Month: March 2016

Reparatory Justice

Good afternoon,

I am grateful to Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, Representative of Venezuela to the Organization of American States (OAS), for inviting me to address representatives of the OAS’s member nations to implore you to action on Reparatory Justice as a human rights policy and as a moral democratic imperative.

I thank all of you for the opportunity given this afternoon by the Organization of American States to present my thoughts on the issue of Reparatory Justice.

As I sit among the ambassadors of sovereign states of the Americas the memory of my Mother is with me. Her Paternal grandmother was born in 1853 and was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the U.S. in 1863. I have every reason to feel they would view this occasion to represent Reparatory Justice at the OAS as very important! As a young actor in San Francisco, California trying to find my voice and make a living in my chosen profession, I would often stop by mother’s work place. She worked hard at her Job for the United States postal Office for more than thirty years. But the warmth of her generous smile and faith was always encouraging. Of course she would want me to meet her fellow workers, for no other reason than to tell them that, “my son is an “Actor”, which she took great pride in stating. When asked what I had done, which had been very little at the time, she would say: “he hasn’t done anything yet, but one day he will do something important!” I believe that as she smiles on me today, my presence here speaking before the distinguished members of the OAS, qualifies as an example of what she meant by ‘important’.

When Ambassador Alvarez first requested that I speak to the OAS about Reparatory Justice, I recalled many fruitful exchanges that I had with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez about the historical plight of Afro Descendants in our hemisphere. We talked about the heroism and invaluable contributions made by people of African descent to the founding and development of Republics throughout the Americas. Shortly after we began our first meeting, President Chavez spoke about his own African ancestry. Without prompting, he reflected critically that racial equity had not been as central to Venezuela’s affirmative action policy considerations as it should have been in its 1999 Constitution; that Afro-Venezuelans had been largely excluded from its various initiatives. As he addressed the TransAfrica Forum Board members who accompanied me, he looked to his staff and, without hesitation,  concluded that Venezuela needed to rectify its failure to spefificallyaddress race in public policy and to earnestly collaborate with Afro-Venezuelans to improve their lives and to advance their capacities to contribute to national development. Political leaders across our continent should be moved as he was to initiate projects of reparatory justice with their citizens of African descent.

I have had similar positive exchanges with several global political leaders about the crimes against humanity committed against Africans during the European-Atlantic Slave Trade, and about the subsequent institutionalization of racism against Afro Descendants that persists to the present. Included among the political leaders with whom I have discussed the imperative of achieving restorative justice for people of African descent are the late South African President Nelson Mandela, former Brazilian President Lula Da Silva, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an eloquent and persuasive advocate for Reparatory Justice, and Congressman John Conyers, author of U.S. Congressional House of Representative Bill H.R. 40 for a Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. In November 2016, I also met with Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Havana to discuss the U.N. International Decade for People of African Descent.

Reflecting on those past positive encounters, I am especially heartened by the recent establishment of the U.S. National African American Commission (NAARC) and I support its call for President Obama to appoint a John Hope Franklin Commission on Reparatory Justice before he leaves office. I note with satisfaction the emergence of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, chaired by the Caribbean’s most eminent public intellectual, Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles, and I applaud CARICOM’s call on the former European slaveholding nations to step up and help repair the devastation wrought on the Caribbean region by hundreds of years of slavery and colonialism. Moreover, I applaud the strong support for CARICOM’s claims that have been voiced unanimously by the member nations of CELAC and ALBA and I call on the OAS to add its influential voice in support of CARICOM’s reparatory justice program. Latin America, Canada, and the United States must now take the next step in continent wide Human Rights and justice policies and initiate reparatory justice discussions and policies with their citizens of African descent.

This is a momentous occasion for me and for hundreds of millions of Afro Descendants to address an august body that represents all of the countries of the Americas. Of the nearly one billion citizens of the Americas, approximately 200 million are Afro Descendants, the progeny of enslaved Africans who were forced, without compensation, to contribute their intellectual and physical labor for the enrichment of European settler colonies. For centuries, the nations those colonies produced physically and psychologically exploited Afro Descendants and Native peoples through the brutal inhumanity of rape, incarceration, and murder. This uncomfortable shared history of Afro Descendants in the Americas belongs to all of us as citizens of American Continental Republics. It has unfolded over the centuries and, despite heroic democratic advances, has given rise to structural, economic, social, and cultural racism, leaving behind a legacy of broad discrimination against Afro Descendants in the Americas for the 21st century. This discrimination often takes the forms of disproportionate poverty, disease, lack of educational opportunity, massive incarceration, rampant sexual exploitation, and inadequate participation in political decision-making.

Through my travels and ongoing communication with people of African descent throughout the hemisphere, I am aware that some nations have been more progressive and productive than others in acknowledging slavery as a crime against humanity and in implementing public policies to eradicate the scourge of injustice of persistent racism and discrimination in our societies. Nevertheless, we are still confronted by the harsh realities of life for Afro Descendants in the Americas, the majority of whom live among the culturally diverse populations in the Caribbean and Latin America, comprising 30% or more of that region’s population yet accounting for more than half of its identified poor.

In my country, the United States of America, which is the richest and arguably most developed country of the world, there are forty-million Afro Descendants, many of Caribbean and Latin American heritage. On a daily basis, U.S. news is inundated with disturbing and saddening stories of Black women and men, particularly the young, being killed by law enforcement officers and vigilantes or being incarcerated; of young black people facing high rates of under and unemployment, poverty, lack of access to education and health care, and consequently succumbing to high rates of illness and death. The current state of democracy, justice, and socio-economic development for Afro Descendants in the United States is disappointing and tragic. Sadly, these negative social and political indicators characterize and link the lives and justice struggles of the majority of people of African descent throughout the Americas despite significant national, cultural, linguistic, political, ideological, religious, and economic differences.

