This website is the home site of my criminal reformation apostolate; here you can find details about the Lampstand Foundation which I founded as a 501c (3) nonprofit corporation in Sacramento, California in 2003.
I have written ten books and each one of my books is a response to a likely objection to Catholicism that will be encountered when doing ministry to professional criminals; and for links to all of the Lampstand books which are available at Amazon, go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=david+h+lukenbill
I also maintain a daily blog, The Catholic Eye, https://catholiceye.wordpress.com/
Lampstand also keeps track of rehabilitative programs that fail, and the one or two that appear to work, with the findings available at https://catholiceye.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/evaluation-of-reentry-programs-3/
The work connected to the apostolate is listed under the home page categories (to your left) which I will be expanding as needed.
A central element of the narrative of “mass Incarceration” used primarily by secular liberals to justify reducing America’s prison population is described by Barber & Maruna (2103, Spring):
“The United States now incarcerates a larger percentage of its citizens than any other country, with about one in 100 adults currently behind bars. About a quarter of the world’s prisoners are confined in U.S. prisons and jails.”Barber C., Maruna, S. (2013, Spring). The End of Second Acts?. The Wilson Quarterly. Retrieved June 30, 2013 from http://www.wilsonquarterly.com/essays/end-second-acts
This sentiment is repeated, virtually unchanged throughout an entire genre of criminal justice/sociological/political/religious and medical literature, with a particular emphasis on the fact that America’s prison population is even greater than that of China and Russia.
Mass incarceration is to criminal justice as climate change is to environmentalism.
One author notes the contrast with China, Gottschalk (2006):
“After working for more than six years on this book about mass imprisonment in the United States, I remain similarly shocked and unsettled. The United States today has an incarcerated population that dwarfs that of China, a country that is several times larger and has at best only democratic aspirations and pretensions. The shock is all the more greater in the U.S. case not only because of the enormity of the American carceral state, but also about its invisibility—the invisibility of the numerous prisons that dot rural America and the desolate outskirts of urban areas; the more than two million men and women locked up on any given day; the hundreds of thousands released from prison each year with stunted employment, economic, educational, and social prospects; and the millions of families and children unhinged by the carceral state. (p. xi)” Gottschalk, M. (2006). The prison and the gallows: The politics of mass incarceration in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
What continually shocks me about this narrative—and many other criminal justice issues—is the narrowness of normative criminal justice analysis and, in the case of Russia and China, what isn’t being told, nor counted, are the populations of the various re-education and forced labor camps so beloved of those two countries, most poignantly noted by Jacobs (2013, June 11):
“MASANJIA, China — The cry for help, a neatly folded letter stuffed inside a package of Halloween decorations sold at Kmart, traveled 5,000 miles from China into the hands of a mother of two in Oregon.
“Scrawling in wobbly English on a sheet of onionskin paper, the writer said he was imprisoned at a labor camp in this northeastern Chinese town, where he said inmates toiled seven days a week, their 15-hour days haunted by sadistic guards.
“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization,” said the note, which was tucked between two ersatz tombstones and fell out when the woman, Julie Keith, opened the box in her living room last October. “Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”
“The letter drew international news media coverage and widespread attention to China’s opaque system of “re-education through labor,” a collection of penal colonies where petty criminals, religious offenders and critics of the government can be given up to four-year sentences by the police without trial.
“But the letter writer remained a mystery, the subject of speculation over whether he or she was a real inmate or a creative activist simply trying to draw attention to the issue.
“Last month, though, during an interview to discuss China’s labor camps, a 47-year-old former inmate at the Masanjia camp said he was the letter’s author. The man, a Beijing resident and adherent of Falun Gong, the outlawed spiritual practice, said it was one of 20 such letters he secretly wrote over the course of two years. He then stashed them inside products whose English-language packaging, he said, made it likely they were destined for the West.” Jacobs, A. (2013, June 11). Behind Cry for Help from China Labor Camp. The New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/world/asia/man-details-risks-in-exposing-chinas-forced-labor.html
Wikipedia’s entry about the Masanjia camp says:
“Masanjia Labor Camp…is a re-education through labor camp located in the Yuhong district near Shenyang, in the Liaoning province of China. The facility is sometimes called the Ideology Education School of Liaoning Province. It was first established in 1956 under China’s re-education through labor, or laojiao policy, and was expanded in 1999 in order to detain and “re-educate” followers of the Falun Gong spiritual practice. According to former detainees, Falun Gong practitioners represent 50–80% of inmates in the camp. Other prisoners include petty criminals, prostitutes, drug addicts, petitioners, and members of other unapproved religious minorities, such as underground Christians.
“Followers of the Falun Gong spiritual practice have long sought to publicize human rights abuses committed in the labor camp, which they describe as being among the most notorious in China. In addition to performing forced labor, prisoners are allegedly tortured using electric batons, force-feeding, prolonged solitary confinement, and other forms of abuse. These allegations received international attention in 2013 when a magazine expose on Masanjia was published—and then quickly censored—in China.” Retrieved June 30, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masanjia_Labor_Camp
The term “mass incarceration” is reminiscent of the Marxist theoretician’s use of “class” in their analysis of social structure, and helps drive a picture that the only “class” inside prisons are the poor, especially the minority poor; an argument sadly and ironically more representative of Communist countries than America.
