Archive for July, 2016



24
Jul
16

a blast from the past

Former President George W. Bush reportedly isn’t sure the Republican Party will ever get another shot at the presidency. At a reunion for former members of his administration back in April, Bush admitted to a small group of former aides and advisers that he’s seriously concerned that this election cycle might spell the end of the GOP, Politico reported Tuesday. “I’m worried that I will be the last Republican president,” Bush said. To a great extent, it’s his own doing.

This article is a little out-of-date, but very relevant today as the Republicans appear to be going the way of the Whigs.

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We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?

by Garrison Keillor, In These Times

August 26, 2004

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

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Garrison Keillor was the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion, which ran for 46 years on the air. He retired this year.

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23
Jul
16

punked

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Anger Management and the Code of the Street

by James Barrett and Elizabeth Janopaul Naylor, Youth Today

July 20, 2016

The room was stuffy and hot, the scent of stale snack foods hung in the air and the boys in the anger management group in this locked facility were distracted. As a young clinician and group facilitator, I was frustrated.

We had been reviewing the steps of the “anger cycle” for weeks and no one seemed to be retaining the information. With an exasperated sigh, I tried to remind them that this material was designed to prevent the situations that got them locked up, and thus stuck here with me.

Before I could start back on the first step of the cycle, a boy who I will call Jay dismissively rattled off all eight steps as well as the positive coping skills taught to avoid violence. I was stunned. Jay was a frequent flyer to this detention facility. Of the many groups I’d had with him, he was never an active participant.

I asked Jay why, if he knew the material so well, he had never used them to avoid incarceration. He replied, “This stuff would never work in the neighborhood where I’m from; you try this, you’re gonna get punked.”

Jay, like many of the other boys in that facility, got into trouble due to the “code of the street.” This code dictates that any sign of disrespect must be aggressively avenged with retaliation.

After several conversations with Jay about why the skills we were teaching were not helpful, I began to question the effectiveness of teaching these kids skills that are irrelevant to the situations they encounter in their neighborhoods. This frustration would mount as I started to notice retaliatory violence glorified and celebrated in popular culture.

For example, in hockey there are “enforcers” on each team, prepared to defend the honor of a smaller, more vulnerable teammate. Similarly, in baseball, if a batter “shows a pitcher up” by staring at a home run ball for too long before running the bases, that batter is likely to be intentionally hit by the pitcher the next inning.

Indeed, the ubiquity of these messages explicitly endorsing “justified” violence make it very difficult for a clinician to teach a maxim such as “be the bigger person and walk away from a fight.” This is clearly not the message that popular culture is giving to young people.

Sadly, today the “code of the street” is not taken into account when arresting, sentencing and treating these adolescents. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in 2013 there were 1.1 million juvenile delinquency cases. Approximately 186,000 of these cases were for charges of simple assault. Most of these youth come from lower-income minority families.

Jay, like many young men charged with simple assault, was referred for anger management treatment. The group I facilitated centered on learning anger management and conflict resolution skills.

The assumption that all violence stems from the same emotions and thoughts has led many clinicians to apply this one intervention across the board. While anger management curricula can be quite effective for adolescent struggling with mood swings, impulsivity or difficulty with affect regulation, they often do not take into account the social pressures of maintaining a reputation.

Time and again I watched the students in my groups fail to utilize the strategies they were taught as they cycled in and out of lock-up. When they were faced with ongoing and real threats to their reputation, fighting back was not just a question of managing anger. To these boys, “anger management” can be another example of how the rest of the world doesn’t understand their dilemma.

Needless to say, clinicians like myself who facilitate these groups often struggle with burnout, and both parties can feel like failures perpetually frustrated with the other.

As with any form of effective treatment, the messages clinicians deliver have to be relevant to the lived experience of our patients. These youth are in a terrible bind: Fight or be shamed. If we, as clinicians in the juvenile justice system, fail to recognize this predicament, our interventions will be ineffective and our patients will feel unheard.

It is frustrating to be told you have “anger issues” when in fact you are following the example of those around you, including athletes and celebrities. With the current national attention on violence prevention, it is a glaring omission that we do not systematically train clinicians about the culture of violence in which so many youth are forced to live.

The principle of using evidence-based practices has forced health care to empirically support its methodology. We need to take this one step further. Treatments and models of care must be contextually relevant.