Rich and diverse historical legacies of struggles for freedom, justice, equality, and development have propelled Afro Descendants over the centuries to act in solidarity across national identities. I am but one Afro Descendant within a long and continuous historical tradition of advocacy for people of African descent who have sought to enlist the support of national and multilateral policy organizations to achieve reparatory justice.

Those of you who are students of history will know that news of the 1804 Haitian Revolution, a successful revolt against slavery and oppression by French colonialists, spread widely among enslaved Afro Descendant populations throughout the Americas, highlighting their common plight against the terror and the inhumanity of colonialism, enslavement and racism, You would be among the educated few who know that Haiti not only represented a victorious organic revolt from the lowest sectors of society, but that it also inspired subsequent struggles in Latin America that gave rise to a group of new independent Caribbean and Latin American nations that emerged by ousting their European colonizers. The Haitian Revolution was a watershed moment in history that many citizens in the Americas have not always celebrated, and it harkens to a history of Africans rebelling against slavery in the Americas that continues until today.

The historical recognition, cultural affinity, and political development projects of people of African descent in the Americas achieved a major victory toward democratic inclusion by planning, coordinating, and organizing their attendance and participation at the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism, Intolerance and Other Forms of Discrimination in Durban, South Africa. In fact, the term “Afro Descendant” was formulated and gained widespread currency in policymaking circles at the 2000 Preparatory conference for Durban which was held in Santiago, Chile. Hundreds of people of African descent from across the Americas gathered in Santiago, speaking Spanish, English, Creoles, French, practitioners of various African religions as well as of Christianity, to advocate for diverse ideals that encompassed Pan Africanism, capitalism, and socialism. Diverse in their nationalities and their cultural expressions, but still united in a common struggle for human rights, they recognized their shared interest in counteracting the structural racism and discrimination that began with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and that produced populations now called Afro Brazilians, Palenqueros and Raizales of Colombia, Haitians, Afro Cubans, mulattos, and a host of other identity designations. The planning delegates in Santiago coined the term Afro Descendant to give form to their policy proposals and demands to State-government representatives who would convene the following year at the United Nation Durban World Conference against Racism.

This, honorable lady and gentlemen representatives of the Organization of American States, is “Our America.” An America that far too many of our citizens and policy makers, including heads of State, refuse to fully acknowledge and fail to engage with as a democratic mandate to deliver justice, equality, and equitable national and regional development.

You might reasonably inquire, why I, Danny Glover, wellknown citizen-artist of the United States, have come to speak to the OAS about Reparatory Justice. I come to you today with full and proud recognition and embrace of the fact that I am a descendant of enslaved Africans who were transported, against their will, to the so called “New World.” That unprecedented global project of European colonial expansion through the pillage, rape, and genocide of Native Peoples shaped the nations and humanity we have become today. My maternal grandmother…..From that family history and Legacy of resistance and transformation, I am one of the not so many Afro Descendants who have been relatively successful out of the roughly 200 million Afro Descendants in our American hemisphere, who, with the help of less fortunate Afro Descendant family members and communities were educated about the histories and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora in the creation of American colonies and American Republics. Through this education, I was guided to form connections with my Afro Descendants sisters and brothers across this continent, from Canada to Uruguay and everywhere in between. I am also happily married to an Afro Brazilian woman.

It is true that some Afro Descendants have like me been relatively successful against great historical odds and the contemporary challenges of structural racism, which casts a long shadow across class lines and individual achievement for most people of African descent. I have been fortunate to be counseled and supported by women and men of African Descent across the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe who today continue to live their lives as social-individuals, connected to the cultural legacies and daily life struggles and accomplishments of ordinary citizens. So I am one of the public messengers of those histories of struggle and of current demands to you today for Reparatory Justice for Afro Descendants. I speak to you in the spirit of Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, the great 20th Century Afro Descendant Father of U.S. sociology, Pan-African social justice activism, and founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:

“I am bone of bone and flesh of flesh of them that live within the Veil”.

“Living within the Veil” is a haunting metaphor that speaks to the partitioned and concealed world of black-skinned humanity; a humanity lived by hundreds of millions of Afro Descendants in our hemisphere, 40 million in the U.S. alone, that is invisible and inaudible to so many but that is vibrant and complex for us who, with pride and dignity, proclaim universal human rights and justice for all. At the national level, we generally fall far short of public apology and provision of just recompense to the millions of Afro descendants still hemmed in by structural racism and systemic economic inequality, – descendants of enslaved ancestors who built great towns, cities, countries, and provided luxuries that so many of us enjoy today.

A 2016 article published by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, “Forging Equitable Communities: Creating Structures of Opportunity”, by Gary L. Cunningham, President and CEO of Metropolitan Economic Development Association of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota concluded that, “the majority of African-American people still live wrapped up, largely out of sight, in the vicissitudes of poverty.” He goes on to say that, “When the fundamental opportunity structures go unchallenged, the living conditions of low-income African-American people remain the same.” My direct experience with Afro Descendant and indigenous communities within the United States and with communities throughout this hemisphere, without exception, is that Cunningham’s description of the U.S. holds true for all of our continent. The majority of Afro Descendants and Indigenous peoples still live wrapped up, largely out of sight, in the vicissitudes of poverty and the opportunity structures in our societies have not been sufficiently or consistently responsive.

I speak to you as one of many social-individuals who works in collaboration with, not for, the millions who are still behind the contemporary veils of poverty, exclusion, incarceration, discrimination, and of official displacement and violence. I call upon you today as policy representatives and socially conscious citizens and as public servants of our countries who are guided by personal ethics, religious faith, and official oath of office, to avow a commitment to democracy, justice, equality, and human rights.

