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We all know that people who commit crime are a great danger to our families, friends, values and society.  It helps to know, therefore, that these dangers can be overcome.  We do not need to have more victims of crime.

In 1986, a young economics professor in Bangladesh helped lift 42 women out of desperate poverty.  The women and the people in their village were dying because of a famine and the economic system could not help them.  So the economics professor reached into his own pocket and made them the equivalent of a $27 loan.  The women purchased materials, made and sold furniture at a profit.  With hard work, ingenuity, and skill the women turned the $27 into a sustainable business for themselves and their families.  The women then repaid the loan in full.  Today, over 2 million people are lifting themselves out of poverty and paying back their small or micro loans to the Grameen Bank.  The professor, Muhammad Yunus, started the Grameen bank after working with the 42 women.  Mr. Yunus won the Nobel peace prize in 2006.

What if there were a $27 solution to lifting people out of crime?  I believe there is such a $27 solution.  After more than 20 years of experience and research in corrections, I know that prisons and good correctional officers and staff can stop some people from committing crime for a time.  Prisons, however, do not stop everyone and they are currently not very effective at lifting people out of crime on a permanent basis.  Prisons also come at an enormous and unsustainable cost to society – over $60 billion each year for the US correctional system – that takes much needed money away from investment in children, families, education, roads, parks and businesses.

We need new $27 solutions.  Such solutions are available now, they are evidence-based and they build on what is already good about our correctional system.  These $27 solutions, however, also transform corrections and make it much less expensive and much more effective, humane and just.  In the weeks and months to come I will lay out these $27 approaches.  I will show the many ways in which we can and are transforming our correctional system.  Please join with me as I make this journey.

Tom O’Connor, Ph.D., October, 2010

3 Responses to “A $27 Solution for Lifting People Out of Crime”

  1. Bill Sawyer

    Great start Tom! I hope you will get into the critical importance of having well-trained, progressive-minded upper and mid-level managers in organizations to promote EBP, and more importantly, to hire the type of individuals who grasp concepts of EBP, are caring, can build rapport and motivate clients. In fact, hiring retired teachers with the right personality traits could be a much better choice than focusing on hiring young, law-enforcement minded folks straight out of college or the military, which is usually the case. How many excellent treatment programs are affected in a negative way by PO’s or corrections staff who do not support treatment, do not model pro-social behavior, or insult the treatment process in various ways through their own actions? How many PO’s and other staff have been repeatedly trained in EBP but refuse to use the principles and are not held accountable for doing what research and common decency shows is the right way to do business? None of the training will have any impact on the wrong staff, especially without staff accountability and progressive-minded managers. Enjoy your new adventure! Keep in touch and take care, Bill

  2. Malcolm L. Rigsby

    Wishing you all the success in a project that is so instrumental to our continued existence as a diverse people in multicultural relationships. What Unnus and other groups, such as Kiva, have done to help overcome poverty and open up pathways of life for folk around the world is to be commended. The project you envision seems to be one of helping people establish their identity in a community of both local and global dimensions. This is a fabulous goal.

  3. Tim Cayton

    Tom, It is wonderful seeing you continue your work and the way you persistently posing the questions “What is it?”, “Is it true?”, “Is it good?” and “Is it loving?” Not only is there a need to incorporate evidence-based practice in the field of corrections but a higher responsibility, perhaps one that will be forced upon us by by economic pressure, to do things in corrections more effectively and, at the same time, more ethically and morally responsible. We continue to reach the goal year after year of getting criminals off the street and out of society but we fail horribly in our mission of helping them change their thinking or behavior, avoid future crime and develop into healthyly and productive citizens. I look forward to working closely with you as you pursue the goal of transforming corrections. It is a mission worth all our efforts.


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