Tag Archives: criminal justice system

What’s new in criminal Justice???

Well not much new, but a lot of wrong things still going on. For example, here we are in 2014 and we still have a huge disparity in sentencings in drug cases and in cases where children are harmed. There are much tougher rules for both in Federal courts. Sad but true.

Federal courts still have mandatory minimums on what can be simple drug cases, and much harsher penalties on anything having to do with children. So, it’s a true mixed bag.

What I do know is that one can “program” easier in State prison and be released much earlier than in Federal Prison. This again hardly seems fair.

And of course both have almost no help for people who need real re-entry assistance. We must start here so that people stop going back for silly reasons. Our prisons are full of people who could have served creative alternative sentences that would help both the offender and society. Remember, almost everybody incarcerated today is coming home and most in less than 5 years. A sobering thought at best.

It is 2014 and the time to change is NOW. It is not that complicated a system that we cannot change it. But, we need to understand it first. Prison is BIG money and the fewer people in prison the less money made by the Prison industrial complex. This too must change and will.

There are plenty of people who do belong in prison, but let’s work on those who can change and be rehabilitated first, This will actually make room for the people who belong there.

 


Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, crisis manager and family legal coach. She is the leading expert on Alternative Sentencing. She is also director of the Alternative Sentencing Program at Cliffside Malibu. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared in the media on The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, E! News, People.com,US Magazine, Perez Hilton, Fox News, NBC News, BBC, CNN, NPR Slate, Wall Street Journal, Discovery Network ID and others.  She may be reached at wendy@wendyfeldman.com

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Filed under alternatvive sentencing, Criminal Justice, prepare for jail, prison coaching, prison consultant, prison re entry, probation

PASSION- THE KEY TO EMPOWERMENT AND CHANGE…

 

In this era of rising incarceration rates and the “business of prisons” it is important to understand who can change, who cannot and what works. First of all we must understand that our criminal justice, even with all of it’s flaws, is the best in the world. The United States does have a system of innocent until PROVEN guilty. But, in order to affect a system that really works we must decide if we are to be strictly punitive or also rehabilitative. This is where a real understanding of True Crime is needed. As a prison consultant, legal coach and insider I have seen it all. That means I also know what works and HOW to bring about change.

The first step…

 

As in rehab for addicts, re-entry is the hardest and most misunderstood part of our criminal justice system. To change anything means to admit that one must indeed need to make changes. Seems like an easy concept yet it is the one thing that keeps people from living their dreams and making the changes.

This is where the need to understand true crime is key. It is why judges need to understand that jail is not the answer and neither is an AA meeting. A better solution in some cases is a combination or Alternative Sentence. That can mean many things but should always include Community Service.

The second step…

To truly bring about change in an individual they need to ADMIT they need to change something about their life. This is where the hard work begins. This admission and taking of responsibility is key to everyone making positive changes, but especially those in our criminal justice system. This is where passion and empowerment become integral. You see that most people after an incarceration have very low self-esteem and many feel they will never recover. But one can find their passion and hence rebuild their self-esteem. It takes work and some risks but it can be done. This is something I have done and work with my clients on everyday.

 

The last step…

Once we understand and agree that we need to empower each other and ourselves, we then need to find a way to do that. One way in the criminal justice system is through Community Service. As I have written many times before, Community Service should be a part of everybody’s life. But in crime cases is a MUST. This because it will empower the perpetrator and allow a healing to begin that will carryover to all aspects of his life and the life of his family and friends.

The bottom line is find your passion and you will find your peace.

 

Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, insider and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, NPR and Nancy Grace. She is a weekly featured guest in the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at wendy@custodialcoaching.com. 

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Why is the Colorado Killer’s Family standing by him???

I have said it before

James Holmes Mug Shot

James Holmes Mug Shot

and I will say it again- FAMILIES ARE THE FORGOTTEN CONSEQUENCES OF CRIME. This is true for families of people at all levels in our criminal justice system. From a small misdemeanor to the horror of the killings in Colorado, families pay the price long after a prison term is served.

I work with families all over the United States. In many of these cases I have never worked for their family member who is incarcerated. I am hired to help families establish boundaries with their loved one while he is inside, help find resources for them and provide the must needed answers of how to move on with their own lives. I also serve as living proof that this can be done, and of course provide my insider’s point of view.

