Posts Tagged ‘Street’
Unions say NY Gov. Cuomo wrong on juvenile prisons – Wall Street Journal
Last Updated on Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:51 Written by admin Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:51
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has cast the state’s juvenile detention system in harsh, almost Dickensian light as a violation of civil rights existing only to satisfy public employee unions.
It was his most fervent passage in last week’s State of the State address, and his New York City minority-liberal base went wild. Cuomo said the 25 youth prisons where nearly 600 juveniles are incarcerated are ineffective, expensive and kept mainly to preserve jobs. It costs more than $ 200,000 a year for each juvenile, most far from their downstate homes. Nine out of 10 will later end up back in juvenile custody or prison, he said.
“The reason we continue to keep these children in these programs that aren’t serving them but are bilking the taxpayers is that we don’t want to lose the state jobs that we would lose if we closed the facilities,” Cuomo said.
“Don’t put other people in prison to give some people jobs!” he shouted to the crowd that soon stood applauding.
Under Commissioner Gladys Carrion’s existing policy to place more youths in community programs, 11 detention centers and five groups homes have closed since 2007, cutting 411 staff positions, according to Office of Children and Family Services. Two more will shut in two weeks, with another 251 positions cut in the current fiscal year, OCFS spokeswoman Susan Steele said.
JoAnne Page, president of the nonprofit Fortune Society that provides services to ex-prison inmates, said Cuomo’s right in that the institutions “do human damage in a very large way at very large costs.” Incarcerating a troubled kid with others even more troubled or dangerous increases their chances of “a lifetime trajectory” in the criminal justice system.
Casimiro Torres, 43, now a drug abuse clinician, said he was sent to the upstate Tryon detention center as a teenager for “burglary and stuff like that” and later prison. He said juvenile detention characterized by brutality.
“There was fighting all the time,” he said. “If you weren’t violent, you were just victimized more.”
Marsha Weissman, executive director of the Center for Community Alternatives, says their 25-year-old community diversion program typically lasts six months to a year for 400 juvenile offenders in New York City and 100 in Syracuse each year. At a cost of about $ 10,000 a year for each offender, the program sees about 75 percent completing the program and a re-arrest rate of about 15 percent. Mental health services are separate.
Unions representing staff counter that incarcerated juveniles, many who already failed in community programs, many with psychological issues and criminal histories and some very violent, get nutrition, medical care, psychological attention and education in the state-run detention centers.
“The way the governor was characterizing it was a gross distortion of reality. We’d like to have a long conversation with him about it,” said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the 300,000-member Civil Service Employees Association union. “The question is whether they’re being placed in appropriate settings. Renee Greco is dead because they were placed in an inappropriate setting.”
Greco, 24, was supervising troubled teens at a group home in Lockport north of Buffalo when she was bludgeoned to death by two of them in June 2009. Both are now in prison.
“These are not kids that are easily helped,” said Sherry Halbrook, spokeswoman for the Public Employees Federation, which represents teachers, counselors, doctors, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists. “He really doesn’t understand what we’re talking about here is a continuum of care for young people.”
“These children present a lot of challenges and in some case they’re dangerous,” she said. “They’re dangerous to themselves and in some cases dangerous to others.”
On Wednesday, Cuomo also called for repealing the Legislature’s requirement to provide a year’s notice before closing facilities. Lawmakers with detention centers or prisons providing jobs in their districts have defended them.
“Any solution must balance the need to reduce state spending with the need to create good jobs,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Republicans who this year resumed majority control of that chamber.
The detention centers last week held 592 juveniles and had 376 vacant beds, and about 1,900 employees, according to OCFS. A shift in state policy and by probation and New York City officials means judges have been sending fewer young people to detention and more to community programs.
From 2001 to 2010, the state cut its residential capacity for juveniles from 2338 to 1403 beds while use dropped from 99 percent to 66 percent, according to OCFS. The agency estimates $ 60 million savings from closing sites the past few years.
Four centers were put under federal oversight last year with strict limits on restraining young people after Justice Department investigators found staff caused serious injuries like broken bones while routinely using force to restrain juveniles.
Meanwhile a state commission found top officials and staff at a Hudson Valley center were irresponsible when they authorized then failed to supervise a party for good behavior for four offenders — three murderers and a robber ranging in age from 17 to 20. Some of the offenders had sex with dates at the party. Unions and some legislators faulted Carrion’s policies for that incident.
According to a 13-page analysis from the Cuomo campaign, juveniles should be sent to detention as a public safety issue, solely based on their likelihood to commit new crimes. Too often, custody has been a last resort for judges who did not believe there was a reliable relative or a likelihood youths would get better treatment for drug or psychiatric issues on the outside.
Cuomo’s analysis called for a data-driven analysis of the costs and benefits while critics said it should examine outcomes if the state moves away from detention.
—Copyright 2011 Associated Press
Iraq Coalition Pact Hits Snags – Wall Street Journal
Last Updated on Friday, 12 November 2010 12:26 Written by admin Friday, 12 November 2010 12:26
By BEN LANDO, SAM DAGHER and MARGARET COKER
BAGHDAD—Iraqi lawmakers took the first steps of implementing a new agreement to establish a coalition government after an eight-month stalemate, but a chaotic dispute in parliament late Thursday underscored the fragility of the deal and the pitfalls ahead.
