One commentator says private employers can take action now to reduce the downstream effects on people who were formerly incarcerated. ban the box

One commentator says private employers can take action now to reduce the downstream effects on people who were formerly incarcerated.

This decade may mark one of the most significant shifts in popular thinking about criminal justice issues. Those shifts implicate every stage of the process, from policing, to charging and sentencing, to release terms, and to those many invisible penalties often visited on formerly incarcerated people.

There is no monolithic view of these topics. But there does appear to be growing consensus that a mass-incarceration and lifetime-penalty approach has not served society well.

Another example of that came in Saturday’s Arizona Republic, where attorney Mark Holden penned an op-ed recommending that private companies voluntarily adopt ban-the-box in their hiring practices.

Don’t know what ban-the-box is? Here’s Mark:

Mark Holden, GC and SVP of Koch Industries

Mark Holden, GC and SVP of Koch Industries

“Right now, most employers require job-seekers to check a box on an application if they have any criminal record. Too often, this can function as an automatic ‘application denied’ for individuals with a blemish in their past.”

“Nationwide, some 650,000 incarcerated individuals rejoin society every year, and they desperately need jobs to help them transition back into society and to provide for themselves and their families. But the criminal record box often shuts them out of the job market before they can get a foot in the door.”

You can read his entire piece here.

(In an awkward headline difference: The print version is titled simply “Ban the Box: Have You Ever Been Convicted of a Crime?” Meantime, the online version has the pretty inflammatory headline “Arizona businesses should hire felons (or at least stop immediately asking them about their records)” Um, not quite, Arizona Republic. But nice try.)

What makes this especially interesting is Mark’s day job—he is the general counsel and senior vice president for Koch Industries. Yes, that Koch Industries, of the famed and very conservative Koch Brothers.

Felony convictions have a significant and long-lasting effect on the economy.

Felony convictions have a significant and long-lasting effect on the economy.

Understand, as Holden makes clear, Ban the Box does not mean employers entirely omit the felony question from the hiring process. But instead of being asked the moment an applicant begins the process, the question is delayed until later in the process—by which time an employer may have found that the person’s skills and personality are a great match for the firm.

This stance is another indicator that the chasm between viewpoints may be shrinking a bit between civil libertarians and those concerned about the massive costs society incurs when incarceration effects continue long after a person is released from prison.

If you have a view into the downstream effects of incarceration, I’d like to talk to you for a possible story. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Ideas worth sharing: Just say No.

Ideas worth sharing: Just say No.

How good are we all at saying No to things? Pretty darned good, I’ve discovered—at least when it comes to things that are satisfying and fulfilling. But the other stuff? We let people pile it on.

That was one of my takeaways when I presented on The Power of No. It was this past Friday, and the opportunity came to me from the great folks at the Arizona Society of Association Executives (I know; it’s fun to say).

Here’s my session description:

“Leadership requires making decisions that affect people and resources. But how do we make those important decisions? How do we sustain an ethical workplace and deal with the many pressures to do all things and be all things for our members and the public? Sometimes the best answer lies in resisting the urge to say Yes.”

As well-placed “No” is one of my favorite words evah, So I thought the topic and I were a pretty good fit. The more I dug into it, of course, the more I saw how much I had to learn about No. I mean, our inability to Give Good No—in the workplace or in the wider world—has deep roots.

But with time and practice, I urged the association leaders, every one of us can develop the muscle to say No when necessary. The soundness of our organizations and our own sanity occasionally demand it.

Here are a few photos from the event (click to biggify), held at the beautiful Falls event center in Gilbert, Arizona. And a special thank you to the very funny Jeremy Arp, Executive Director of the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, for his kind introduction.

A new report from an Arizona Supreme Court task force explores the costs of pretrial penalties, fees, and cash-bail policies. jail Tent City Maricopa County

A new report from an Arizona Supreme Court task force explores the costs of pretrial penalties, fees, and cash-bail policies.

“Who pays?” could be the underlying theme for a new report out of the Arizona Supreme Court task force Fair Justice for All. One of the vital topics it examines is the inequities that may exist in a system of cash bail for those awaiting trial.

An Arizona Republic story describes the task force report. One of the report’s recommendations would be to move toward a risk-assessment approach in terms of bail. Already in use in some other states, the assessment would determine an individual’s danger to the community and his likelihood to return for hearings and trial. Critics say the current system more accurately assesses the depth of a defendant’s bank account than the more relevant questions.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealThe task force ultimately made 65 recommendations. The full report is here, and more detail about the report and its process is here. As you’ll see, the report examines the effects of court fines, fees, and penalties, as well as pretrial release policies.

