President Bush: State of the Union - Excerpts, with Commentary
Last night (Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004) President Bush made this
statement as part of his 'State of the Union' speech:
"In the past we have worked together to bring mentors
to the children of prisoners, and provide treatment for the addicted,
and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another
group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates
will be released from prison back into society. We know from
long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help,
they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison.
So tonight I propose a four-year, $300 million dollar Prisoner
Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services,
to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners
get mentoring, including from faith-based groups.
America is the land of the second chance -- and when the gates
of the prison open -- the path ahead should lead to a better
If our President believes in 'second chances' - why didn't
he propose parole or early release measures for the prisons he
has in his direct charge? This is a good week to write and ask
him that question and others.
If 600,000 released prisoners a year are having difficulty
finding a path to a 'better life' - perhaps the President would
review some laws that put people in prison, and the sentencing
schemes that lock them up for decades, too. The problems prisoners
face should not only be dealt with around re-entry -- that is
late in the process.
Using testimony of an informant -- paid or not -- is not biblical.
The bible teaches that accusations must have two or more witnesses.
That doesn't mean that two or more people have 'part of the story'
either. Christian Conservatives could be reminded of this at
Share other ideas with us, and we'll post them here and on
our e-mail list. If you would like to participate in our e-mail
discussion list, e-mail email@example.com,
and he will sign you up.
For grantwriters and those who work in direct services, click here for the Federal Register Online
via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr21ja04-4] that
details the program the president talked about.
January 21, 2004 - Kalamazoo Gazette (MI)
Viewpoint: Saving marriage
by Art Hilgart
Marriage is a fine idea when two people want to solemnize
and publish their loving intention to live with one another,
if not forever, for a long time. And it is a fine idea whatever
the genders of the couple. Those who argue that if homosexuals
can marry, heterosexuals will stop doing so have slipped several
There are, however, real threats to marriage as an institution,
and they deserve attention from the public, the press, and politicians.
The current minimum wage is approximately $10,000 per year for
a full-time job, not enough to afford marriage and a family.
Raising the hourly minimum to $10 would enable millions more
couples to begin a life together. Those who oppose this implicitly
argue that marriage should be a privilege of the middle and upper
Another threat to marriage is the War on Drugs. Hundreds of
thousands of young men are arrested for possession of recreational
drugs, giving them a criminal record and making them unemployable
and not marriage material.
The Gazette reports that the Kalamazoo County Jail admits
twelve thousand people a year, an extraordinary number. Certainly
murderers, rapists, and pedophiles should be removed from society,
but how many of these are in Kalamazoo? A dozen or two per year?
Bank robbers, burglars, and wife-beaters deserve arrest as well-
another hundred or two at most. That leaves more than eleven
thousand admissions. This is not just costly when local governments
are strapped for money- the distribution of criminal records
like confetti creates social problems, among them a serious reduction
in the marriageable population.
As recently as the 1960's, illegitimacy was relatively rare.
Parents were married. But that was when wages for the lowest
quarter of the population were relatively higher, and it was
before the War on Drugs, when arrest rates and prison populations
were far lower. Those who let their ideologies run wild should
beware of unintended consequences.
Those who wish to preserve marriage as an institution will
not serve their goal by enacting denial of access to it by nontraditional
couples. Demanding an end to the barriers faced by millions of
traditional couples would be a constructive step in the right
From: Gladys Eddy-Lee
Date: January 21, 2004
Subject: State of the Union Address: My Answer to the
Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for an inspiring speech to Congress yesterday evening.
It took courage on your part to open up a topic that may not
be popular with everyone.
I am especially interested in your plan to help rehabilitate
the large number of prison inmates being released back into society,
the Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative. I have been a volunteer prison
chaplain in the California state system for 17 years, and this
kind of assistance is desperately needed.
We taxpayers are spending a fortune incarcerating non-violent
offenders for long periods of time, sometimes decades. Frequently
their committing offenses are drug trafficking. One fact often
overlooked is that a large number of the drug traffickers are
themselves addicts. Incarcerating them for most of their lives
with little or no help overcoming their addiction does not prepare
them for a successful life on the outside. In fact, the longer
they are locked up, the greater their chances of failure when
they are finally released.
As a nation, we appear hypocritical to other civilized countries
when we criticize third world countries for harsh punishments
that are out of proportion to the offenses committed, then do
the same thing by locking up non-violent offenders for 20, 30
or even more years because of mandatory minimum sentencing. I
am hopeful that the federal government will lead the states in
revising the entire sentencing system so that punishments meted
out are in proportion to the offenses committed.
Thank you for your consideration.
Dear Nora: In response to your email I would like to share
the letter (below) I received from the Justice Department after
writing to President Bush asking him to support laws for change
in the mandatory minimums. I felt this letter was rude because
it basically told me to address my concerns to congress and not
bother the President. Do they suppose I haven't been writing
Congressional members? Anyway, you may republish this letter
if you like. I would just ask that you delete my address. You
may use my name.
