By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I’m headed back to my second week of school this week and let me tell you, it has taken me all weekend to recover from week one!  Not that anything went wrong, but it does take all of one’s energy to lay down a good foundation for the semester in that first week.

Just some quick bits and updates this week:

The Classroom Library Project:  as most of you are aware, I started a Classroom Library in my tenth grade ELA room this year with the belief that kids will read when they have choice.   Additionally, the Louisiana version of Common Core stripped all novels from our curriculum and we read a whole lot of non-fiction speeches and articles.  So, I’m trying to restore balance.  At the end of day one, ten students had checked out books.  It was glorious.  By the end of day three, my entire fourth block spent the last twenty minutes of class Friday reading from their books.  Everyone had a book of their own choice and was reading.  I’m very optimistic about what we can accomplish this year!  I spent the entire day Saturday setting up Reader’s Notebooks to give to my students this week.  Thanks to everyone who sent us books and remember, the Wish List is continuously updating!

Currently Reading:  A friend recommended The Sun Does Rise by Anthony Ray Hinton.  I downloaded it on my Kindle (during an especially dull in-service last week) and have not been able to put it down.  Anthony Ray Hinton did thirty years on Alabama’s death row for a crime he did not commit.  He is a thoroughly engaging writer and I am saving the last sixty pages of this book for later today when I can read straight through.

Confederate Monuments:  A couple of articles have popped up on my radar about Confederate monuments this week: this AP article and then the New York Times has a piece as well.  Removal of the monuments in NOLA hasn’t seemed to have restored peace and unity there or solved the city’s other issues as far as I can tell.  The battle over the Confederate monument in Shreveport is still ongoing and the Daughters of the Confederacy is still raising money to save their monument and plead their case.  One takeaway from the NYT piece is that not all these reminders of the Civil War can be removed, which begs the point, to me, why even try to erase or sanitize history?  Let’s just educate.

What People are Talking About:  Prison reform.  Here in Louisiana we are hearing lots of discussion about Governor John Bel Edwards reform package that has released thousands of inmates in an attempt to lower incarceration rates.  The Edwards camp says it has been a success but not everyone, including U.S. Senator John Kennedy, agrees.  At least two have been re-arrested and charged with murder.  The plan might have looked good on paper and may be saving the state money, but the problem seems to be that the education and training programs were not all in place when the doors to the prisons opened.  It will be interesting to watch the recidivism numbers over the next months.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

Visiting the Imprisoned one of the corporal works of mercy

[I was] in prison and you visited me

Matthew 25:36c

There was an interesting story at ABC (via Instapundit) that jumped out at me this morning concerning President Trump’s relationship with the Black community vs President Obama‘s.

“This is probably the most pro-active administration regarding urban America and the faith-based community in my lifetime,” Scott told the group, adding, “This is probably going be … the most pro-black president that we’ve had in our lifetime.”

A black pastor saying Donald Trump the most pro black president we’ve had in our lifetime?  How is that possible?  The article continues

He compared Trump to his predecessor, Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, and said: “This president actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community.”

In other words Trump as a leader is trying to serve the black community.  Sounds like he’s taking advice from Christ:

Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:25-28

And what’s the best way to serve a person who has been in prison, help him find work to support himself once he’s out.

Trump told the group, which included pastors and bishops from across the country, that his administration has been making progress on efforts to make it easier for prisoners to re-enter society and find work.

“When we say hire American, we mean all Americans,” Trump said.

But what about Barack Obama?  Didn’t he care about the back community and feel compelled to serve them?   Pastor Scott again:

“The last president didn’t feel like he had to,” he added, saying of Obama: “He got a pass.”

That sound odd to say the least.  Who can we explain that kind of attitude toward a community that voted for him overwhelmingly?  The answer again is Christ:

Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?  Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’?  Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?  So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

Luke 17:7-10

Put simply during his presidency Barack Obama saw that black community as his servants who owed him fidelity as existed to serve him politically as was his due as the first black president.  In contrast Donald Trump seeks to gain the support of the black community as a leader and thus is willing to serve to earn that support and it worth noting that the prison community is the least likely to provide votes as in many states ex-cons with felony conviction are not eligible to vote.

Donald Trump is putting the last first, you can’t get more biblical than that, and people wonder what the community of faith support him.



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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Well, that didn’t take long.

Tyrone White, a convicted car burglar who was released early under Louisiana’s new free-the-criminals criminal justice overall, has been re-arrested.  White was out of jail only five days before he picked up a gun and robbed a construction worker in Kenner, Louisiana.  He is now back in jail.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry commented:

“Gov. (John Bel) Edwards’ staffer, (corrections secretary) James LeBlanc, indicated we needed to give the ‘reforms’ time to work,” said the release from Citizens for Louisiana Job Creators. “Perhaps we could suggest that anyone who has SIXTY FOUR counts of burglary NOT be set free when Governor Edwards and the Department of Corrections decides to let the next batch of 1,500+ criminals out of jail on Dec. 1.

“As we said last week, lock your doors and, as U.S. Senator (John) Kennedy has suggested, ‘You ought to own a handgun just in case.’ “

Wait, he said sixty-four counts of burglary?!

Tyrone White has a 40-page criminal history in Jefferson Parish alone.  Is he an outlier?  Is he an early-release candidate that slipped through the cracks and should never have been released?  Who knows.  Who knows how many more Tyrone Whites are walking around right now, free, due to this new legislation package?

In the spring, in order to address Louisiana’s high incarceration rate, the Edwards administration pushed a sweeping criminal justice reform package:

Most significantly, the package of bills aims to overhaul sentencing in the state criminal codes. The package will reduce mandatory minimums, trim sentences and give some inmates access to parole eligibility sooner. It creates a medical furlough program, which allows the sickest inmates to temporarily receive treatment off site, and be eligible for Medicaid, which saves the state on medical costs. The package overhauls drug sentencing, allowing lighter sentences based on weights, and streamlines the state’s many incongruous theft penalties. One bill in the package will limit how often juvenile offenders can receive life without parole sentences.

The measure also expands prison alternatives, like drug court, and expand safety nets for people getting out of jail and returning to their communities, by reducing their financial burdens and helping them have better access to jobs. Another bill will help improve the way victims are notified when offenders have parole hearings or are released.

In this first wave of early release, nearly 2,000 prisoners were set free.  Another wave comes in a couple of weeks.

It is not surprising that the law enforcement community is unhappy about many of these changes.  It means they have to deal with the Tyrone Whites again and again.  And some law enforcement officials are making it known that the numbers of criminals on early release are much higher than what is being officially reported.

The early release provision indicates that “non-violent offenders” are the only prisoners eligible for early release.  In all likelihood, the construction worker on the other end of Tyrone White’s gun last week would beg to differ.

There’s nothing wrong with criminal justice reform and truly low level offenders perhaps deserve a second look and a chance of early release.  But these candidates must be carefully screened and evaluated to ensure their chances of success and assimilation back into society.  What tools are we giving them to ensure they can find jobs and avoid recidivism?

Tyrone White won’t be the only one of the early released to return to jail.  But perhaps he will serve a cautionary purpose in ensuring that those who are released in the coming months are given a second look.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.