I’m currently in conversation with a potential author who would write an article for Arizona Attorney explaining what this all means. More to come.

Of course, I previously wrote about another groundbreaking report titled “Who Pays?” It was created by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. At that time, I spoke with the Center’s Zach Norris about the “true cost to families of incarceration.”

You should read that report here, as it well examines the additional penalties that follow a previously incarcerated person after release and return to the community. That is the other side of a coin being written by the Arizona Supreme Court, about the cost of pretrial penalties.

A graph offers data on how many unconvicted individuals are held in the Maricopa County jail system awaiting trial.

A graph offers data on how many unconvicted individuals are held in the Maricopa County jail system awaiting trial.

Philip Levine

Philip Levine

Yes, before you ask: I do know that Labor Day was yesterday. But as you and other smart readers were relaxing, maybe attending a parade—and NOT reading legal blogs—I waited until today to share a post on the topic.

Today, I urge you to read the remarkable poem “What Work Is,” by Philip Levine. To read more of his poetry, go here, and to read the work of many other poets, go to the Poetry Foundation website.

Here is Philip:

 

We stand in the rain in a long line

waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.

You know what work is—if you’re

old enough to read this you know what

work is, although you may not do it.

Forget you. This is about waiting,

shifting from one foot to another.

Feeling the light rain falling like mist

into your hair, blurring your vision

until you think you see your own brother

ahead of you, maybe ten places.

You rub your glasses with your fingers,

and of course it’s someone else’s brother,

narrower across the shoulders than

yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin

that does not hide the stubbornness,

the sad refusal to give in to

rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,

to the knowledge that somewhere ahead

a man is waiting who will say, “No,

we’re not hiring today,” for any

reason he wants. You love your brother,

now suddenly you can hardly stand

the love flooding you for your brother,

who’s not beside you or behind or

ahead because he’s home trying to

sleep off a miserable night shift

at Cadillac so he can get up

before noon to study his German.

What Work Is book cover by Philip LevineWorks eight hours a night so he can sing

Wagner, the opera you hate most,

the worst music ever invented.

How long has it been since you told him

you loved him, held his wide shoulders,

opened your eyes wide and said those words,

and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never

done something so simple, so obvious,

not because you’re too young or too dumb,

not because you’re jealous or even mean

or incapable of crying in

the presence of another man, no,

just because you don’t know what work is.

Philip Levine, “What Work Is” from What Work Is. Copyright © 1992 by Philip Levine

Florence Project logo 25 yearsTonight, I’ll be attending a great annual event: the Pro Bono Appreciation and Awards evening hosted by the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

It starts at 5:30, at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in downtown Phoenix. I hope to see you there.

Down below, I list those who will be honored tonight. They truly deserve the thanks of all of us for the work they do.

But before I get to those names: If we needed another example of how important the Project’s work is, a recent story from the New York Times provides it. It’s titled “It’s Children Versus Federal Lawyers in Immigration Court,” and you should read it here.

As the Project’s Executive Director, Lauren Dasse, points out in an email to supporters:

“I’m happy to share that the Florence Project’s work representing children was featured in last Sunday’s New York Times! These days, it seems that the only national news attention to immigration issues revolves around campaign promises. That’s why it was refreshing to hear from a reporter who wanted to write a story about immigrant and refugee children who have no right to government provided legal representation. I gladly shared about the Florence Project’s work, and about how we support efforts to increase representation for all immigrants in detention—men, women, and children.”

Lauren Dasse Executive Director The Florence Project

Lauren Dasse, Executive Director, The Florence Project

“The article focuses on a 15-year-old boy from El Salvador, whose dramatic story of escaping gang violence is one we hear from hundreds of children that we have helped over recent years. The article gives an overview of what children face in immigration court, if they can’t afford a lawyer, and how even children are expected to represent themselves. The boy was afraid to speak for himself in court, but he met a Florence Project attorney who offered assistance. Thankfully, we are able to represent him and he won’t have to go to court alone again.”

“We are closely following the efforts in federal court to obtain the right to government-provided counsel. In the meantime, we will continue our important work providing know your rights presentations, legal intakes, legal representation, and doing all we can to connect children and adults with lawyers.”

The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos Yarnell Hill Fire Granite Mountain Hotshots(It’s worth noting that the reporter on the article is Fernanda Santos, who also serves as the Times’ Arizona bureau chief. If her name sounds familiar for another reason, it may be due to her exemplary coverage of the Yarnell Hill Fire that took the lives of 19 firefighters. She later turned her breaking-news coverage into a moving and informative book about those men and the families they left behind. It’s titled The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and One of the Deadliest Days in American Firefighting, and I recommend it. You can read more about it and her here.)

