Ex-Felons Returning Back to the Community Term Paper

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Reintegration of Ex-Felons

Although the paradigms of public administration have undergone considerable scrutiny and some evolution, particularly over the past several decades, there is merit in considering the historical paradigms with respect to public administration as an academic and scientific discipline. Paradigm 2, The Principles of Administration, circa 1927 to 1937, serves as the springboard for this discussion. In Henry's words, "Thus the focus of the field -- its essential expertise in the form of administrative principles -- waxed [in the 1930s and early 1940s], while no one thought seriously about its focus. Indeed the locus of public administration was everywhere because principles were principles and administration was administration" (Henry, 1795, p. 380). By the time a decade had passed, Herb Simon had eschewed the traditional foundations of public administration and presented his own version of a new paradigm for the discipline. Simon seized on the idea that "there ought to be two kinds of public administrations working in harmony and reciprocal intellectual stimulation" (Henry, 1795, p. 381). One group of scholars would concern themselves with "a pure science of administration" that was informed by social psychology. A second and larger group of scholars would focus on "prescribing for public policy" (Simon cited in Henry, 1795, p. 381). In one fell swoop, by marrying the two organically reinforcing approaches "a pure science of administration" and "prescribing for public policy," Simon resurrected the unstylish and neglected field of political economy. "There does not appear to be any reason why these two developments in the field of public administration should not go side-by-side, for they in now way conflict or contradict" (Simon cited in Henry, 1795, p. 381). The idea that social psychology could be used to explain and inform administrative behavior was "foreign and discomfiting" to scholars both in public administration scholars and in political science. After all, if public administration were to be a pure science, then it would ostensibly be value free. To public administrators, this was like being untethered in outer space. They feared they were plummeting into an engineering mentality and that they would be severed from "their richest sources of inquiry: normative political theory, the concept of public interest, and the entire spectrum of human values" (Henry, 1795, p. 381). Moreover, the linkage to political theory was also an association with public policymaking -- the black box of public administration (Henry, 1795). It was sufficient, according to the public administration scholars of the day, to frame the inputs and outputs of public policymaking within the parent discipline of political science (Henry, 1795). One didn't really need to resort to social psychology to inform public administration when the political science was adequately concerned with the dynamics originating with the demos -- the polity or society -- that were the catalysts for social and political change (Henry, 1795).

Public policy enables the study and characterization of the transactions between policymakers, public administrators, and citizens / society (Hughs, 2003). Economists tend to use term public policy to refer to economic models and methods that are used in government (Hughs, 2003). Usage has broadened, however, and two approaches to public policy are commonly differentiated: Policy analysis and political public policy (Hughs, 2003). Those who practice policy analysis have tended to uphold and commit to the traditional models that rely on mathematical models and abstract statistics to inform decision-making and policy development (Hughs, 2003). Theorists interested in political public policy tend to focus on the outcomes or results of policy implementation (Hughs, 2003). For example, the results of public policy enacted through political influence and activity, and particularly in policy areas such as education, environment, health, and welfare (Hughs, 2003). Statistical methods and models are of less interest than outcomes, and from this, one can deduce that there is general dissatisfaction from the polity with regard to exaggerated concern with administrative process (Hughs, 2003). Public policy is central to the discussion in literature review that is located in the study of post-incarceration status of ex-felons in community settings.

The work of sociologist Becky Pettit leads this literature review section because it provides a backdrop against which all other literature on the reintegration of ex-felons must be held. In Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, Pettit delineates the evidence showing that as millions of black men have disappeared into U.S. penal systems, their representative numbers have all but vanished from the statistics collected by lawmakers, social institutions, and federal agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau. Consideration of the inmate population is evident only in criminal justice research or social science studies related to crime (Pettit, 2012). Yet, at some time in their lives, roughly 70% of young black me will be imprisoned. Indeed, for those African-American men who have not earned high school diplomas, being incarcerated is a more common experience than is employment (Pettit, 2012). With correctional budgets focused on inmate monitoring and housing, job training and rehabilitation -- comparatively -- are given short shrift (Pettit, 2012). As members of this teaming population of invisible men exits prisons, they are fundamentally not equipped or prepared to participate in society upon release (Pettit, 2012).

Reports of the social gains of the post-Civil Rights era are distorted by the approaches used for data collection and data analysis (Pettit, 2012). Most national studies of economic, political, and social conditions do not include prison inmates in their demographic bases (Pettit, 2012). This massive misrepresentation of data has effectively concealed decades of racial inequality that is overwhelmingly skewed toward poor black men with low educational levels (Pettit, 2012). The impact of this mass incarceration of poor blacks has been to undermine fair political representation and allocation of public resources. The widespread and enduring disadvantage of African-Americans is concealed from public view and statistical consideration. An inability to fund studies that examine the family backgrounds and communities from which ex-inmates hail, and -- importantly -- what happens to them after they are incarcerated -- further deprives the children of inmates by excusing efforts to remedy the conditions that contributed to policy problem in the first place.

Indeed, research has nailed down an average time for recidivism of about three years from release -- a time period in which nearly two-thirds of ex-offenders are once again imprisoned (Brown, 2011). Brown (2011) details the employment / re-employment issues faced ex-offenders. The primary obstacle is the consistent failure of ex-offenders to find rewarding, steady work and the sort of economic resources that have a stabilizing influence over individuals' lives (Brown, 2011). Brown's analysis, conducted against a background of high national unemployment, is comprehensive and includes discussion about the legal limitations, ex-offender bias and stigma, inadequate skill development, a dearth of training opportunities, low education levels (Brown, 2011). Low interest by employers in hiring ex-offenders is often the target of public policy, that include provisions for bonding workers, tax credits, and other incentives (Brown, 2011). Brown uses a public policy frame for his vocational rehabilitation research, arguing "the field of vocational psychology is distinctively qualified to assume a greater presence in the scholarly literature relevant to the vocational needs of ex-offenders" (Brown, 2011, p. ¶1).

Thompson (2004) discusses the political and social trends that have driven up incarceration rates in recent decades, and the matter of a multiple-decade lack of governmental response to the policy problem. He explores the economic, legal, and social challenges to reintegration for ex-offenders and for the communities in which they locate (Thompson, 2004). Actions taken by reentry courts in recent years include transition assistance, support, and supervision of ex-offenders in re-integration process. The relevance of Thompson's position and argument is borne out in the demonstration projects such as the one described below.

The U.S. Department of Labor provided $20.5 million in a fifth round of grant funds for the development of an…[continue]

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