In order to decrease crime and violence in this country, clinicians must acknowledge and understand the code of the street. The work we have done through the Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative on the Fight Navigator curriculum integrates the lived experiences of youth into a violence prevention program.

The curriculum was developed through focus groups with mostly urban youth of color. They described strategies that work to respond to a threat in a manner that avoids violence and allows them to maintain a reputation.

In the same way that we know that talking about abstinence alone is not an effective way to prevent teen pregnancy, assuming that young people from dangerous neighborhoods can always “just walk away” will not reduce violence.

Cure Violence is a program that has also demonstrated success in reducing violence, by focusing on interrupting the transmission of violence with a public health approach. If we can intensify our efforts to provide tactics for effective de-escalation in this demographic, we could potentially keep a number of young people from entering the juvenile justice system.

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Dr. James Barrett is the director of school-based programs at the Cambridge Health Alliance and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He also serves as the clinical coordinator of the Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative with the Cambridge Police and is the author of the Fight Navigator violence prevention curriculum.

Dr. Elizabeth Janopaul-Naylor is a third-year psychiatry resident at Cambridge Health Alliance, affiliated with Harvard Medical School. She completed her undergraduate studies and medical school training at Brown University.

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22
Jul
16

goodbye cleveland

Trump Quote.

I don’t like Ms. Pantsuit, either. No matter who she chooses as her Veep, she will still be too strident.

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Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, says Trump has a short attention span, is reactive, and not thoughtful.

“If Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes,” said Schwartz, “there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Trump has demanded a refund of Schwartz’s book royalties or face a lawsuit.

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Gary Johnson is said to be out-polling Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with military members.

Roger Ailes seems to have cashed out pretty well.

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What’s a guy to do?

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The lesser of two evils? I don’t think so.

I think I’ll throw my vote away on a third choice.

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PS: (November 15, 2016) I was watching John Oliver last night, and he showed the People magazine meme (above) and stated that Donald Trump never said it. I’m trying my best to move on from this election, so I didn’t do any more research into the meme… just felt responsible for reporting the Oliver comment.

21
Jul
16

punchuation

I went down to town today, did a dryer-full of laundry, and spent 20 minutes (while folding my clothes) reading a sign that nearly drove me nuts. If there had been an employee of the motor lodge present, I would have seriously considered punching them out.

sign

Maybe I’m over-reacting. But don’t we teach punctuation in our schools anymore? It seems our educational establishment is trying to create a bunch of young Trump supporters. Talk about working against their own self-interest!

How many times have you known people who are clueless about the different meanings of “their,” “there,” and they’re?”

Or seen the apostrophe misused in a way akin to a fingernail scratching a blackboard? The rules are pretty simple. To make a word plural, you add an “s” to it. To make a word possessive, you add an apostrophe, as in “my son’s book.” To make a plural noun ending in “s” possessive, you need only add the apostrophe, as in “my sons’ books.” You don’t use apostrophes to pluralize acronyms and abbreviations, such as CEOs and DVDs. And the plurals of numbers do not use apostrophes. It’s 1970s, not 1970’s.

People probably have more trouble with the semicolon than with any other punctuation mark. Yet high school students are taught a simple rule of thumb that’s often forgotten over time (if it’s ever absorbed in the first place): A semicolon should be used to separate two independent clauses (or complete sentences) that are closely related in meaning. Use colons, not semicolons, before a list of three or more items. And when items in a series themselves contain commas, separate them with semicolons. For example, you’d write: We visited Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

But what drives me nuts about the above sign is not just that there’s no period after “closed,” but the insertion of a totally meaningless comma… as well as the reality that keeping the door closed keeps as many flies in as out.

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20
Jul
16

smoke in the wind

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I got a phone call last night from my neighbor Aliana.

“Dan, are you burning something? There’s the smell of smoke in the air.”

“No I’m not, but I’ll go outside and see if I can see anything.” Luckily, I couldn’t see anything unusual, but I sure could smell it. The wind was really blowing.

Phone calls between neighbors established that the fire was across the border in Mexico, southeast of Big Bend National Park. A 911 operator said, “Yeah, we’ve been getting quite a few reports of the smell of smoke. But it’s nothing to be worried about. ‘Los Diablos’ have the situation well in hand.”

Los Diablos? ‘The Devils?’

It’s a 32-man crew of firefighters from small villages in Mexico along the Rio Grande River. US authorities acknowledge them as among the best in the world in fighting wildfires.

