Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Louisiana is still the prison capital; James Gill on Nichols vs. Kennedy; Study shows social welfare programs work; and A jail cell is not a mental health bed

Louisiana is still the prison capital

Louisiana’s crime rate has dropped 10 percent since 2008, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. While that trails the national decline of 16 percent over that span, it’s still good news for a state that has long had one of the country’s highest crime rates. A not so bright spot in the report is that Louisiana continues to have the highest incarceration rate not only in the U.S., but in the world. As Nola.com reports:

 

Most states have managed to cut their imprisonment and crime rates over the last five years, but that’s not true of Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate of any state — or country for that matter.

The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that the overall U.S. imprisonment rate has gone down 6 percent since 2008, but Louisiana’s has stayed flat during that time period. The state incarcerates 847 people for every 100,000 of its residents. The next two highest incarceration rates are Mississippi’s and Oklahoma’s, with 692 and 659 people imprisoned per 100,000 residents respectively.

 

James Gill on Nichols vs. Kennedy

The Advocate’s James Gill weighs in on the ongoing war of words between state Treasurer John Kennedy and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, who have been feuding over the administration’s handling of the state employee health plan and whether state government finished the 2014 fiscal year with a surplus or a deficit.

 

Given their overlapping responsibilities, commissioners of administration and state treasurers ideally work, if not in perfect harmony, at least without appearing to be on the verge of scratching each other’s eyes out. If ever a spirit of cooperation informed the dealings of Treasurer John Kennedy and Kristy Nichols, who runs the numbers for Gov. Bobby Jindal, however, it has been long forgotten. Their public pronouncements are eagerly awaited for the latest snide observation. Their versions of two recent events have been so at odds that one of them, at least, must be fudging. When a dispute concerns financial probity, the smart money says believe the one with no motive to put lipstick on the budgetary pig. If anyone is tasked with making Jindal appear a prudent steward worthy of a shot at the White House, it is not Kennedy, whose bean-counting credentials have not hitherto been questioned.

 

Study shows social welfare programs work

The Guardian highlights a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts that finds social welfare programs such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, Social Security and Earned Income Tax Credits keep people from living in deeper poverty.

 

The study found that an additional 8 million Americans would be living in poverty without food stamps, and that the poverty rate for seniors would be 53 percent – instead of 14.6 percent – without Social Security.  It also notes the flaws in the government’s official poverty measurement, which does not account for social assistance programs and regional differences in the cost of living.

 

Take California. If one were to account for all the expenses accrued and benefits received by the 38 million people living in the Golden State, the real poverty rate would be closer to 23.4% than 16%, which is the official poverty rate. In New Mexico, on the other hand, the supplemental poverty rate, 16%, is much lower than the official poverty rate, 21.5%.

 

A jail cell is not a mental health bed

Paul Rogers Cleveland, a 72-year-old Gonzales man who had been locked up since September, became at least the third mentally ill inmate to die at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison since 2013 when he succumbed to an apparent heart ailment.

 

A few days ago, Cleveland’s family members received word that his health was deteriorating rapidly inside the jail. They called and emailed numerous city-parish officials, seeking help. “Daily requests and inquiries regarding our concern for the welfare of our brother were ignored,” said Cathy Broussard-McLaurin, Cleveland’s sister. “Words are not adequate to express the depth of our grief over this situation.”

 

The paper notes that the deaths come at a time when prisons are being asked to house more people with mental illness as state psychiatric facilities have closed due to budget cuts.

 

Number of the Day:

14 – the percentage of U.S. households that have experienced food insecurity (Source:The Guardian)