, therapeutic resources, not a p.o. that's, like, be here at this time. if you're late, i'll violate
you. you need to be here for the drug test. but somebody to counterbalance that and say how are you feeling about being back here? what do you need that can help you? can we help you with bus passes? can we help you learn to use the internet? you don't know any employers? you don't have anyone you can list as a reference? we've got some people who you can talk to. a database of employers like second-chance employers that are willing to hire people. it's great to see coke and walmart be in the box, but we need proactivity. we need people to step up and say what are the resources that it takes to identify, recruit, you know, hire and then support and retain people who were incarcerated? >> i mean, and i'm, again, a conservative libertarian guy, but that sounds like the perfect sort of thing for a nonprofit on sort of local-by-local, state-by-state level to do. do you think that should be part of the criminal justice system to do that, or would you see that being done outside? >> there's an amazing company that started a foundation. the company is called dave's
killer bread. dave wasn't a killer, but he was -- he was incarcerated, and he was the brother of the company owner. and he came out and they said we want to help you, you know. can you bake some bread? he starts baking the bread. you know, there's some good cooking in prison, isn't there? like i miss the nachos. but he made the bread like totally different. he experimented with all kinds of stuff, and it went nuts. and everyone wanted it. and it grew like hundreds of, you know, and now it just got acquired by a much bigger company because it's been so successful. and they decided they were going to make it their mission to be a second-chance employer. almost 40% of their employees are people who came out of prison. and they just put on a big summit for employers all across the pacific northwest to learn what they're doing. and so yeah, i mean, i think -- i think government could have a role in connecting people in
giving people more than 20 bucks and a bus ticket back to wherever you're from and connecting you to those resources. i'm not optimistic given my prison experience that they're going to take that seriously because frankly one of the c.o.s when people would leave, his line would be, he's say, i'll see you in six months. it's jackasses like you that remind me i'm always going to have a job. >> yeah, yeah, yeah. i would say -- i'm a small government guy foris the most part, but i think the reason there's a role for the government is because the halfway houses, you're still under the department's control. we're still -- i was still serving my sentence when i left. so i had to do home confinement for a couple months. and i got to go to rockville and quickly get to home confinement. but if i had to go to hope village in d.c., i know a lot of people have been to hope village. it's way worse than your prison for most people. i mean, c.o.s are stealing things from the inmates. and some people at cumberland would pass up their halfway house time. even though they wanted to be
closer to their family and community and start getting a job, they didn't want to go to the halfway house. so i think there are minimal standards that could be set to control these. rockville, even though i didn't have to spend time there, they have a good reputation because they really spend time getting people on the phone. they require them a certain amount of time applying for jobs. that's their whole focus is you're going to apply to ten jobs a day. and so there's a set period where they're making them do that. so they're really on them. and so i think that that's a good thing. you mentioned coke and walmart. and i would just say this is one of those cultural changes that need to happen. >> explain more. not everybody -- >> oh, i'm sorry. so coke, walmart, target, some of these companies have just voluntarily said we're not going to put on our application whether you have a criminal conviction. we'll find that out, right? i mean, through an interview process, but we don't want to knock you out of the consideration based on that one fact alone. so that's a smart move, they did it on their own. there's no law that requires that. president obama just announced
he's going to ban the box for federal contractors. so that's not asked. i'll just say this. you know, as a conservative, i think an employer can ask whatever they want. so this idea to me is less about what it's actually going to do because, i mean, all the guys i served with, they could not get asked that. they'll submit their resume and there will be a ten-year gap. so it's not going to take long for somebody who figure out where you've been. some people list their prison jobs. because they don't want to have that gap, and they did do some work. so i'm not so optimistic about that. it has to be a cultural change. there's no law that's going to do this that's going to make people hire offenders and give them a second chance. we have to do that. i do not -- i have to do community service because after two trials, i couldn't afford to pay a fine. so i have to do 200 hours of community service. i live in montgomery county. if there's more progressive or proud of its progressiveness county in the world, i don't know it. it's bernie sanders, war's not the answer, hillary's a fascist
up there. and so this is the greatest place you should be able to come home to, and yet i got turned down by three different places to do community service because of my felony conviction. the places had blanket policies no the to hire felons. i don't seek to be paid. i have a law degree. i just want to stack books in your used bookstore, but they will not hire me. so forget ban the box. forget about even not asking me, getting rid of policies that don't even allow you to consider me at all. and so again, i think it's cultural. i think it's just us saying and knowing more people who have gone to prison saying i'm not going to write you off because you sevened some time. i'm going to judge you as an individual. i'm going to get to know you. and i think that's what has to happen. that's not a government solution, though. >> so one possible government solution, and we might disagree on this, i think that even people on the right, i think definitely people on the right might find this interesting. remember what i said the c.o.