The call today for Reparatory Justice for Afro Descendants is an imperative for expanded democracy and spiritual and material wellbeing. It is a test-case of human decency that conforms to accepted standards of morality. The call for Reparatory Justice is a marker of the outstanding balance on atonement, and adjudication of our past wrongs and current barriers against fellow citizens who continue to be shut out, marginalized, and discriminated against. The negative consequences of inattention or of insufficient attention to the legitimate demands of Afro Descendants in all of our societies for official national apologies for recognition of enslavement of Africans as a historically significant Crime against Humanity requires serious reflection and emotional, psychological, and material repair. The case of Reparatory Justice must be formulated and implemented in collaboration with Afro Descendants as they proactively envision and construct their futures as full citizens with both self-interests and common interests with other citizens, not as immobilized, pitiful victims.

Official recognition by public policy makers of the absence or inadequacy of policies to overcome inhumane negative racialized circumstances in which most of Afro Descendants live today is a major step towards positive public ownership, not guilt for the past. It is a pathway to lifting the veil of ignorance, frustration, intolerance, and inaction that divides so many among all of our communities.

I speak to you today as a citizen-artist of the United States and as an official Ambassador of Good Will for the United Nations International Decade for Afro Descendants. The justification for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice, Development issued by the global community of nations succinctly states:

“In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. Around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside the African continent.”

I highlight the phrase recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected, not to separate them from fellow citizens of other racial, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. I highlight that phrase to draw special attention to the distinct concerns of Afro Descendants and of Indigenous peoples who have and continue to suffer racial and skin-color discrimination as well as the related cultural and economic inequities in our societies and governance systems. My colleague, James Early, a long time participant in social justice struggles with Afro Descendants across our Americas, has criticized some representatives in the Americas for, “cavalierly rejecting the terminology Afro Descendant” positing in confutation that, “we all are Afro Descendants because Africa is the cradle of civilization.” I agree that such responses are, to say the least, inconsiderate of the widespread color coded racial discrimination documented both by historical claims by Afro Descendants across our hemisphere in all countries, and in stark contrast to current official documentation done by multilateral bodies like the United Nations and the OAS.

In regards to the significance of Reparatory Justice as a foundational element of public and regional policy in the Americas, I especially recommend to members of the OAS the guidanceexpressed by United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon who says:

“We must remember that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism. Too often, they face denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education”.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s declaration about the negative human consequences of current racism and its connection to the denial of basic human rights speaks to a blight on all of our democracies that necessitates special policy attention and dedicated human and budget resources. Most importantly, the pernicious racism and discrimination in our societies against Afro Descendants and Indigenous peoples and communities requires leadership to productively guide our societies toward acknowledging and apologizing for the past. Apologizing for slavery is an act of honesty, courage, and contrition that can and will strengthen us as citizens to draw upon the virtues our nations have relied upon to make significant and, at times, great contributions to humanity.

Within the call for Reparatory Justice for Afro Descendants and Indigenous communities and nations is a complex five century narrative that can not be rewritten in a decade, or a few decades. In fact, our distinct national histories are replete with starts and terminations of well intended and at times small and significant gains. What is obvious about the negative life conditions and strong, continuous demands of Afro Descendant and Indigenous communities in all of our nations is the urgent need to make a major, long term commitment of human will and budget resources to work with these communities to repair the damage done to them. The U.N International Decade for Afro Descendants is an invitation, a call, and a demand that we rededicate ourselves to righting this

historical wrong, which continues to plague and impede humanistic and material development for our citizens and nations today. To affirmatively embrace and actively support Reparatory Justice is in all of our best interests.

The progress that has been achieved in our respective nations in terms of the three elements of the Decade – Respect, Justice, Development – is not difficult to build upon. However, it is imperative that we exercise leadership and will-power in being forthright, creative, and collaborative with Afro Descendants and all other sectors of our societies to utilize this Decade to simultaneously evaluate the state of the fundamental problems that give rise to social, cultural, and economic structures of racism and discrimination, and at the same time evaluate existing policies in order to be more effective. Taking this approach, we must judiciously set forth new realistic and achievable projects while being especially cognizant of synergies that can be obtained by integrating public policy approaches designed for each of our nations and regions. As an example of this integrated policy approach that I am proposing, Reparatory Justice could be a special affirmative framework for implementing the extended U.N. Millennium Goals Project, which has been shown to be successful in lowering poverty.

Furthermore, there are additional recommendations about basic orientation points and frameworks that could lead to a productive integration of the three U.N. themes for the Afro Descendants Decade: Respect, Justice, Development that I would also like to share.

RESPECT:

Respect for Afro Descendants is not mere formal expression of a mea culpa for the inhumanity of slavery and colonization; its not simply personal atonement for the intentionally inflicted exploitation and misery of the past; nor is it rhetorical public self-criticism. None of us living today were architects of past crimes against humanity. We were not there. Our racial, cultural or ethnic bloodlines do not speak, or act, although they may convey cultural and material inherences that we, in the present and entering the future, should assume responsibility for re-inscribing with respect, justice, and mutual benefit. The respect of which I speak is a necessary societal-proclamation, especially through the voices and policy actions of government leaders and public policy makers at national and regional levels. The Organization of American States should be a model of productive engagement with Afro Descendants toward highlighting their intrinsic human worth demonstrated by their qualities and achievements. In doing so, the sins and crimes against humanity committed in the past are not eradicated or forgotten; however, the consequent burdens of shame, hatred, division, and socio-economic inequality we have inherited are honestly and straightforwardly confronted and addressed with consistent and effective policies. Only then can Afro Descendants fully actualize their creativity and develop sustainable self-sufficient lives to become more deeply engaged citizens contributing to the whole of their societies and nations. Respect, in words and deeds, can uplift us all through due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, and traditions of Afro Descendants and their human rights.

