By Tommy Davis, Master Chaplain
Broken Windows and Broken Lives Can be Repaired
Terry O’Neill, an attorney in Albany New York, wrote an impressive essay in the Rochester New York Democrat and Chronicle in support of aiding prison inmates upon their return to society. While the prison inmate must utilize the available programs during incarceration, the community must allow the former inmate to benefit from their transformation and assist such ones in becoming responsible citizens. This goes for parole officials who must correctly supervise those under their jurisdiction and abide by the statutes set forth by the department of correctional services. Some people do not desire a change of lifestyle, but there are some who are determined to re-enter society and begin a new life without crime— not to be met with unjust officials and employment discrimination based on criminal history rather than presumed rehabilitation.
Incarceration provides for the inmate a hostile environment and economic retardation that puts the ex-inmate at a disadvantage in contending for legal survival. The initial purpose of the work release program adopted by the criminal justice system was to allow a non-shockable transition from a controlled environment with little responsibility to an accountable free society where one must earn three meals a day.Prisoners have the sole responsibility to imbibe a lifestyle acceptable to society, but these same people become discouraged when a system impedes their progress and acts hypocritically towards any advancement. This leads to crime as a retaliatory measure and costs taxpayers millions.
Crime must be dealt with in the most shrewd degree, but the system will not work unless its own laws are enforced across the board by holding every public official and employer accountable by adhering to their oath of office and code of ethics. We must adopt strategies that have proven to work in reducing crime such as the “Broken Windows” police and neighborhood strategy introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling 25 years ago. Kelling, a social scientist and criminologist, who is a confirmed authority in the area of criminal justice believes that the focus should be crime prevention through Order Maintenance in creating an environment not favorable to criminal activity. This includes more interaction between police and residents and the repairing of dilapidated properties.
The “Broken Windows” strategy focuses on minor offenses and puts large numbers of uniformed police in public places to maintain order and deter crime to keep our cities free of illegal action. Any level of disorder must be dealt with or it will amplify to major crimes because of the level of tolerance. William Bratton, who served as chief of New York City’s transit police implemented Broken Windows in the early nineties and increased transit ridership by significantly reducing crime.
A few years later, as New York’s top cop under Rudy Giuliani, Bratton executed the same program and saw a 65 percent decrease in major crime in Gotham under Giuliani’s reign. New York City saw a great success by preventing over 60,000 violent crimes between 1989 and 1998 as a result of this policing approach according to Kelling. If we direct resources to support “Broken Windows” policing (Quality of Life/ Prevention), and the Police Activities League (PAL) geared towards our youth, our crime ridden cities can experience a civic and economic revival and a major decline in all transgressions.