Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bailey big on felon work-release program in Maine

[Partially culled from an online article by Greg Davis, Sun Media Wire, with my own comments at the end-JB]

F. Lee Bailey, best known for his high-profile legal cases, was in Farmington this morning, speaking to the Farmington Rotary Club at its monthly breakfast. Like his other appearances in Portland and Waterville, speaking on an important and timely topic, this meeting was well-attended, as The Grainery Restaurant was packed.

With ties to Maine including trips to the state during childhood, Bailey is currently serving as a marketing and project development director for Oxford Aviation, which he said is currently looking for a new home at the closing Naval Air Station in Brunswick.

Bailey is advocating an "Amicas" (misspelled by the reporter) or friend-of-the-court system for Maine that is similar to one developed in Minnesota 30 years ago, which has reduced that state's rate of repeating felons from 75 percent to 25 percent, because the program paroles an inmate to the custody of a businessperson, who is motivated to see that the inmate does not fail or reoffend. Other employees in the business are also urged to help make sure the employee succeeds, Bailey said.

I left the house at 5:30 this morning to drive to Farmington to meet Bailey, and hear his presentation. I think Bailey's ideas are sound. It is extremely costly to house a prisoner in Maine (Bailey said $65,000 per year, I think around $45,000 is more accurate) and it makes sense to find a way to cut down on the rate of recidivism, particularly if the program is as effective as he claims it to be, cutting recidivism by 25 percent.

Like most great ideas, the devil's in the details, and the real test is rolling this out first on a pilot basis, building employer support for the program.

Much of the work to create and grow a program in its infancy is a lot like grassroots activism. It's what has been required with WorkReady, and it's one of the reasons the program, now in its third year, has grown from a local pilot in Lewiston, to where it is now a statewide program, recognized by over 50 employers.

Ben Hanstein, a reporter for The Daily Bulldog, a local online newsite in Franklin County penned this article about Bailey's appearance at the Rotary breakfast.

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