JUSTICE:

The U.N. call for justice for Afro Descendants requires more than the now common constitutional and legal proclamations of virtually all nations to be fair, inclusive, and equal in treatment and opportunities for all citizens. Justice must be restorative. It must be evidenced in fair and equitable treatment of Afro Descendants and verified not in philosophical declarations, but in empirically documentable public policy indicators that illustrate sustained progress in the quality of life and participation of Afro Descendants. Justice must also reflect sociological engagement with Afro Descendant cultural, social, and economic proposals and initiatives to improve the quality of their lives and to advance and deepen their citizen participation in the direction and development of their nations. But justice must also include discarding institutional practices that discriminate and punishment for those individuals, civic organizations, business and corporations, and government institutions who continue to discriminate.

The U.N. International Decade for Afro Descendants is an opportunity to establish a justice-index in our countries to straight forwardly identify our national strengths and weaknesses with respect to Afro Descendant citizens. Justice linked with Respect for Afro Descendents is a rubric to discard ineffetive ideas and policies, to reinforce policies that work, and to carefully outline and implement new national and regional policies that can lead to repair for the crimes of history and current forms of discrimination.

DEVELOPMENT:

Development must encompass the preceding two themes of respect and justice because without recognition or respect of the importance on any social group, people of African descent in this case, we fail to understand, embrace, and advance the benefit to the whole of society to our citizen, nations, and humanity as a whole. Development and justice must go hand in hand as the humanistic or philosophical underpinning of our common code of civility, legal protection, and punitive response to violations of all of our basic human rights.

Development must mean more than social and economic statistics about quantitative growth and cross-sector comparisons among our diverse populations along the road to national growth. We know all too well that mathematical indicators of development do not automatically translate into quality of life improvement for the most vulnerable in our nations, nor to an advancement of our common humanity. Thus, development must encompass improved material quality of life and respect for all lives, and fairness and equality, or justice for all. The poor quality of life for Afro Descendants and the impediments of racism and discrimination on their self-determination and ability to advance their own individual and collective interests is evidence that restorative respect, restorative justice, and restorative development must be integrated across policy sectors. The United Nations is clear in its guidance to nations and multilateral policy bodies. It asserts that:

“Consistent with the Declaration on the Right to Development, States should adopt measures aimed at guaranteeing active, free and meaningful participation by all individuals, including people of African descent in development and decision-making related thereto and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom.” The U.N. also outlines development categories to include affirmative attention to people of African descent with respect to poverty, education, employment, health and housing.”

I urge you to add the category of Participatory Democracy, which places people of African descent in a catalytic and proactive role and avoids treating them as hapless victims or helpless subjects requiring the sympathy or charity offerings of others, no matter their good intentions. We need a radically new approach to and substantial outcome from development projects. 21st Century development for people of African descent and all sectors of our nations must be a full, respectful, and human endeavor. Its achievement must include the imagination, creativity, and productions of people of African descent in their many cultural and national identities across the whole of the Americas.

In conclusion, I recommend that development in the first and final analysis must be understood and undertaken by Afro Descendants and by other committed citizens and their stewards. They must be the architects of public policy that respects the human rights of all people and be social and economic justice-engineers in a holistic transnational project that requires repairs and restitution for the damage done to Afro Descendants. This is indispensable nourishment for the health and stability of our common work and for full, consistent, and universal human rights.

Thank you.
Danny Glover

Are Trade Deals Good For America?

Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are blaming free-trade deals for the decline of working-class jobs and incomes. Are they right?

Clearly, America has lost a significant number of factory jobs over the last three decades. In 1980, 1 in 5 Americans worked in manufacturing. Now it’s 1 in 12.

Today Ohio has a third fewer manufacturing jobs than it had in 2000. Michigan is down 32 percent.

Trade isn’t the only culprit. Technological change has also played a part.

When I visit one of America’s remaining factories, I rarely see assembly-line workers. I don’t see many workers at all. Instead, I find a handful of technicians sitting behind computer screens. They’re linked to fleets of robots and computerized machine tools who do the physical work.

There’s a lively debate among researchers as to whether trade or technology is more responsible for the decline in factory jobs. In reality the two can’t be separated.

Were it not for technological breakthroughs we wouldn’t have the huge cargo containers, massive container ports and cranes, and satellite and Internet communications systems that have created highly-efficiently worldwide manufacturing systems.

These systems have relocated factory jobs from the United States to Asia, especially to China. Researchers find the biggest losses in American manufacturing started in 2001 when China joined the World Trade Organization, requiring the U.S. to lower tariffs on Chinese goods.

MIT economist David Autor and two co-authors estimate that between 2000 and 2007 the United States lost close to a million manufacturing jobs to China – about a quarter of the total decline in those years. Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute puts the loss since then at about 3 million.

This doesn’t mean free trade has been entirely bad for Americans. It’s given us access to cheaper goods, saving the typical American thousands of dollars a year.

A recent study by economists at UCLA and Columbia University found that trade has increased the real incomes of the U.S. middle class by 29 percent, and even more for those with lower incomes.

But trade has widened inequality and imposed a particular burden on America’s blue-collar workers.

If you’re well educated, free trade has given you better access worldwide markets for your skills and insights – resulting directly or indirectly in higher pay.

On the other hand, if you’re not well educated, the trade deals of the last quarter century have very likely taken away the factory job you (or your parents or grandparents) once relied on for steady work with good pay and generous benefits.

These jobs were the backbone of the old American middle class. Now they’re almost all gone, replaced by lower-paying service jobs in places like retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.