said when people got out? that really embodied the incentive structure as it operates for prison wardens and prison administrators and c.o.s. they have a job because they know there's going to be a constant supply of us. what if we turned it on its head? what if we gave stipends or bonuses to c.o.s who worked in prisons? basically if we tracked everyone who came out of prison and if they went five years without resid vating, then we gave a $5,000 bonus on the c.o.s at the last two prisons where they were housed. maybe if we turned the incentives on their heads, then prison guards would be more focused on boosting you up than tearing you down. >> i totally agree with that. i would take the sort of warden or the head of the facility. i'd put it on him to create that culture. and i certainly would want to know -- i mean, i think wardens judge themselves now on nobody escaped today, you know? that's, like, all right. but everybody leaves your prison is reoffending. and we want to know that.
so the bureau of prisons could at least track that information. how are different facilities doing? because we also build tease prisons in dogpatch, usa. so a lot of people that are guards that jeff has imitated very well were the type of people that i had in cumberland, and they were this close to being inmates themselves. and i didn't find them any more moral or educated or anything than the people that i was serving with. and so what's this -- what's the training for them? what is their background? why isn't the head of my prison know something about psychology and motivation? like instead of insulting people, try to build them up? >> is there any state or locality or county where there are -- that you guys know of where there are sort of good incentives or wardens are given a job which is to help people or -- >> i know this idea has been discussed. i haven't heard it implemented. >> you know what? i'm going to be the commit some liberal right now. >> i just want to quickly say, if i hadn't said republican
study until about five minutes ago, you couldn't have told that he was a republican, he was a liberal. now it's all going to come flowing. >> but this is sort of -- like the people who have done this the best over the last few years are like, nikki haley in south carolina, nathan diehl in georgia, rick perry in texas. the texas recidivism rate is, like, just a little more than one-third the national average. texas recidivism rate is, like, 23%, right? they're doing great. the best prison i had ever been in, that's in texas. they, you know, and the liberals and cynics might say, well, the reason the recidivism rate is so low is because at the execute so many people. there's 236 people who couldn't possibly resid vat. i will say this. conservative republicans and southern especially in the south governors have really led the way over the last five or six years on both on the inside -- you know, on the front end on sentencing reform and then on trying, you know, to be more
compassionate inside of prisons in a way that will reduce recidivism. and it's a credit and nathan diehl's made this a focus of his governorship. john kasich in ohio. not only did he focus on this, but then he ran for re-election on specifically, you know, this issue which is pretty encouraging to me. so -- >> audience questions. yes. we've got a microphone. it will come to you. please -- yes. >> my name's dave price, retired journalist and educator. i want to begin with an accumulate and then go into my question. first, thank you. i'm sure there's times when you regret what happened to you. but it's been my impression working in urban schools and areas that the one population that probably is least represented is prisoners. both while they're in prison and even more so when they come out. so i think that's good. and my question kind of comes along with that. you talked a little bit, jeff, about this, but what's been the reaction not so much to you personally but to your message? i think it's such an important message. you're out there delivering it.