Thank you, Twila Sims
Not to sound as if I am concluding this subject with my 2
cents. I just want to add something I feel is important.
Coming from the camp of those that 'love a prisoner' - I am
able to study things, read and review a lot of information; so
that we can manage the office and serve a volunteer base.
I think that conservatives - aside from the president - are
giving our issue a hard look, and coming aboard. And while some
would cringe at the thought of being put at the mercy of 'faith
based' folks - if anyone has attempted to start much in a prison,
as a volunteer - being 'faith based' has been preferred for a
long time. So, there isn't much new here - just a new emphasis
because the president is who he is, and has been putting a little
money and words about.
Having conservatives look at the informant system, the way
a 'conspiracy charge works' with a critical eye is good. Having
them find common ground with our organization and goals - is
good. Contact with prisoners, especially prisoners that have
membership in reform organizations, spreads our mission and 'movement'
exposure from the prisoners, to these 'faith based' leaders.
I think that we will see more and more conservatives joining
the ranks of those who oppose the war on drugs. I think that
we should seek ways to find common ground and work together.
Presidents come and go - people remain.
This is an excerpt about the prisoner reentry issues, with
a lead in, so you can appreciate the writer's style. The entire
article can read at: www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=4859%20
This one is called, State of the Union 2004 Myth and Reality,
by Rahul Mahajan. It was published yesterday, January 21, 2004
Bush said: So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives,
coaches and players to take the lead, to send the right signal,
to get tough and to get rid of steroids now.
Response: Finally. The truly important issues. Imagine the
courage involved in taking such a controversial stand.
Bush said: This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released
from prison back into society. We know from long experience that
if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more
likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. So tonight,
I propose a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative
to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional
housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring,
including from faith-based groups. America is the land of the
second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path
ahead should lead to a better life.
Response: This is truly brilliant. I can't remember the last
time a Democratic presidential candidate (except for Kucinich
and Sharpton) actually talked about the crying need to rehabilitate
ex-prisoners. At one stroke, Bush paints himself as far more
liberal, and compassionate, than the Democratic mainstream. Just
three little problems: First, he seems to want to use government
money to put ex-prisoners at the mercy of "faith-based groups."
I suppose that's one way to recruit for the Christian Coalition.
Second, with the economy shedding jobs like there's no tomorrow,
how exactly is he going to get work for ex-prisoners? Third,
does anyone really believe this will happen? Does anyone remember
the Freedom Corps, inaugurated with such stirring words in the
2002 SOU address?
I share this because there is a lot of skepticism, and cynicism,
which as John Chase eloquently stated in an e-mail yesterday,
"These days skepticism is necessary and cynicism is understandable."
We have the president talking about the prisoners, it is on
West Wing, and it's been on 60 minutes, too. All in a month!
Most of this list comprises folks that have someone they love
in prison, or a disdain for the war on drugs that has brought
them to action not so directly, others are out of prison now.
Some are political professionals and live in WA DC.
I come from the camp of people that love a prisoner. I remember
in 1992 when Nightline did a show on Mandatory Minimums and I
figured it was over - you know the war was over, all a person
had to do was show somebody that video tape.
Back then, if we'd have had a January Sweep like this one
- I'd have figured Gary would be getting out of prison soon.
Probably not. But it all adds up is the point. We need media
stories, we need viable community groups every growing. We need
people hounding leaders and everyone being vocal and learning
how to do the work of activism more and more effectively. It
is learning the patience of activism.
I'll share with you some differing views I got from that post
yesterday, but leave the senders - a mystery.
This is just my humble opinion but I don't think we should
attack Bush when he "says" he wants to do the right
thing as small and probably untrue as it may be. Yes he most
certainly is our enemy and yes ultimately his intentions are
evil. But in the public eye this statement seems compassionate
so to attack it may cause our credibility more harm than good.
There's a running joke in Washington bureaucracies that if Bush
singles out your program for high praise, it's usually the kiss
of death. Like the Veterans Administration or the Global AIDS
initiative, Bush will sing your praises for the cheap media hit
and a week later, when no one is looking, gut your budget. That
way, he gets all of the credit and without having to cut into
his tax cuts or war budget. One can only hope he praises John
Walters more often.
Nora, you are right on about the hypocritical proposal to help
people getting out of prison, when it's the government's dreadful
policy that put them in there to begin with. Further, the $23
million the President sanctimoniously proposed in the State of
the Union address for student drug testing is a fraudulent waste
of money, and he must know it -- I'm attaching a copy of the
story on the Monitoring the Future study (April, 2003) that said
drug testing in schools is a waste of money in the effort to
reduce student drug use. As I imagine you know, this is the main
study the government relies on to measure adolescent drug use!
Thanks everybody - hang in there - never, ever give up and
keep the ground we take along the way.
Over and out - and thank you again friends.
In Struggle, Nora