Over twenty years ago, they told rangers in Big Bend National Park that if US authorities allowed them to help fire fires in the Park, they would work “like the devil.” Since then they’ve been true to their word, many times over.

They’ve been since been sent to fight wildfires all over the West, in Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho. They farm themselves out to the National Park Service for $17-$19 an hour, a princely sum in Mexico. While US firefighting crews have suffered a number of deaths and casualties, Los Diablos have never suffered a single loss in the more than 20 years they’ve been working together.

“They’re amazing, they can mobilize in four hours from their village across the river. They can be here in four hours. That’s unheard of to ask anybody to be able to do. So that’s pretty professional right there,” Park Ranger Matt Graden said. “And when they show up they know exactly what to do. They don’t need someone to tell them what to do. And they’ve got great leadership. They’re awesome. They might be humble but they are highly professional, highly trained and really skilled and incredibly hardworking.”

That said, Los Diablos are worried about being singled out in interviews, concerned they may become targets in Mexico where extortion is a problem for anyone thought to be earning a decent living. Instead, Los Diablos prefer to let their actions speak for themselves.

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19
Jul
16

what is a youth prison?

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Locked Up: What Is A Youth Prison?

by Liz Ryan, The Huffington Post

July 11, 2016

For a young person who experiences life behind the walls of a youth prison, it can mean many things. We’re using the mnemonic, “locked up” to show some of these key characteristics of a youth prison. This article is the first in a series, “Locked Up: What is a Youth Prison?” One of those traits is that a youth prison is large.

L = Large

What do we mean by large?

Most youth who are confined to secure care in the juvenile justice system are in facilities of between 50 and 200 beds according to the Sentencing Project’s latest report on juvenile justice, Youth Commitments and Facilities. And, at least 34 of the nation’s largest facilities still in operation today can house more than 200 youth; 19 of which have a design capacity of more than 300, 400, or even 500 beds.

Over thirty would be considered large, according to youth justice experts.

Longtime youth justice expert Paul DeMuro says that, “It’s critical that the facility director know every kid by name.” If the facility director can’t do that, the facility is too large. DeMuro believes that thirty youth should be the maximum number.

Similarly, Annie E. Casey Foundation President Patrick McCarthy speaking before a packed ballroom of juvenile justice stakeholders at the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) convening in September, 2015, highlighted that if youth are in secure care, facilities should be no more than 30 beds.

The public agrees.

Recent public opinion polling conducted earlier this year shows that the public supports what experts believe. According to a poll conducted by GBA Strategies, 72% of Americans recommend that for youth who pose a serious risk to public safety and need secure care that facilities should be no more than 30 youth.

Polling in states such as Connecticut and Virginia also produced the same results.

And research supports this too.

The Missouri model in juvenile justice, which is lauded for its low recidivism rates for youth in custody, has 33 youth facilities with an average 27 youth per facility.

And new research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) about rates of sexual victimization of incarcerated youth in the juvenile justice system, show that youth facilities holding 25 or more youth report much higher rates of sexual misconduct by staff members. Considering that allegations of sexual victimization of youth in juvenile facilities have more than doubled in the last decade, this underscores the concern about safety of youth in large facilities.

We can draw from research in other related fields, such as education where there has been a lot of research about the impact of class size in K-12 education. The average class size in the US is now 15 as a result of research showing that smaller is better for kids.

What does large look like?

An example of large is a facility in Illinois, the Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee, referred to as just Kewanee. This youth prison was designed to house 354 youth. Built in 2001, it now houses as many as 260 youth. More than 40% of the youth at Kewanee are from Cook County, some 150 miles away. Kewanee was cited in a 2013 report by oversight group, the John Howard Association, for having an unusually high number of youth on crisis or suicide watch.

Fortunately, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that Kewanee will be closed.

Another example is the Lincoln Hills youth facility in Irma, Wisconsin. Lincoln Hills is one of the largest youth prisons in the country with capacity for more than 550 youth, and has been the subject of federal and state investigations in the last 18 months over alleged abuse, including sexual victimization, of youth. Press reports of these investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and Wisconsin state agencies reference sexual abuse of youth, use of pepper spray, strangulation and suffocation of youth, intimidation of youth to discourage reporting, and tampering with state and county laws concerning youth institutions.

What does this mean?