do you think people are hearing you? and if they're hearing you, you know, are they beginning to act, you know, obviously it's going to be a multiple of things, but just the message. how's it being received out there now that you're giving it as an expert? >> and also along political lines, is it being received differently? >> yeah. it's just as you'd imagine. some people -- you know, i didn't want to be the guy who came out and was the expert, right? and it's not because i didn't want to relive the experience. i worked for families against mandatory minimums before i was indicted. so i was involved in these issues. i had been on the wrong side of these issues on capitol hill. i wrote mandatory minimum laws when i was a senate staffer and i was young and i knew nothing but i thought i knew everything. so part of this was a little bit of penance and just the idea that it didn't appeal to me as a conservative anymore that we would let politicians draft sentences for cases they knew nothing about. so i thought i wanted to get that message out. and i am lucky that as jeff
said, there are so many other conservatives who are doing that. on a personal level, you think you're getting so much support, right? because those are the people who are talking to you. it's sort of a self-selecting process. i know there are people who -- what i don't like is in any other walk of life experience matters. and especially for conservatives, if you're a businessman and you're dpl complaining about the epa, people would say you know because you're out there and if people are screwing with your business, we want to hear your viewpoint. my experience with the justice department. they say oh, of course you say that because you broke the law. so, you know, you've got, like, bernie kerik. nobody's done more to fight crime individually than bernie kerik. he was the nypd chief during 9/11. he ran rikers island. if you're going to dismiss him because he's got a conviction. jeff never talks about reforming the law where his conviction was. i talk about mandatory minimums. i wasn't subject#ñ to one. carrick doesn't talk about tax reform. we're talking about the system that we saw. and unfortunately we have experienced. so i'm a big boy. i can take it, but i don't like
when the discount and that experience is discounted because people think it's a motive i have. i'd just as well not talk about this. but i was there. i saw it. i helped create a bad system, too, as part of a staffer, being a staff. so the reaction is mixed. >> obviously, there's that sample bias of, like, the people who come to events that where i'm selling my book are probably going to be people who are favorably predisposed to the message. but the most heartening thing i think is that i've tried to go to places that are unexpected, you know what i mean? i go on conservative talk radio. i go, you know, i go wherever i can. if people invite me. and i have had very, very few people come back to me and say, well, you know, what about, you know, what about rapists? you know, and i actually talk about rape in my standard talk because i think it's important to talk about it because what --
there's no clear example of how we operate our prisons, driving recidivism than rape. you know, because we tolerate rape culture inside of prison. there are more rapes that han in prison every year than happen on the street, than happen outside of prison. and how do we handle that? well, we laugh about it. like our pop culture, it's a staple of our detective shows, "law & order" to say hey, the prosecutor says don't drop the soap to the perp who's going away. i mean, how calloused do you have to be to think that no matter, you know, that no matter what happens to you on the inside, you deserved it because you broke the law. that's crazy. and unfortunately, a hugely disproportionate number of men who are raped or gang raped and repeatedly so on the inside come out and tragically attempt to reclaim their manhood in the way they perceive it was stolen from them on the inside. and so, you know, i am trying to
talk about issues that a lot of people don't want to talk about. in some ways i'm a good messenger for it because i was a policymaker, and i actually worked on criminal justice reform as a policymaker. and then i am a researcher, too. and so i can bring that angle. in other respects i'm not the right messenger. i'm a white, you know, highly educated, i'm not representative of the prison population. but in a perverse way, i can reach people in a way that other people can't reach so i'm hopeful i can do that and spread the message. >> speaking of why you may have noticed that we are all white, he was attacked. jeff was attacked in his campaign as a well-known caucasian when he was running -- >> known caucasian. >> known caucasian in a district that was largely black. we invite people here, we try to get a diversity, some people say yes, some people say no. so i want to apologize for that. yes, sheryl. >> hi. i'm sherylyn, a lawyer and a
writer. we've got 6,000 federal prisoners that are being released. jeff talks about in his being boo about the reason why -- one of the reasons why he was doing the -- i think you were doing inventory on the loading dock is because he had -- he could read. and he had math skills. so i'm curious. there's been a lot of reports about how there are a limited number of books in prison libraries. they don't allow newspapers. so what are these 6,000 prisoners going to do if they can't even read? and have minimal math skills? i mean, you can't even bag at the grocery store without having literacy skills. or math skills. >> i mean, either of you experience this
illiteracy? >> part of this is, again, not everybody's in there dying to read. you know, some people can't and want to. some people really do use that time to self-educate because there's not classes. you know, when i was -- >> that's not the norm. >> no, that's not the norm. if they were -- if these guys were really starving for education, i mean, some of them, they wouldn't be in the position they were in. >> sure. >> but, you know, so in terms of the 6,000 coming out, i just want to say because f.a.m. has been having to respond to this a lot, this was not the obama administration's decision. this was the sentencing commission. and if we cannot tolerate this 6,000 who really are the lowest -- >> say more about -- >> okay, i'm sorry. yes. so there's been news reports about 6,000 people being let out early from federal prison who are drug offenders. and if you listen to bill o'reilly, you think you should run to your basement and lock the door because they're all violent folks. they're not. i was in prison. i just got out six months ago.