The change has been a dramatic. A half century ago America’s largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly income (including health and pension benefits) of around $50, in today’s dollars.

Today America’s largest employer is Walmart, whose typical employee earns just over $9 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t even qualify for benefits.

The core problem isn’t really free trade, or even the loss of factory jobs per se. It’s the demise of an entire economic system in which people with only high-school degrees, or less, could count on good and secure jobs.

That old system included strong unions, CEOs with responsibilities to their employees and communities and not just to shareholders, and a financial sector that didn’t demand the highest possible returns every quarter.

Trade has contributed to the loss of this old system, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should give up on free trade. We should create a new system, in which a greater share of Americans can be winners.

But will we? The underlying political question is whether the winners from America’s current economic system – people with college degrees, the right connections, and good jobs that put them on the winning side of the divide – will support new rules that widen the circle of prosperity to include those who have been on the losing side.

Those new rules might include, for example, a much larger Earned Income Tax Credit (effectively, a wage subsidy for lower-income workers), stronger unions in the service sector, world-class education for all (including free public higher education), a single-payer healthcare plan, more generous Social Security, and higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for all this.

If the winners refuse to budge, America could turn its back on free trade – and much else. Indeed, there’s no telling where the anger we’ve seen this primary might lead.

Climate Change Polling Data

The Sanders Institute used Gallup Polling Data to delve into what the American Public thinks about global warming and climate change.

When asked about whether they are worried about climate change, a majority of Americans (64%) say they are either worried a great deal or a fair amount. A little more than a third of Americans (36%) say they are only a little or not at all worried about climate change.

 

 

However, the American public is not confident about their knowledge of climate change and global warming. Only a quarter (24%) of Americans say they understand global warming very well. Instead, just over half of Americans (55%) say they understand it “fairly well.”

 

 

This translates to a significant number of Americans who are unsure if global warming is occurring. While a solid majority (65%) of Americans believe that global warming is occurring, a quarter of Americas are unsure.

 

 

This uncertainty is in stark contrast to the consensus in the scientific community that climate change and global warming are not only occurring but that human activity is the major cause of climate change and global warming.

While just under two thirds of Americans agree with scientists that global warming is caused by human activity, three in ten (31%) of Americans believe that it is due to natural causes. This is a 32% difference in the percentage of scientists who believe that global warming is caused by human activity and the American public.

 

 

In the last 5 years, however, the number of individuals who believe that global warming has already begun has increased from just under half (49%) to almost six-in-ten (59%) Americans. This is close to highest recorded in 2008 when  61% of Americans believed that global warming had already begun.

 

 

While a majority (59%) of Americans believe that global warming is happening, around that same percentage (57%) believe that global warming will not pose a serious threat to their way of life.

However, the percentage of Americans who do not think that global warming will pose a threat to their way of live has been falling gradually since 1997 when almost seven-in-ten Americans did not think it would pose a serious threat.

 

 

Ultimately, while it is a positive thing that so many Americans believe that global warming is already happening and are worried about it, there is still a disconnect between the American people and scientists on the issue. There is room to increase familiarity with and knowledge of global warming and climate change. There is also a need to help Americans understand what effect climate change and global warming will have on their day to day activities and standard of life.

A Comprehensive Overview Of Recidivism Among Federal Offenders

This report provides a broad overview of key findings from the United States Sentencing Commission’s study of recidivism of federal offenders. The Commission studied offenders who were either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005. Nearly half (49.3%) of such offenders were rearrested within eight years for either a new crime or for some other violation of the condition of their probation or release conditions. This report discusses the Commission’s recidivism research project and provides many additional findings from that project. In the future, the Commission will release additional publications discussing specific topics concerning recidivism of federal offenders.

The United States Sentencing Commission began studying recidivism shortly after the enactment of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (SRA). Past studies, together with ongoing multi-year research on this subject, advance the Commission’s mission to conduct research on sentencing issues related to the purposes of sentencing set forth in the SRA. Recidivism information is central to three of the primary purposes of punishment as described in the SRA – specific deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation – purposes which focus on prevention of future crimes through correctional intervention. Information about recidivism also is relevant to the Commission’s obligation to formulate sentencing policy that “reflect[s], to the extent practicable, advancements in knowledge of human behavior as it relates to the sentencing process.”

Considerations of recidivism by federal offenders were central to the Commission’s initial work, as it chose to develop the Guidelines Manual’s criminal history provisions in significant part on offenders’ risk of reoffending. The Commission’s 2004 report, Measuring Recidivism, served as a “performance review” of the predictive ability of these provisions, i.e., the predictive statistical power of the criminal history measure to reflect subsequent recidivism among federal offenders. That report concluded that these provisions largely succeeded in predicting subsequent risk of reoffending. Two additional Commission reports in that same period further investigated federal offender recidivism and reviewed features of the federal sentencing guidelines. Two later publications examined recidivism by federal offenders sentenced under the guidelines for child pornography and crack cocaine.

Recent developments have refocused the Commission’s interest on the recidivism of federal offenders, particularly the recent public attention on the size of the federal prison population and the cost of incarceration. Well over 1.5 million offenders have been sentenced under the federal sentencing guidelines since their inception in 1987. In recent years, approximately 80,000 offenders have been sentenced each year for federal felonies and Class A (nonpetty) misdemeanor offenses. Nine out of ten of those federal offenders today receive sentences of imprisonment, while one out of ten is sentenced to probation. The federal prison population today is slightly under two hundred thousand inmates (which is around one-eighth of the total prison and jail population in the United States). As these numbers have grown, courts and correctional officials have sought greater information about reoffending. Recidivism information has recently been used in decisions by the Commission to reduce the periods of incarceration established for certain offenders through retroactive application of sentence reductions in the guidelines. And changes in the sentencing guidelines at the policy level have a significant effect on the imposition of individual sentences. It is in this policy climate that the Commission has begun its multi-year study of recidivism by federal offenders.

