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Name: Aaron Seeley

Town Hall Meeting Talking Points Assignment (FINAL DRAFT)


Complete this form, print it, and bring it to the Town Hall Meeting

Policy Area (general that you signed up for): Prison/ Jail Policy

Research and political positions regarding your policy problem and solution

What is the specific policy problem you have identified within this policy area? You may have
refined this since the beginning of the semester. What is the specific policy problem that you think
government should address refer to your research to explain the problem and why it should be
addressed.

Mass Incarceration is the specific policy issue I have chosen. This is becoming an increasingly
large issue and costs that go along with this continue to rise. Length of sentences have gone up due
to repeat offender laws and three strike laws which only cost the taxpayer more money and
doesnt really help turn those criminals around. This issue should be addressed by the government
because currently we spend more money on an inmate per year than it costs to send someone to
college for one year.

Your proposed policy solution (you may have refined this since the beginning of the semester). What
should government do to address the policy problem you have identified? This should be a policy that an
actual lawmaker, administrator, court or other government or branch could enact or implement. Explain
how your solution is possible and desirable given the current political and social environment.

Long prison sentences have proven to be costly and ineffective in preventing recidivism. For non-
violent criminals who pose no threat to public safety, I propose more rehabilitation centers be
implemented to act on turning those criminals around and bettering society by becoming
employed. Aside from rehabilitation centers there are fines and community service I believe
should be implemented more often for smaller crimes. This would lower the cost of housing for
more criminals as well as improve the lives of the families affected by non-violent criminals.
Imprisoning a non-violent offender puts a strain on their family by forcing them to find work and
fend for themselves. Also, putting more money into education can aid in lowering the crime rate.
Teaching inmates to learn basic trades can help them get jobs once released and in doing so will
help keep them out of trouble. Hiring rates for previously convicted people are extremely low and
sometimes force released inmates to go back into crime in order to make a living.

At least 2 arguments in support of your policy solution. Include facts, evidence, quotations, etc. from
your news articles, interest groups, class readings, and other research to support your arguments. Cite
sources.

There are other tools that can reduce crime more cost-effectively, including promoting
employment and wage growth and investing in education. That is one reason that between 2008
and 2012, a majority of states were able to reduce incarceration and crime. (Furman, 2016). This
quotation from the news article used in my Brief #4 explains how promoting employment
(educating inmates) would reduce recidivism and the wage gap for convicted felons. The wage
gap is currently 10-40% less than the average worker, according to the same article. It is because
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of this wage gap and inability of previous inmates to find work that so many inmates re-commit
after release.

Also, the huge costs that go along with upkeep of prisons (wages for workers and infrastructure)
and care for prisoners (healthcare, food, and housing) is a huge factor to take into consideration.
it is essential to note that, when considering the cost of imprisonment, account needs to be
taken not only of the actual funds spent on the upkeep of each prisoner, which is usually
significantly higher than what is spent on a person sentenced to non-custodial sanctions, but also
of the indirect costs, such as the social, economic and healthcare related costs, which are difficult
to measure, but which are immense and long-term. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,
2017).

At least 2 arguments made by interest groups, or other individuals that are in opposition to your
policy solution. Include facts, evidence, quotations, etc. from your news articles, interest groups, class
readings, and other research to support their opposition to your policy solution. Cite sources.

Some people believe that if non-violent offenders are sent off with less of a prison sentence that
future small time criminals would have no real consequence and crime rates would actually go up
in response to this change. Cook predicted the crime rate would rise and prosecutors would lose a
tool to extract information if laws were made more lenient. (Nelson, 2015). It is argued that
reduced or no prison time at all for small time crimes will encourage more crime. Rehabilitation or
some other form of punishment for a small crime is not enough to encourage people not to do it.

For my argument that prisoners should receive job training for after release, many people disagree.
They say that giving prisoners a free education is too much of a benefit to being in prison. They
argue that we should not be giving prisoners anything other than solitude. With free meals, free
exercise equipment, free religious services, free counseling, and free college education, prison
seems ideal. (Prison inmates shouldnt receive free college education, 2009).

Action plan - What can you do to influence your policy issue?

Give at least 2 interest groups with which you could work to pursue your proposed policy solution,
explain what each does to affect your policy area, and state what you could do with the group. At the
Town Hall Meeting, write down any additional interest groups active in this policy area that you discuss
with the policy expert and your fellow students.