i was there when a lot of people got their letters saying that they were getting the two-level reduction. so what happened was the sentencing commission over a year ago said the drug sentences were too high. the guidelines were too high. and since your sentence is driven by the weight of the drugs, they reduced the trigger for that. for most people they just got a slightly shorter sentence. 11 years went to 9 years. and they made that change going forward, but they said it's not fair to not include that for the people who are already serving. let's get rid of some of the overcrowding we have. and just as an equity matter, let's do it this way. so people were allowed to go into court. they had to have a good record. the prosecutor was allowed to object. the judge had to agree to this. so the people that are coming out, you know, there's been this scare -- fearmongering going on about 6,000 people. well, federal prisons let out 70,000 a year. state prisons let out more. these are, like, a handful in each community. and these are people who are serving drug offenses who served substantial amounts of time who were coming out anyway.
so if you were worried that they weren't ready for society, they weren't going to be ready in a year and a half either. so it's the biggest nonissue, but it's been turned into something big. and what scares me about it is if we can't -- if we can't welcome these people back, then those who want to tackle, you know, the bigger prison issues are going to have a hard time because these are the lowest hanging fruit that we have in the system. >> pie question, though, what are we doing to help them? and even the ones that are much more -- that have much bigger problems? i mean, these guys are the lowest of the lowest, but do they have literate skills? >> we're doing with them what we do with everybody, and it's not enough. >> exactly. >> but the reason they delayed the decision was for the past year these people would transition to halfway houses, home confinement, look for work. so it wasn't as if on november 1st, 6,000 people walked out the prison door. but if you're talking about what we're doing to prepare them, i think that's our whole point is not enough. >> some of this, i mean, there's
been -- you guys have mentioned some examples of things that have worked in some cases. and a lot of them, you know, you talk about the texas case or these other reentry programs, rockville having some good programs. in a lot of these, i'm almost feeling optimistic that we have some solutions that are worked on a local level and maybe they can be expanded and adapted to other situations. but on the question of people who are illiterate, getting an education in prison, is there any examples of that being done well that you guys know of? >> well the problem is it's anecdotal. and i think this is a problem with the criminal justice system overall. we don't have good data. if i said what's the recidivism rate, you would give a number that you heard. but if i said well, is that the number of people going back to jail or the number of people just reoffending? is that the the number of people who have technical violations? you'd start to drop off and not know. a lot of researchers don't know the answer to that either. we don't have good data. even when we talk about programs that work, what the b.o.p. needs
to do is also assess its programs. i'm all for them investing in programming that we think work, that reduces an education is a good example of that but i want that measured and tested. and then if it works, you know, sort of spread elsewhere in the country. >> that might be the most aei answer as possible. the answer is we need more data. >> yes, more data. >> yes, in the front table here, microphone is coming from right behind you. >> good evening. my name is elizabeth charity, and i'm the ceo and founder of youth corporation inc. services. i was, of course, in the corporate world. then what i did was i lost my job. and i started a volunteer in the juvenile justice system, in the juvenile detention center. and whilst i was there, i volunteered for, like, 20 -- it had been about 20 years. and what i did was i wrote a grant, and i gave it to --
submitted to the former governor george allen. and i started that 12-week job readiness program. but during that time, what i decided to do is come and go back to school to george mason university. and i did a study on training the ex-offender to a social entrepreneur. i put together that 12-week curriculum. i have submitted it to george mason university. and what we are planning on doing is getting college students to come in and help us teach that 12-week job readiness mentoring program, but we want it to go into the juvenile detention center. we have been given the opportunity to be able to go before the juvenile -- the department of juvenile justice to introduce this formula, and i truly will love to have some of your statements included in our study. this could be, like, a two to
three-year study in which we can be able to get the data and all that information. >> i mean, so my question following up on that incredibly interesting sounding project there is on the juvenile level, have either of you done research or looked into that? that seems like that has a whole different set of needs and problems for juvenile offenders. >> it does have a whole different set of needs. and one of the most disturbing things that i uncovered in my research for the book was the number of states that put juveniles in solitary. i mean, juveniles are so ill equipped to be -- >> yes. >> no one should really be in solitary except in the most extreme circumstances pretty much across the world, the civilized world. they've decided you know what? this is basically slow-motion torture to do this to people. but, you know, where i was, i don't know if you had this experience, but, like, you know, you'd have a guy on your basketball team. and, like, he wouldn't show up for the game. and you'd be, like, where's cee lo? he gone. where is he?