From left, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi in parliament Thursday.
The agreement would see Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, keep his job and establish his chief rival, Ayad Allawi, who leads a secular bloc that represents Iraq’s Sunnis, in a new post intended as a counterweight to Mr. Maliki. The deal keeps the presidency in the hands of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani.
If the deal holds, Washington will have succeeded in one of its main aims: empowering Iraq’s Sunni minority with a significant stake in the government. U.S. officials hope that will take the wind out of Sunni-backed insurgent groups.
At the same time, Washington has had to accept a likely prominent role for some of its biggest Iranian-backed foes in the new government, including the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Mr. Sadr’s political followers did well in March polls and, last month, joined forces with Mr. Maliki.
Mr. Allawi decided to accept the agreement after a phone call Thursday morning from President Barack Obama, according to two officials familiar with the situation. U.S. officials said Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been in touch with Iraqi leaders over the past two weeks, offering to help tackle obstacles to a deal.
But a major obstacle to implementing the deal is the lingering acrimony and distrust among those slated to share power— and whose political movements are in many cases supported by militias or insurgent groups.
Late Thursday, after lawmakers had elected a speaker of parliament representing Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, a vote for president was thwarted by shouting from Iraqiya members calling for lawmakers to vote on some of the bloc’s main preconditions for joining a coalition government.
The session quickly descended into an argument over what leaders had agreed to at a meeting just hours before.
Amid the chaos that followed, bodyguards fanned out in the chamber as Mr. Allawi and most members of Iraqiya stormed out.
“We agreed to vote on these issues before the president, in order to guarantee that this deal would be done,” said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a prominent leader in Mr. Allawi’s bloc. “Now we need to get international guarantees, because we are not going to trust them,” he said of his bloc’s prospective coalition partners.
Later, Mr. Allawi said Iraqiya wasn’t giving up. “Of course this is not the end, this is the beginning,” he said as he left parliament.
After the walkout, the remaining Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers re-elected President Talabani, who in turn gave Mr. Maliki a month to form a new government. That process includes handing out ministry posts—a process that could see Iraqiya and others threaten to quit if they don’t get what they expect.
The power-sharing deal, hammered out late Wednesday between Mr. Maliki’s State of Law alliance, Iraqiya and the powerful Kurdish Alliance, ended a political stalemate that began in March with parliamentary elections in which no one bloc won enough seats to claim a majority.
Iraqiya was promised the post of parliamentary speaker, which it secured Thursday, and the new post of chairman of a new advisory council. However, the new council, known as the National Council on Higher Policy, has yet to be written into law, and its functions and powers remain unknown. That ambiguity left some in the bloc concerned the new council head would occupy a purely ceremonial position.
Iraqiya officials said they would pull out of the deal after one month if lawmakers haven’t finalized the responsibilities of the advisory council and the power of its chairman—or made progress on a number of other demands.
These demands include the release of Sunnis arrested on vague accusations of terrorism and for supporting former leader Saddam Hussein, and reining in a controversial Shiite-led commission tasked with purging members of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party from the government. Many Baath sympathizers backed Mr. Allawi’s bloc.
Iraqiya was the narrow winner of the March elections but has faced the possibility of being squeezed out of prominent government jobs as Mr. Maliki gained support from different blocs.
Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, pictured on April 6, 2010, decided to accept a role in the power-sharing agreement.
The power-sharing deal also empowers Iraq’s Kurdish minority, which served as kingmaker in the tumultuous government-formation talks.
By backing Mr. Maliki, the Kurds are likely to expect big concessions in disputes with the federal government involving contested territory in northern Iraq and oil and natural-gas rights—often in conflict with Iraqiya supporters.
“Each one of us got some of his rights and what he deserves,” said Masoud Barzani, president of the northern Kurdish region and a mediator between Messrs. Maliki and Allawi.
Some Iraqi analysts don’t see a full government emerging until after the new year.
—Chip Cummins contributed to this article.
Write to Margaret Coker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Iraq Elects Sunni-Arab Al Nujaifi Parliament Speaker – Wall Street Journal
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November 2010 12:26 Written by admin Thursday, 11 November 2010 12:26
(Updates with quotes, details of voting, background.)
Iraq’s parliament Thursday elected a Sunni-Arab lawmaker to head the Iraqi parliament for the next four-year term, the first step in forming a government and ending more than eight months of power vacuum during which violence has escalated.
Osama al Nujaifi, who belongs to the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc headed by former interim Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, was elected speaker. He was the sole candidate.
Nujaifi won 227 votes out of 295 …
US, China Stay Firm On Positions As Obama, Hu Meet – Wall Street Journal
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November 2010 11:26 Written by admin Thursday, 11 November 2010 11:26
SEOUL (Dow Jones)–A key bilateral meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao appeared unlikely to ratchet back tensions between the two countries over global imbalances and foreign exchange policy.
The highly anticipated face-to-face discussion between the two global leaders comes at a time of increasing discord over a range of issues between the two countries. But officials from both the U.S. and China suggested the meeting did not break new ground, with both sides reiterating their concerns about the other’s policies.
A U.S. Treasury official told pool reporters that Obama used the bulk of the meeting …