Prison Policy Initiative (prisonpolicy.org): this interest group works towards finding new effective
alternatives to mass imprisonment. They also work towards exposing harms of mass incarceration.
This group has already done so much to help the lives of inmates. For example, when an inmates
family member wants to call them in prison, there is a cost for the call. One dollar per minute is
very expensive for some people and it puts a strain on contacting loved ones. This organization has
managed to lower that cost (amount lowered not stated on website). I could work with this group
in finding all the harmful effects of mass incarceration and working towards fixing those issues.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (famm.org): this interest group is in favor of fair and
appropriate sentences for individual crimes. Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences is their
main goal because each and every case is not the same and generalizing a group of them damages
families. Some projects they are working on include providing fair and individualized
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punishments (federal level) and working towards prison alternatives and individual sentences
(state level). I could work with this group by collaborating on ideas and finding issues with
mandatory minimum sentence laws and how they affect families, prisoners, and public safety.

Give 2 elected or other government officials that you could contact to urge them to support your policy
solution and explain why you would contact each of them in particular (provide full names, titles), and
state what you would say to each. At the Town Hall Meeting, write down any additional names of officials
active in this policy area that you discuss with the policy expert and your fellow students.

Senators John Cornyn and Sheldon Whitehouse are two elected people both working towards
prison reform and bringing down the prison population. They both proposed a bill in 2015
supporting the reduction of mandatory minimum sentences, as well as promoting programs that
help prisoners to not return to prison after release. I would contact both of these men for more
information on how to go about prison reform. They would both have many ideas on how exactly
to do so and which reforms and changes would work best for our society.

Note at least 2 other actions you could take to work to implement your policy solution. Be specific. At
the Town Hall Meeting, write down any additional actions that you discuss with the policy expert and
your fellow students.

I believe the best thing to do in promoting this issue and getting it more attention would be to
publicize it more. Not enough people are asking for change with mass incarceration. Most people
affected by mass incarceration are either in prison themselves or are the family to a prisoner and
may or may not have the ability to speak out on the issue. Making this issue more public would
gather more attention and would create a larger public interest which would then translate into
congress.

The second idea I have on action I could take would be to reach out to the prisoners themselves.
So much goes on in prison that we the public do not know about. Abuse, neglect, and more crime,
are a few things that could be taking place in prisons and the inmates involved and affected by it
are getting no help to avoid it. Reaching out to the prisoners is a great way to understand more
issues with the system that out them there. By understanding a broader sense of issues, we can
legislate more reform to help change that.

AT TOWN HALL MEETING


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Use the space below and the next page to write any new ideas about taking action on your policy issue (in
addition to any notes in sections above). For example, what else might you do to impact the future course
of public policy in your policy area? How do other policy issues interact with or impact your policy
issue? What are the obstacles to achieving your policy solution? What are other questions you need to
answer, research you need to do before your final action plan is complete?

Complete these Talking Points, bring them to the Town Hall Meeting. Use to take notes at Town Hall
and turn in at the end of the evening (Box with your TA name in BMU Auditorium Lobby)

Dont forget to complete the Town Hall Meeting Reflections Survey after the Town Hall Meeting on the
class Blackboard site.
References
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(2017). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from
https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/justice-and-prison-reform/prison-reform-and-alternatives-to-
imprisonment.html

Holtz-Eakin, J. F. (2016, April 21). Why Mass Incarceration Doesn't Pay. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/opinion/why-mass-incarceration-doesnt-pay.html?_r=0

McCabe, D. (2015, February 10). Senators unveil prison reform bill. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/232325-senators-unveil-prison-reform-bill

Nelson, S. (2015, July 17). Prosecutors Rally Against Sentencing Reform, Say Build More Prisons.
Retrieved April 04, 2017, from https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/07/17/prosecutors-rally-
against-sentencing-reform-say-build-more-prisons

Prison inmates shouldnt receive free college education. (2009, December 3). Retrieved April 04, 2017,
from http://www.mhsroundtable.com/archives/prison-inmates-receiving-free-college-education-invoke-
controversy/

Prison Policy Initiative. (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2017, from https://www.prisonpolicy.org

Projects. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2017, from http://famm.org/projects/