The reasons American prisons are full is twofold: on the one hand liberal legislators have stopped new prison construction, especially in California and New York, and on the other hand, the full prisons are a result of effective broken windows policing and three strikes sentencing; which have resulted in a decades long crime rate reduction; which is now in danger due to the effectiveness of the “mass incarceration” narrative.
I know better than most that prison is not a fun place to be, having spent 12 years of my 20 years as a professional criminal—my crimes were theft and robbery—within several maximum security federal and state prisons, as well as many local jails; but it is the only effective way we have, as a society, to isolate the criminal, the often dangerous aggressor, from the often innocent victims of crime.
This form of incapacitation, imprisonment, is extremely effective in this regard, though also expecting it to function as an effective rehabilitative venue has proven, so far, to be a failure.
Other than the cohort of younger criminals scared straight from exposure to prison or jail, which some studies have found is significant, but barely reported, noted by Humes (1996):
“In 1990, researchers began watching first-offenders arrested in LA County in the first six months of that year—11,493 kids in all. Five men and women sat in a special secure room at probation headquarters and read file after confidential file, tracking every one of those kids—for three years. They did not intercede in any case, but merely watched, omnipotent and removed, part of a grand experiment that let each case spin out as it always had.
“By the end of 1993, the results of their painstaking work had become so appalling to the Probation Department and the Juvenile Court—and so profoundly threatening to the future of both bureaucracies—that officials have made no public announcement of the findings. But they boil down to this.
“A little over half—57 percent—of kids who are arrested for the first time are never heard from again. They go straight, socked by the system, mostly ordinary kids who make one mistake, and know it.
“Of the rest, just over a quarter—27 percent, to be precise—get arrested one or two more times, then they, too, end their criminal careers. But the last 16 percent—that’s sixteen kids out of every one hundred arrested—commit a total of four or more crimes, ranging from theft to murder. They become chronic offenders.” Humes, E. (1996). No matter how loud I shout: A year in the life of juvenile court. New York: Simon & Schuster. (pp. 29-30)
I was a chronic offender and I know that each arrest and commitment to jail or juvenile hall, was, for me, just another step in the building of my criminal career, a path I had chosen by the time I was barely a teenager; a path of glamour and freedom that consumed my life for decades; and rather than being scared by the many jail or prison experiences, I was heartened by them as they put me in close contact with my real peers, other professional criminals.
This is where I also became acculturated to the criminal/carceral world, learning its mores, adapting its artifacts, living its ways, a way of life I only finally became completely free of after becoming Catholic and being baptized, when the final remnants of the predatory and self-centered criminality that had informed my life for so many years gushed out of me in the deep tears shed during baptism when my sins were forgiven me.
Yes, we need prisons, for they are the only civilized way to isolate the aggressor from the innocent; and they must be civilized, which the majority of prisons in the United States are.
Recently, an article from Reuters noted that even conservatives are turning away from the use of “mass incarceration”, but it is so filled with the liberal narrative around “mass incarceration” that it is difficult to see much about it that is conservative, as conservatives generally understand that prisons—which, granted, can always be improved—are still needed.
“New Jersey is one of America’s most affluent states. Yet many of its largest cities are scarred by both high crime and an incarceration boom that has made a stint in prison a disturbingly common rite of passage, particularly for young black men. Though many believe that mass incarceration is a cure for violence, as it incapacitates potential victimizers, problems arise when incarceration becomes so commonplace that it is destigmatized, and that it ruins the lifelong earning potential of young men caught up in its net, few of whom go into prison as irredeemable villains. As Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at UCLA and a leading advocate of criminal justice reform, argues in When Brute Force Fails, the chief challenge facing many people who wind up in prison is a lack of impulse control. And this problem can be more effectively addressed through low-cost interventions — like programs for parolees that offer modest punishments for failing drug tests, like a weekend in the clink — than through high-cost interventions, like a years-long prison sentence. What we’re dealing with is an enormous waste of human potential that harms not just the young men who wind up in prison, but also the families, and the children, they leave behind.” Retrieved January 26, 2014 from http://blogs.reuters.com/reihan-salam/2014/01/24/chris-christie-and-the-failed-war-on-drugs/
The problem with these arguments to decrease the use of prisons: that criminals are largely created by “a lack of impulse control” which can be resolved through things like “programs for parolees that offer modest punishments for failing drug tests” is that the use of rehabilitation programs is largely a record of failure, and in some cases, actually makes the problem worse, something we keep track of on our blog’s rehabilitation page at http://catholiceye.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/evaluation-of-reentry-programs-3/
Based on my experience and validated by my research, criminal justice policy and practice sways between the liberal rehabilitative program approach and the conservative policing, sentencing, and incarceration approach, and right now we do appear to be swinging back to the liberal, but it is my hope that we can, as a society, develop and keep only those programs that are rigorously evaluated and proven successful, while retaining policing, sentencing and incarcerative strategies that have already proven their success reducing crime.
The most important thing we have to do, in my opinion, is to remember what most of us already feel to be true; that becoming a professional criminal is largely a result of an individual decision, and becoming truly reformed will also come about as the result of an individual decision; and in the making of this individual decision, those reformed criminals who work with other criminals to help them get on the path they have already traveled, are a valuable asset, perhaps the very best asset, that is still too rarely utilized.