The Commission’s current recidivism research substantially expands on the scope of previous Commission recidivism projects. In addition to a different set of offenders – U.S. citizen federal offenders released in 2005 – the current study group (25,431 offenders) is much larger than those in previous Commission studies. A larger study group provides the opportunity to develop statistically useful conclusions about many subgroups of federal offenders, including those sentenced under different provisions in the guidelines. This is the first report on the results of the Commission’s study of the recidivism of the federal offenders released during this time period.

Summary of Key Findings

The key findings of the Commission’s study are:

  • Over an eight year follow-up period, almost one-half of federal offenders released in 2005 (49.3%) were rearrested for a new crime or rearrested for a violation of supervision conditions.
  • Almost one-third (31.7%) of the offenders were also reconvicted, and one-quarter (24.6%) of the offenders were reincarcerated over the same study period.
  • Offenders released from incarceration in 2005 had a rearrest rate of 52.5 percent, while offenders released directly to a probationary sentence had a rearrest rate of 35.1 percent.
  • Of those offenders who recidivated, most did so within the first two years of the eight year follow-up period. The median time to rearrest was 21 months.
  • About one-fourth of those rearrested had an assault rearrest as their most serious charge over the study period. Other common most serious offenses were drug trafficking, larceny, and public order offenses.
  • A federal offender’s criminal history was closely correlated with recidivism rates. Rearrest rates range from 30.2 percent for offenders with zero total criminal history points to 80.1 percent of offenders in the highest Criminal History Category, VI. Each additional criminal history point was generally associated with a greater likelihood of recidivism.
  • A federal offender’s age at time of release into the community was also closely associated with differences in recidivism rates. Offenders released prior to age 21 had the highest rearrest rate, 67.6 percent, while offenders over sixty years old at the time of release had a recidivism rate of 16.0 percent.
  • Other factors, including offense type and educational level, were associated with differing rates of recidivism but less so than age and criminal history

Recidivism Study Offenders

The offenders studied in this project are 25,431 federal offenders who:

  • are citizens;
  • re-entered the community during 2005 after discharging their sentence of incarceration or by commencing a term of probation in 2005;
  • have valid FBI numbers which could be located in criminal history repositories (in at least one state, the District of Columbia, or federal records);
  • are not reported dead, escaped, or detained, and
  • have a pre-sentence investigation report that was submitted to the Commission with a federal sentence that was not vacated

*The full methodology can be found here

Detailed Recidivism Findings

General Recidivism Rates: As mentioned earlier, this report uses three different measures of recidivism—rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration.

Rearrest

Almost one-half of offenders released in 2005 (49.3%) were rearrested for a new crime or for an alleged violation of the conditions of their supervision over the eight year follow-up period. The median time to rearrest was 21 months, meaning that for one-half of the offenders rearrest occurred in less than two years following their initial release from prison or placement on probation. Among those who recidivated, the median number of rearrest events (events occurring on separate days) was two, but 21.2 percent of recidivist offenders were rearrested five times or more. When considering only the “most serious” offense committed by those who were rearrested, the most serious event that was most prevalent was assault. About one-fourth (23.3%) of those rearrested had an assault rearrest as their most serious charge over the study period. Other common “most serious” offenses were other public order (15.5%), drug trafficking (11.5%), and larceny (7.7%).

 

Recidivism Table 1

Reconviction

Almost one-third (31.7%) of offenders were reconvicted over the study period. Most offenders who were reconvicted were reconvicted once. The median time to reconviction, as measured from the date of the arrest that led to the reconviction, was 30 months. About one-fourth (23.9%) of those reconvicted had an assault conviction as their most serious charge over the study period. Other common most serious offenses were drug trafficking (13.5%), other public order (8.7%), and larceny (8.5%).

Reincarceration

One-quarter (24.6%) of offenders were reincarcerated over the study period. Most offenders who were reincarcerated were reincarcerated once. The median time to arrest for the offense that led to reincarceration was 29 months. More offenders (23.8%) were reincarcerated for an assault crime as their most serious offense than for any other offense. Other common most serious offenses were drug trafficking (14.5%), other public order (8.4%), and larceny (7.8%).

Comparison to State Prisoners

Compared to a cohort of state prisoners released into the community in 2005 and tracked by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, federal offenders had a lower recidivism rate. BJS found that 76.6 percent of offenders released from state prison were rearrested within five years. The Commission, using a comparable five year follow-up period and including only federal offenders released from prison (i.e., excluding those sentenced to probation or a fine only), found the recidivism rate for these federal offenders was 44.9 percent.

Using reconviction as the measure of recidivism, BJS found that 55.4 percent of state offenders had an arrest within five years that led to a conviction. The reconviction rate for federal offenders over the same length of time was 26.0 percent. When recidivism is measured by reincarceration, BJS found a 28.2 recidivism rate for state offenders within five years that led to an incarceration, compared to 20.7 percent of the federal offenders in the Commission’s study.

Time to First Recidivism Event

The measure of the time to first recidivism event can be useful in distinguishing offenders who recidivate early from those who eventually recidivate, but are apparently crime-free for a longer interval. Tracking the length of time to failure can also help policymakers determine an appropriate period of supervision after the release from prison, for example by extending supervision through the peak crime-prone interval. Time from release to first arrest is shown for all rearrests, reconvictions, and reincarcerations.