he's in the shoe. like he's in -- he's just gone. you don't know why people leave. they just disappear. they're in solitary, and then you never see them again. like the people who came out of solitary, i mean, they were broken people. right? it had broken them. and so, i mean, the number one thing i think we need to do in terms of juvenile justice in this country is to absolutely forbid juvenile solitary because no young person especially given their neurological development at that juncture should ever be put in solitary. that's the first thing. but, you know, i think we need to look further back. you know, everyone now is talking about the school-to-prison pipeline. and it's real. a friend of fine named karla shed just wrote a book on this in chicago. she looks at, you know, just the way that, like, poor kids mostly of color in our society like from the minute they go to school, they're 5 years old, they're accustomed to, like, metal detectors and, like, you know, this sort of things that we know of as, like, the
carceral state. so i think we need to go even further back than the juvenile justice system and make it so that it's not considered -- and stop normalizing the experience of the criminal justice system for a big subset of our population. >> again, i want to know if i can be able to get statements from -- >> we can talk about that after. >> okay. thank you. >> man over there in the salmon-colored shirt. >> thank you. my name's jacqueline fefer meryl, and i serve on the board of the advocates for the prison partnership which offers programming on a high end above the cliche. we support gaucher prison for a medium-security prison in jesup. i want to ask about here we have a very friendly audience. but talking to people who are much less sympathetic, whether we're talking to a c.o. who
might have only a ged and no longer gets a subsidy from the department of corrections to take a community college course or taxpayers who are struggling to, you know, finance their own kids' college education, how is it that we talk, we saw the troubles talking about this in the state of new york about offering, whether it's college education or other education and spending yet more money on incarcerated people and help them see that it's really worth it? because having talked to the skeptics. >> kevin. >> yeah, i talk to the skeptics a lot because i was once one of them. and so sometimes that helps is that i remember what i was thinking when i was at that point. and it's still helpful sometimes to be working on these issues and talk to somebody on the hill who's, like, why would i ever shorten a sentence for anyone who committed any crime? you know, you think, wait. because there's no evidence that it's reducing crime. you know, it's like it's not
helping recidivism. it's costing money. but, i mean, there's still just this -- turn on fox. >> especially among conservatives. there's this deeply ingrained sense that justice needs to be served. that these people do not deserve our sympathy or our help. >> until they know somebody who runs and follow the law. that's happening more and more. some of these people who are come out and are now supportive on the right just look through their family tree for a minute and you're going to find somebody who went to jail and all of a sudden they have a firsthand experience with the criminal justice system. some get it. some just weren't around during the old crime fights of the '90s where they don't have scars of me tough on crime you soft on crime, that old stale debate. how to talk to them, i really think it is about appealing to their self-interests because you can't make somebody always feel compassion. f.a.m. talks about personal stories. and that reaches people. in a lot of cases. but sometimes it's just -- it's
not that -- i don't want us to not be tough on crime. i just think what we're doing isn't tough on crime. it's tough on criminals, on individual criminals. and so if i want to show how tough i am and i send somebody to 20 years, i may feel good about how tough i was vis-a-vis that person, but if i've just made them a worse offender, if i've destroyed their family and so now those kids are more likely to go to jail, if i'm just driving up the costs across the board of what i've done, then that's not being tough on crime. it's just -- and so, again i do think this is a cultural issue that is not so much legislative. i think we are very vengeful. i think we -- i'll give you an example. there were lobbyists who are doing just what i was doing. and half of them will say gosh. but for the grace of god, go i. the other half, even though they knew what they -- i was doing exactly what they were doing are, like, you asked for it about and we have that. there's something weird in our society where, you know, if, you know, all of a sudden speeding on the beltway, you know, got
you ten years, we all do it. but the person who got caught, we'd have zero sympathy for. and so there's a quick -- it's an evolutionary thing we have that once you break the law, you become the other. and we don't have to feel any sympathy or empathy for you. and that's just going to take us growing out of that and part of it is when i grew up, i didn't know anybody who went to prison. i don't think my kids know anybody who doesn't know somebody who went to prison. so we're going to get to a point where we're going to jail so many people that we're all going to have more firsthand experiences here. and that may be what it takes. >> just very quickly. i totally agree with kevin, self-interest. you feel -- money and public safety. is how i talk to conservatives. you know? you like spending $80 billion a year of your money, you know, on a revolving door? >> then they say well that's because they get plasma screen tvs and comfy beds. you got the comfier bed. >> yeah. my bed went from this thick to, like, that thick.