These families live with guilt, shame and many fear retaliation should they decide to in some ways support their family member. Truly guilt by association. Families are the only segment of our criminal justice system that have no representation and are not presumed innocent.

Should we blame the families, especially when they become part of the crimes like Cindy Anthony and George Zimmerman’s wife? Do we blame the family of Amanda Knox and John Hinkley who stuck by their children?

With crimes come consequences. One of the consequences that we read and see little about are the families. Families on both sides- victim and victimizer. Those consequences include the children of incarcerated parents and the cycle that often repeats should the child not have a good support system. This is why many prisons have good protocol in place for family visits and contact. Remember, most people inside a prison today will be released and the majority in less that 5 years. That brings up the problem of re-entry with families.

Many of those incarcerated assume that upon release all will be forgiven and they will automatically be back and bonded with their children. This is rarely the case. Re-Entry takes work and effort and must be very carefully handled. Yet another family consequence of crime.

The past weekend’s mass murders in Colorado saw the media immediately going after the family of the killer Holmes. But, in reality what would one expect these parents to do or say? Especially when they too were just hearing this news and are now victims. Is it possible they knew their son was “off?” Of course, but then what? Should we blame them, or have compassion for them? Families of infamous murder cases are a particular group in that they must also deal with media attention and in many cases fear for their own lives.

If anything good can come out of tragedy it is an open discussion. My hope is that the Colorado case does just that and helps to shine a light on families and crime and what our society can do to learn more about this taboo subject. I for one will continue to write about it and of course work with these families as part of my everyday practice. Think about them before you judge. What would YOU do? And how would you hope to be treated?

Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, insider and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, NPR and Nancy Grace. She is a weekly featured guest in the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at wendy@custodialcoaching.com. 

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Filed under Casey Anthony, Colorado killings, Criminal Justice, forgiveness, George Zimmerman, perjury

What Whitney Houston and Casey Anthony Have in Common?

The lives of Whitney Houston and Casey Anthony have one thing in common only- opportunities to shine the light of awareness.

The recent death of Whitney Houston has brought out the very best and of course the very worst in media and humanity. Let’s get the worst out of the way first. Whitney Houston, even with all of her issues and demons, was not a woman of ill character. So, those in media who are USING Ms. Houston’s name solely to get press are way off the mark. She certainly should not even be thought of in the same sentence as the likes of a Casey Anthony. It is clear that many media mavens miss the ratings bonanza that Casey Anthony brought them.

But, we can use both stories as teachable moments and to shine the light on serious issues. As you all know, I am primarily known as a true crime insider and commentator on all things criminal justice, prison and most importantly re-entry into society. My goal with the Casey Anthony case is to highlight how our court system works and what needs to change. Further, I think the Casey Anthony case must be used to shine the light on America’s dirty little secret, child abuse and neglect. The fact is that FIVE children die every day in this country from abuse or neglect. So, while I empathize with Caylee Anthony I try to keep the conversation going by talking about all of the other abused children we must take care of.

This brings me to the story of the day and Whitney Houston. The only similarity between Casey Anthony and Whitney Houston is the gigantic platform these cases have presented us with. The responsibility of how to handle that platform is a large one. Whitney Houston should not be used as a case where we point fingers and make assumptions. Facts are facts. Addiction kills and there is hardly a family in America that is not affected by substance abuse. Here is where we must be careful. As many of you know, I write about my own experiences in Federal Prison and probation. I have written about everything from daily prison life to how the FBI conducts investigations to alternative sentences and yes, even how to “pee in a cup” for probation and what that is like. I write from my heart in the hope that my experiences will help others. I will do the same with this post.

Many headline grabbers have very big catch phrases and are good at stirring up junk science. From Nancy Grace to Dr. Drew, none have gotten the addiction piece right. As a former drug abuser I do not believe that once an addict always an addict like Dr. Drew says, nor do I believe that AA works for everybody and that a “sober” person can never take a medication or have a drink. Every case and medical history is unique. Otherwise, we would not have so many people who fight this demon and die from this issue everyday. The same goes with how to solve our mass incarceration problem and what many of us call our Incarceration Nation. Is it a coincidence that our jails and prisons are full of addicts? In fact, over 75% of people incarcerated have some form of mental health issue or substance abuse condition.