During the first year following release into the community, 16.6 percent of the offenders in the Commission’s study were rearrested for the first time. Each subsequent year fewer people were rearrested for the first time than in the previous year, going out to year seven. For example, 10.5 percent of the total were rearrested in the second year, and 6.6 percent of the total were rearrested in the third year. An additional 1.8 percent of offenders who were not previously arrested were rearrested in the eighth year, as demonstrated below.

 

Recidivism Table 2

 

Recidivism Figure 4

 

Most Serious Recidivism Offense

The Commission ranked new offenses in order of seriousness for those who reoffended. When considering only the “most serious” post-release offense committed by those who were rearrested, assault was the most prevalent. About one-fourth (23.3%) of those rearrested had an assault rearrest as their most serious post-release event over the study period. Other common “most serious” offenses were public order (15.5%), drug trafficking (11.5%), and larceny (7.7%).

 

Recidivism Figure 5

 

Recidivism and Criminal History

The relationship between prior criminal record and recidivism has been recognized by the Commission since its inception in the mid-1980s, as discussed in Chapter Four of the Guidelines Manual. Empirical research assessing correlates of recidivism and criminal career behavior was consulted in formulating the criminal history scoring system and recent research confirms this relationship. The previously referenced Commission study, Measuring Recidivism (2004), confirmed that Chapter Four’s criminal history provisions were working as designed, and recidivism rates rise as criminal history points increase and as Criminal History Categories increase. The present analysis confirms that these criminal history provisions continue to work as designed.

An offender’s total criminal history points, which determines the CHC to which the offender is assigned for the purpose of calculating the sentencing range under the guidelines, is designed in part to reflect recidivism potential. In order “to protect the public from further crimes of the particular defendant, the likelihood of recidivism and future criminal behavior must be considered.” Fully consistent with its previous recidivism studies, the Commission’s present study found that recidivism rates are most closely correlated with total criminal history points. For example, 30.2 percent of offenders with zero total criminal history points were rearrested within eight years, compared to 81.5 percent of offenders with more than 10 total criminal history points. In fact, each additional criminal history point is generally associated with a greater likelihood of recidivism. For example, the rearrest rate of offenders with three total criminal history points is 52.7 percent, compared to 59.4 percent for four point offenders. This pattern continues even at higher total points, with rearrest rates ranging from 71.1 percent (seven point offenders), 74.0 percent (eight point offenders), and 76.1 percent (nine point offenders).

 

Recidivism Figure 6

 

Because an offender’s criminal history score determines the CHC to which he or she is assigned, recidivism rates are also correlated with the CHC. That is, the higher the CHC (a result of more prior crimes and/or more serious crimes), the higher the recidivism rate. Rearrest rates ranged from a low of 33.8 percent for those in CHC I to a high of 80.1 percent for those in CHC VI.

Other guideline provisions that account for an offender’s prior crimes also serve as good predictors of future recidivism. For example, offenders designated under the guidelines as career offenders47 and armed career criminals48 receive substantially increased sentences because they are repeat offenders with serious criminal backgrounds. These offenders have substantially higher recidivism rates than other offenders in the study group. In fact, those two groups of offenders have the highest recidivism rates of any group in this report. Taken together, these offenders had a rearrest rate of 69.5 percent, compared to a rearrest rate of 48.7 percent for all other offenders.

 

Recidivism Figure 7A

 

Recidivism Figure 7B

 

The Commission did not find a strong correlation between the severity of the offender’s federal offense conduct, as determined under the sentencing guidelines, and future recidivism. Under the guidelines, the seriousness of an offender’s federal crime is measured by a final offense level score ranging from one to 43. There is not a strong correspondence between final offense level and recidivism. For example, offenders whose federal offense was assigned to the lowest final offense levels (one through eight) had a rearrest rate of 45.2 percent, almost the same rearrest rate as those assigned the highest final offense levels of 31 through 43 (45.7%). It should be noted, however, that the offense levels in the federal sentencing guidelines were intended to reflect multiple purposes of punishment, including just punishment and general deterrence (which are unrelated to offender recidivism).

Although the specific numerical offense severity determined under the sentencing guidelines appears to not be correlated with recidivism, the type of crime the offender committed does have some correlation with the risk of future crime. Offenders whose federal offense involved firearms were most likely to be rearrested (68.3%), followed by those arrested for robbery (67.3%), immigration (55.7%), drug trafficking (49.9%), larceny (44.4%), other (42.0%), and fraud (34.2%).

Offenders who received an enhanced sentence for a weapon, either through a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) or by application of a specific offense characteristic in the guidelines for having a weapon present during commission of a crime, had higher recidivism rates than other offenders. Offenders with such a weapon enhancement had a rearrest rate of 55.4 percent, compared to 48.6 percent for all other offenders.

 

Recidivism Figure 8

 

Offenders who were organizers, leaders, managers, or supervisors of an offense received an aggravating role adjustment of 2, 3, or 4 levels under the guidelines, increasing their total offense level. Those with such an aggravating role adjustment were less likely to recidivate than other offenders. Those receiving no adjustment (93.6 percent of all offenders in the study) had a rearrest rate of 50.2 percent. However, those receiving aggravating role adjustments had recidivism rates of: 37.3 percent (two level increase); 35.6 percent (three level increase); and 33.7 percent (four level increase).

Offenders who were found to have a minor or minimal role in an offense received a mitigating role adjustment of 2, 3, or 4 levels under the guidelines, decreasing their total offense level. Offenders in the study with such a mitigating role adjustment (10.6% of all offenders) were somewhat less likely to recidivate than other offenders. Those receiving no adjustment had a rearrest rate of 49.7 percent. However, those receiving mitigating role adjustments had recidivism rates of: 47.2 percent (two level decrease); 37.5 percent (three level decrease); and 43.6 percent (four level decrease).