so -- and i talk about public safety a lot, which is like, you know, if you -- you know, these people, like 93% about of prisoners in this country are coming home. and what we do to them, like, we are s-h-i-ting our own nest, right? these are americans. we will see them. they will be, you know, maybe they won't live in your suburb, but when you go downtown for the opera or for the baseball game, you will see them. and if you want them to come out even more damaged, broken and angry than they went if, then you've got the right recipe. >> yes, sir. >> good afternoon. great talk. obviously very entertaining. but in speaking of entertainment, before i ask a question, i wanted to know, are you familiar with a comedian
kevin hart? >> yeah. >> so i went to see him recently. and i can relate to him because he's under 5'9". i'm 5'7". he might be 5'4" or 5'5". so it's even tougher for him to be even that much shorter. but he does this joke about how a series or monologue about what it's like to avoid fights and why he avoids fights. and it's interesting to hear the rationale he uses because he basically says i know what the consequences are going to be if i get into a fight with this person. and so i think there's a difference between the way some people think when they say well, if i get into a fight with this person, i'll do this and it will come out okay versus someone who says no, it's going to come out bad. i think i need to walk away from that. so i've been able to stay out of prison because i've avoided a lot of situations where i could have made the wrong decision. and maybe it was because of my mom or my dad or going to catholic school. i don't know what it was. but as a result, i would be -- i know i would be the whitest guy in prison if i was there.
i would be the whitest guy. i would be the guy they would pick out and say you, uncle tom, i'm going to do this to you, right? so i want to ask you, do you or do people that you've spoken to actually to actually believe what -- some of the things they did that got them put into prison were actually wrong because i think, and this is my theory, and i don't know a damn thing about it because i've never been to prison but i think there's a point where you decide, hey, you know what? maybe i'm wrong, maybe i should have been put in prison for some reason. there's no perfect answer, but i'm going to start reading the bible, going to start doing these other things. do you think anything you did was -- because i don't understand exactly what you said you supposedly got put in for but was it wrong or what? >> i lied to the feds. you know, and like it doesn't matter whether you lied to the feds about jay walking or structuring financial transactions or killing someone, you still lie to the feds, and i lied to them about whether i knew that a meeting took place
between my two aides and a third party. i said i didn't know about that because the mailer didn't have the appropriate paid for by disclaimer. so it sounds sort of technical, but the underlying crime was a campaign finance violation, and then the obstruction of justice was signing a false affidavit saying i didn't know anything about that meeting. so that's what i did. do i think i did anything wrong? i think i broke the law, and, therefore, you know, in this country, i have done something wro wrong. i think i did something really, really stupid, okay? and it was a big mistake, and i learned a lot from it, but i also have perspective on it, and you get a lot of perspective on it by watching like the presidential campaign this year where basically what i did, it
was a $10,000 postcard and right now i don't want to get into too many details but basically jeb bush has a super pac that's got over $100 million in it, and his like political alter ego who he spent the last 20 years plotting with is running that super pac and so they don't really need to coordinate because they spent the first six months of this year figuring out exactly what they were going to do with that $100 million. so they don't have to have a conversation about it now. i was an amateur. i was naive and stupid and so as a neophyte, i made the mistake of doing it in an illegal way. what some politician has probably done since we came here together at lunch today. but the fact is i did the crime, so i had to do the time. in prison overall one of the biggest myths, biggest misconceptions is that prisoners all say like i didn't do it. they know they did it.
they'll tell you they did it, and in fact, one of the guys i worked with in the warehouse used to joke -- one time -- it's a long story but they -- they were going to plant raw meat in my freezer jacket because they were going to get me in trouble because i wasn't stealing, and so therefore they thought i was a rat and i was going to snitch on them for stealing. so i had to start stealing, and it's a long story but basically like -- there was a threat i would have to go to a high security prison, and i was like i don't want to do that. that's why i decided to start stealing because i didn't want to go to a max, right. and this guy is like, he's like what are you afraid of? i'm like there's like murderers there and he looks at and he goes the only difference between me and them is i missed. but this guy was like very smart and very thoughtful and like he had shot at people, you know.