In juvenile justice, size matters. Larger isn’t better. In fact, it’s worse. A youth detention or correctional facility over 25-30 beds is considered large, one of the key traits of a youth prison.

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Liz Ryan is President & CEO of the Youth First! Initiative.

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18
Jul
16

ruining lives

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Ruining Lives With Criminal ‘Justice’

by Doug Deason, The New York Times

July 30, 2015

When President Obama visited El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma on July 16, he lamented that America’s prisons were filled with “young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made.” Many are there, he said, because they didn’t have the resources “to survive those mistakes.”

I am a Republican businessman, and President Obama and I do not see eye to eye on most issues. But I agree with him on the inequities of the criminal justice system. I learned about it firsthand. Like many 17-year-olds, I did something stupid. It was 1979, and I threw a party at the home of neighbors while they were out of town. (Their son had given me a key.) The party got out of hand, ultimately getting the attention of the police. I was charged with felony burglary.

My actions were wrong and irresponsible. They could also have ruined my life, affecting my ability to go to college or even get a job.

But unlike many in my situation, I was able to fight the charge. I ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge—a significant step down from felony burglary. My punishment included a six-month probationary sentence and a fine. When my probation was complete, my youthful indiscretion was expunged from my record. I was given a second chance.

Yet others aren’t always so lucky. Too many Americans who make similar mistakes wind up imprisoned, impoverished and incapable of rejoining society or leading a fulfilling life. This is especially true for minorities, who so often lack the resources and the opportunities I had. For too many, the criminal justice system can lead to even greater injustice.

Because of this, my family has resolved to fight for change. Given a second chance, I have been blessed to become a successful investor in numerous ventures, including real estate, technology, entertainment and energy. My success has given me the opportunity to work with the Texas State Legislature and the governor’s office over the past year to pass a bipartisan “second chances” bill—a bill to help people who make mistakes like the one I made in 1979.

The legislation allows some first-time criminals who commit low-level, nonviolent offenses to petition the courts for nondisclosure of their records to the general public. This offers them a legal pathway to mark “no” on job and loan applications that ask if they have ever committed a crime. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill on June 20; it will go into effect on September 1.

Thankfully, others have been fighting the reform battles for much longer than I have. One example is the decades-long grass-roots movement to “ban the box”—a reference to the criminal-record check box at the bottom of many employment applications. Regardless of whether you believe the government should make this question illegal, it certainly makes less and less sense in a nation where as many as 100 million people have some criminal record. For this reason, companies like Walmart, Home Depot, and Koch Industries have eliminated it from their applications in recent years.

At my family’s company, we have made it a policy to hire qualified nonviolent criminals in the businesses we manage. It doesn’t matter to us if you made a mistake earlier in life—it matters to us whether you can do your job and do it well. In fact, from a business perspective, we believe it would harm our ability to find talented individuals if we rejected those who made a mistake that put them on a collision course with the criminal justice system. And given my own history, wouldn’t it be hypocritical for me to judge prospective employees based on their criminal record?

Whether in city halls, state capitals or Washington, lawmakers should begin the long process of identifying and reforming the laws that have made America such an over-criminalized country.

They can start by revisiting “mandatory minimum” sentences for nonviolent lawbreakers. These policies often force criminals into unnecessarily lengthy prison terms that are wholly inappropriate for their crimes. This has greatly contributed to the explosion in the federal prison population, which has risen to 208,000 from 25,000 over the past 35 years.

Yet, at the same time, it’s not clear that imprisoning so many people has lessened crime. One expert interviewed by Pew Charitable Trusts argued that this spike in the prison population has accounted only for between 10 and 25% of the drop in crime over the past 20 years.

Politicians should also trim the ever-lengthening list of federal and state crimes. Over the past 25 years, the number of federal crimes alone has grown to roughly 5,000. Moreover, a growing number of nonviolent crimes lack adequate intent requirements. Absent this important and longstanding aspect of criminal law, Americans of all walks of life can commit crimes they never knew existed.

This weekend, I will join Charles Koch, David Koch, and several hundred other business leaders at the Freedom Partners membership meeting, where I will speak about criminal justice reform. The Kochs and I firmly believe this is an important part of our efforts to give everyone—especially the least fortunate—the best shot at a better life. Years ago, I made a mistake and got a second chance. Every American should be able to say the same thing.

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Doug Deason is president of Deason Capital Services and the Deason Foundation.

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