An offender who demonstrates acceptance of responsibility for his offense can receive a reduction in offense level of 2 or 3 levels. The vast majority of all offenders in the Commission’s study (90.7%) received a reduction in their guideline range for acceptance of responsibility. Such an adjustment was not associated with lower recidivism rates. Offenders with no adjustment under §3E1.1 had a rearrest rate of 46.3 percent. Offenders who received a two-level decrease had a rearrest rate of 46.6 percent, and those with a three level decrease were higher still (50.9%).

 

Recidivism Figure 9

 

Recidivism and Sentences Imposed

Recidivism rates differ according to the type of sentence imposed. As previously noted, 81.2 percent of the study group were sentenced to some amount of imprisonment. These offenders had the highest rate of rearrest, 52.5 percent. Conversely, offenders sentenced to probationary sentences (18.8 percent of the study group) had a rearrest rate of 35.1 percent.

Offenders with shorter lengths of imprisonment generally had lower recidivism rates. For instance, offenders with sentences of imprisonment of fewer than six months had the lowest rearrest rate at 37.5 percent, followed by offenders with sentences from six to 11 months (50.8 percent), and 12 to fewer than 24 months (50.8%). Conversely, the highest recidivism rates are generally found among offenders with longer sentences. Those with sentences from 60 months to fewer than 120 months had the highest rate (55.5%), followed closely by those with 24 to fewer than 60 months (54.0%), and 120 months or more (51.8%).

The correlation between sentence type and length and recidivism is not, of course, entirely a coincidence. The guidelines are intended, in part, to incapacitate offenders whose criminal records indicate a greater risk of future criminality. Those with prison sentences are incapacitated in a manner that those receiving no term of incarceration are not, and those receiving longer terms of incarceration as a result of their higher CHCs are also at greater risk of recidivism than those receiving no incarceration or a shorter period of incarceration who generally had lower CHCs.

The most common length of supervised release imposed for those offenders who received terms of supervised release to follow their terms of imprisonment was 36 months. Offenders ordered to serve a term of supervised release of three years were the majority of offenders, and this group had the highest rearrest rate, 55.4 percent. The lowest rearrest rate was found among offenders serving a term of supervised release of ten years or more (42.7%), and the second lowest rate occurred with offenders serving two year terms (46.8%).

 

Recidivism Figure 10

 

Recidivism and Offender Characteristics

Studies have repeatedly shown that older offenders at sentencing are at lower risk for reoffending, and the Commission’s research confirms these findings.56 Offenders sentenced when younger than twenty-one had a 71.1 percent rearrest rate, compared to 14.0 percent of offenders who are sentenced after age sixty.

Age at release also is associated with different rates of recidivism. Those released into the community who were below age twenty-one had the highest rearrest rate, 67.6 percent. Conversely, those oldest at age of release, over sixty years old, had the lowest recidivism rate, 16.0 percent. For each age grouping shown below, the older the age group, the lower the rearrest rate. The same pattern holds for reconviction and reincarceration.

 

Recidivism Figure 11

 

Male offenders (52.2%) were rearrested at higher rates than females (36.4%).

Eight years after release into the community, Black offenders had been arrested at the highest rates (59.1%), followed by Other Race (49.4%), Hispanic (49.1%), and White (41.7%) offenders. However, the apparent relationship between race/ethnicity and recidivism is much less pronounced if the prior criminal history of these offenders is also examined. For offenders assigned to higher CHCs, recidivism results are similar, regardless of race or ethnicity. Rearrest rates for White, Black, and Hispanic offenders in CHC IV are 69.7 percent, 77.6 percent, and 75.4 percent, respectively. At CHC V for the same three groups, the rearrest rates are 75.6, 78.5, and 79.9 percent, respectively. At CHC VI for the same three groups, the rearrest rates are 77.1, 82.4, and 79.3 percent, respectively. Much of the difference in overall recidivism rates appears to be the result of the differing proportion of Black offenders in CHC I (38.9%), compared to White offenders (59.7%) and Hispanic offenders (62.2%).

Education levels are also associated with different rates of recidivism. Offenders with less than a high school diploma had the highest recidivism rates (60.4%), followed by high school graduates (50.7%) and those with some college (39.3%). College graduates had the lowest rates (19.1%).

 

Recidivism Figure 12

 

Conclusion

The study of recidivism by federal offenders directly relates to multiple statutory purposes of punishment as set forth in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Using automated criminal history data, the Commission tracked 25,431 federal offenders who either discharged a federal prison sentence or commenced a term of probation in 2005 during an eight-year follow-up period. The Commission found that almost one-half of these federal offenders who reentered the community in 2005 (49.3%) were rearrested for a new crime or rearrested for a violation of supervision conditions during the follow-up period.

The Commission found that, consistent with existing research, two factors – offenders’ criminal histories and their ages at the time of release into the community – were most closely associated with differences in recidivism rates. Younger offenders recidivated at significantly higher rates than older offenders, and offenders with more extensive criminal histories recidivated at significantly higher rates than offenders with lesser criminal histories. Regarding criminal history in particular, the Commission found that an offenders’ total criminal history points, as determined under Chapter Four of the Commission’s Guidelines Manual, were closely correlated with recidivism rates.

Other factors, including educational achievement and offense type, also were associated with differences in recidivism rates, but less so than age and criminal history. Certain factors related to provisions in Chapters Two and Three of the Guidelines Manual – including adjustments in an offender’s offense level as well as the total offense level – were not associated with differences in rates of recidivism. However, unlike Chapter Four’s provisions – which were based in large part on recidivism data – the guideline’s offense level computations are based on several purposes of punishment, some of which are unrelated to recidivism, including general deterrence and retributivist concerns.

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