Let’s keep it real. Addiction turns victims into victimizers. It is a thief in the night that takes away common sense, dignity and often leads to crime and then punishment. I do believe that some addicts benefit from time in prison if only to sober up for a prolonged period. I also believe that many of the in prison programs for addicts work. I participated in a Federal prison program called the RDAP program that not only teaches about addiction but criminal thinking and self-realization. After all, addicts exhibit criminal thinking errors. Addicts lie, sometimes cheat and always suffer from low self-esteem and shame. ALWAYS.

Addiction turns moms into children and children into care takers. It is a vicious cycle just like that of domestic abuse and crime. Addiction, like prison, does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity condition. Yes, some may use more expensive drugs or alcohol, but the result is the same. But, just as one can overcome prison and re-enter society with success, so can an addict. I know. I have been there and done it. Desperation is desperation. And just as prison affects the entire family, addiction affects does as well.

Yes, my thoughts here are deeply personal just like when I write about prison and our court system. I know that we can change things. I know that name-calling and finger pointing is useless and harmful. It may be uncomfortable, but we must empower each other not tear people down. So, to the media whores who are desperate to keep themselves in the news by calling Whitney Houston a “crack whore” or a junkie, watch out. This type of non-journalism will not last. We must demand more from our media personalities. We do not all have to agree but we all, including me, must offer solutions and in times of need- respect.

If you are suffering from addiction or know somebody who is, reach out. Always remember that you are worthy. I always say that change is possible- once you admit you need to make that change. For a list of resources please note my previous post. And never give up on yourself or anybody you love. Please let’s use the death of Whitney Houston to look at what we can all do to prevent other such tragedies. Yes, there is a link between substance abuse and crime and the time is now to find solutions.

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Filed under addiction, Casey Anthony, child abuse, prepare for jail, whitney houston

Why the Amanda Knox case will be much different than the re-entry of Casey Anthony.

After a four-year ordeal, United States citizen Amanda Knox is finally heading home. Amanda Knox was convicted in the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007 in Italy. Knox, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and another man were all convicted and given long Italian prison sentences. But, Knox and her family have denied her involvement and on appeal put up evidence that in fact there was NO DNA evidence to show that Knox was at the crime scene. In fact, the crime scene itself was contaminated and not properly preserved.

But, while the Italian media made Amanda Know into a villainess, the U.S. media has supported Knox and her family. Yet, it is clear that Knox herself acted in a very bizarre way after the murder at the crime scene. She was even seen kissing her boyfriend and doing cartwheels!!! Further, at her trial her statement that she read showed little empathy for the death of her former roommate and lots of grandiosity on Knox’s part. This did not win her any Italian fans and one would have hoped that she would have been coached better.

Yet, Amanda Knox will re-enter U.S. society as somewhat of a cult hero, and is sure to sign lucrative book and interview deals. So, why is America embracing her while we turned away from Casey Anthony? After all, both women were eventually acquitted of murder yet both have displayed very bizarre behavior to say the least.

I can tell you that the answer is simple. We are rooting for Knox in part because her family is so likeable and the Anthonys were not.  The Knox family is an asset where the Anthony’s were all one big liability. Further, the Casey Anthony case involved the death of a child and a mother who seemingly had no remorse. But, the two women do share the difficult transition back into society after spending several years in jail. This is not an easy process for anybody.

Re-entry is the key to changing our criminal justice system. In fact, without a successful re-entry many are bound to find their way back to jail and prison in other cases. The two main factors in a successful re-entry are family ties and community relations. My bet is that the Knox family will provide what is necessary to help their daughter. This is where Amanda Knox is way ahead of Casey Anthony. And, this is why people will want to read a book by Knox.

Remember, these ladies will be dealing with the trauma of prison for many years, as will their families. I suggest both need extensive therapy and quality support teams. Looking back it seems the Anthony team was looking for only a payday. They quickly found out that there is a big difference between fame and infamy. My advice to all of my clients when they prepare for prison is to begin preparing for re-entry because as I have said many times, Prison is easy, re-entry is tough no matter who you are.

Here is hoping that the Knox team realizes just how difficult a process this is and they get Amanda the help she will surely need for the long term.

Just as I told the Anthony team, there are resources everywhere that can help, but unlike the Anthony team, the Knox team is welcome to call me anytime.

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Filed under amanda knox, Casey Anthony, Criminal thinking, jail, prison re entry

Will Casey Anthony become the poster child for Re-Entry???