he was in the drug trade, and he had shot at people and he freely admitted everything he did, and i really believe that he was intelligent enough and, you know, just ambitious enough and hard working enough, like it was prison. it didn't matter if the boxes were stacked perfectly. i didn't care. and he was like, no, that's not right. smith, come on, senator, like change it around. you got to do it the right way. like he had pride in his work inside of prison. he wanted to do a great job. i think he would be fine on the outside, and i think even though, sure, there was guys that were already plotting their next crime, there were some of those, you know. but that was not the norm, and maybe we had a different experience. most of the guys wanted to fly straight. >> that was my experience as well. one thing i would say about jeff's story, and this is a perfect thing, if you said, well, jeff, you knew what you were doing. you know, you knew what the penalty was if you said you
prr weren't involved in that meeting so you got what you deserved. he had no idea what the penalty was. they'll say what were you thinking? he wasn't thinking. he made a decision on the spur of the moment without thinking everything through. that's what people do. those are called mistakes and bad judgment and same thing with me. i mean, i fought my charges -- they were lobbying charges, essentially bribery charges not because i disagreed with the government's theory that i gave people tickets to events or took them out to lunches or dinners and ultimately hoped they would do something for my clients. that was called lobbying. it was what was my intent. did i have a criminal intent to trade those things sort infoof one for one basis on them and i would have done anything to stay home with my daughters. i would have pled guilty in a second if i could have done that, but i was going to have to incriminate against others, testify against people i worked with, members of congress who did i not believe was guilty and i wasn't going do it.
that's my sob story and i live with it. i went to prison and i didn't seek any sympathy from people who were serving much longer sentences for similar mistakes. so i would say this, i was not happy i was involved in the system i was involved. i gave them the fat to pinch. so i'll take my lumps. i was sort of raised that way. you asked for it, watch who you hang out with. but the people there, again, they didn't think about their conduct, and if you had said, well, the penalty for this crime was five or the penalty is for 25, it would not have altered their behavior because they weren't thinking doing cost/benefit analysis, so i wish sort of this -- growing field of behavioral economics would inform more of our policymaking here because there are things you can do to sort of prime people to make better decisions or to at least punish them in ways that responds. restorative justice. make the person who sold drugs be accountable, go to a clinic where people are really trying to get off drugs. let them see the repercussions
of what their drug trafficking did. don't let them sit in a cell for ten years where they have no face-to-face contact with that. there's other things we can do, but i think the idea of these people made mistakes, they're not innocent. i agree when -- people would say system is racist. every black guy said the system is racist. i'm like did you do it? yeah, i did. okay, let's go play basketball. they all thought i was an idiot that i had gone to trial. and so what matters is not whether they're guilty. the question is, is the punishment proportional to what they did? and i don't think it is in a lot of cases, and that's what we need to re-evaluate. are we safer because of the punishments we're doling out. >> i think this has been a great discussion. the most cheerful thing to me is that there are programs on smaller scales that have worked. this has now been taken up across the ideological spectrum.
criminal justice reform broadly including prison reform. i'd like to go on forever but we're incapable of doing that. i will say jeff's book is for sale outside. they take credit card. he'll sign it for you, and just a quick note on this. when i got the book and i still have the dust jacket on and it's got jeff's picture on the front, my 5-year-old said what he says about every person he sees in the newspaper, is that your friend? what's the book about? it's about when he went to prison. and all my older kids gathered around and they thought that was a really interesting story and it was an informative them for me to talk about. my oldest asked if she could read it. i said no. don't buy it for your 7-year-old child yet. but it was -- i thought that was a really interesting thing, that that exposure to that, it's something in the bible we read about, but you're supposed to visit and care about the imprisoned but it was a new thing. so i see it getting picked up across the spectrum.
i hope these little solutions on the local level can bubble up, but i want to -- >> speaking of little kids in the book, my 4-year-old son every time we're out in public, he's very gregarious, probably got the politician in him, he just walks around to everyone and he says, hi, have you read dada went to prison? >> thank you, guys, all for coming. [ applause ] live don't on c-span, our landmark cases continues. in 1944 the supreme court voted to uphold the government's forceful removal of 120,000
people of japanese descent regardless of citizenship to internment camps in remote areas of western and midwestern states. >> c-span presents landmark cases, the book. a guide to our landmark cases series which explores 12 historic supreme court decisions, including marbury versus madison. koromotsus have united states, miranda versus arizona, and roe versus wade. it features the impact of each case. written by supreme court journalist tony mauro and published by c-span in cooperation with cq press, an imprint of sage publications incorporated. "landmark cases" is available for $8.95 plus shipping.