I am not sure about that, but the Anthony case is a welcome opportunity to shine the light on our criminal justice system, what’s wrong and how to fix it. I have written much about the fact that as an insider, I believe that the only way to even attempt to fix out system is to turn it upside down. That means focus on the after prison or “Re-Entry” component. I believe there are three stages to our criminal justice system: the investigation/trial phase, the incarceration and re-entry.

Now, Casey Anthony is about to really experience what re-entry and probation are really like. Probation is designed to give people much need accountability as they transition back to society. As I said last week on CBS, Nancy Grace and Jane Velez Mitchell, there are two components that are usually needed to have a successful re-entry: Community ties and family relations and support. Obviously, Casey Anthony has neither. As a person who has worked with 100’s of people going through re-entry, it is possible to do so without these components, but it is a more difficult task. Just as an addict needs a support center, so does a person coming out of jail, what she does not need are ENABLERS. But, it looks like that’s exactly who she has. Recipe for disaster and a fast pass back to the slammer unless Anthony gets some real professional help.

But, first let’s look at some FACTS- Anthony is now ordered by Judge Belvin Perry to report back to Florida to begin serving one year of supervised probation. Not simple administrative probation, but supervised probation. That means, travel restrictions, random searches and U/A tests. She also must stay away from the victim in her check fraud case and get a JOB! What? Yes, a job. This is the interesting part as many people get around this by attending school, ordered mental health care etc…But, Anthony owes money to the IRS and also must pay her probation fee. She also may soon be ordered to pay money for the search for daughter Caylee. Plus, probation makes it much tougher for Casey to score a big money “tell all” deal.

Now, the probation officer assigned to Casey Anthony will have some say in the job/school issue. He may also allow her to write a written report by the 5th of the month with only  sporadic home and office visits. But, Casey Anthony will learn that games and lies do not work with probation officers. I believe that Judge Perry was right to be upset with Jose Baez for not preparing his client for this and for trying to pull one over on the court. A poor example for Casey herself. In fact, technically Casey Anthony is in violation of her probation right now as she left the state and has not begun probation.

Another fact is that like many people, Casey Anthony may be able to transfer her probation to another State. However, to qualify for this you must have a good reason. Valid reasons include family support in the other state, a better job and in some cases a rehab program. My guess is that the Baez team will be arguing the rehab issue and claim that she has already begun a program, so a transfer is needed. Convenient right? Well, rest assured that the Probation department will check it all out as will Judge Perry.

For now, these are the facts. I have been there done that and the moment I prepare a client for prison, I begin to prepare them for re-entry. It is no joke. Let’s stop making it a joke and look at what needs to happen for everyone involved. This insider knows that people do learn from probation and in most cases it is very helpful.

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Filed under Casey Anthony, casey anthony. jose baez, CBS Early Show, Criminal Justice, Jane Velez Mitchell, Nancy Grace, prison consultant, success after prison

Incarceration Nation and what we can learn from Norway…

The horrific mass murder of young people in Norway over the weekend shines new light on what is wrong with the criminal justice system in the United States. Norway is usually known as a country of peace and kindness. But, over the weekend that illusion was shattered with the murder of at least 100 people.

By now we have all read about not only the cushy prisons in Norway, but the fact that the maximum prison sentence is 21 years. There is a possibility that there could be extensions of this term in five year increments if the killer is proven to still be a risk to society.

The fact is that we must use this event to look at our own prison system and the huge lengths of time we send people to prison for on non-violent offenses. There is no doubt that a life term or worse should be given to the Norway killer. But a term of 21 years is handed down far too often in the U.S.. This is true especially in drug related cases. In many cases, especially Federal Prison cases, there are mandatory minimums of 10 years.

The U.S. is simply the Incarceration Nation. We have no idea how to hand down equal justice nor do we have consistency between State and Federal Courts. We have few prison programs and even less mandatory re-entry programs. This despite the fact that over 94% of people in prison are coming out and most in less than five years.

Change is most often brought about by catastrophic events. Let us pause and remember those in Norway and hope that positive change comes to criminal justice systems all over the world. Here is to Equal Justice. Let the Time fit the Crime.

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Filed under Casey Anthony, CBS Early Show, Criminal Justice, Criminal thinking, Federal Prison, jail, prison consultant, Prison Consulting, prison re entry, success after prison