Here, finally, are the names of the attorneys and firms to be honored tonight (photos down below):

  • Law Firm Partner of the Year: Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Anthony Pelino, Esq., Law Office of Anthony Pelino
  • Rookie Pro Bono of the Year: Adam Kaplan, Esq., Honeywell International Inc.
  • Adult Program Pro Bono of the Year: Lilia Alvarez, Esq., Alvarez Law PLC
  • Children’s Program Pro Bono of the Year: Brian Kim, Esq., Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP
  • Pro Bono All-Star: Sambo Dul, Esq., Perkins Coie LLP

If you can’t attend this evening but you know these folks, be sure to reach out with congratulations and thanks.

 

Finis: Our icon for the My Last Word column in Arizona Attorney Magazine

Finis: Our icon for the My Last Word column

On this last day of August, I pause to praise a piece of writing in our July/August issue—and to praise the column it inhabits.

Longtime readers of Arizona Attorney Magazine will know that the name of our occasional back-page column is “The Last Word”—so named when we have one of our three primary columnists writing.

But we also invite any attorney—or non-attorney—to write a single column when the mood strikes them. On those months, we call the column “My Last Word.” And it has become one of my favorite places in the magazine.

I think I enjoy the surprise and discovery, as multiple people inevitably have inevitable viewpoints.

In that space, we have had people write on all sorts of things. And this month, attorney Gary Fry muses on—the act of musing. He wonders—as we should—whether we take enough time to do exactly that. Or are we too caught up in the minutiae of daily life to pause and reflect.

You can read his essay here. And if you want, you then can start at the other end of the issue; here’s the first page. Enjoy.

Gary also reminds me how much I enjoy the incredible photography of Jeff Wall. Here is a story about him and his process.

One piece of his I enjoy very much is called “Picture for Women,” which takes the dialogue about “the male gaze” in a decidedly modern direction. Here it is:

Picture for Women, by Jeff Wall (via Wikimedia Commons)

Picture for Women, by Jeff Wall (via Wikimedia Commons)

Here is a description of the work, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Picture for Women is a 142.5 × 204.5 cm cibachrome transparency mounted on a lightbox. Along with The Destroyed Room, Wall considers Picture for Women to be his first success in challenging photographic tradition. According to Tate Modern, this success allows Wall to reference “both popular culture (the illuminated signs of cinema and advertising hoardings) and the sense of scale he admires in classical painting. As three-dimensional objects, the lightboxes take on a sculptural presence, impacting on the viewer’s physical sense of orientation in relationship to the work.”

There are two figures in the scene, Wall himself, and a woman looking into the camera. In a profile of Wall in the The New Republic, art critic Jed Perl describes Picture for Women as Wall’s signature piece, “since it doubles as a portrait of the late-twentieth-century artist in his studio.” Art historian David Campany calls Picture for Women an important early work for Wall as it establishes central themes and motifs found in much of his later work.

A response to Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère, the Tate Modern wall text for Picture of Women, from the 2005–2006 exhibition Jeff Wall Photographs 1978–2004, outlines the influence of Manet’s painting:

“In Manet’s painting, a barmaid gazes out of frame, observed by a shadowy male figure. The whole scene appears to be reflected in the mirror behind the bar, creating a complex web of viewpoints. Wall borrows the internal structure of the painting, and motifs such as the light bulbs that give it spatial depth. The figures are similarly reflected in a mirror, and the woman has the absorbed gaze and posture of Manet’s barmaid, while the man is the artist himself. Though issues of the male gaze, particularly the power relationship between male artist and female model, and the viewer’s role as onlooker, are implicit in Manet’s painting, Wall updates the theme by positioning the camera at the centre of the work, so that it captures the act of making the image (the scene reflected in the mirror) and, at the same time, looks straight out at us.”

Interesting, right? And because it’s fun to compare, here is Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère:

Un bar aux Folies Bergère, by Edouard Manet (via Wikimedia Commons)

Un bar aux Folies Bergère, by Edouard Manet (via Wikimedia Commons)

If you or someone you know is interested in writing a 700-word column for the magazine, contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. It doesn’t have to be on law, exactly, though it should resonate with attorneys—their careers or their wider lives.

blogging-1171731_1920

Benefits to blogging? I’ve seen a few … and so have successful attorneys.

Being a cheerleader for blogging has been an avocation of mine since—well, since I started my own back in 2009. There are multiple reasons to blog, and not everyone has the same goals. For me, blogging lets me develop story ideas and leads, and it allows me to cover news and events in quicker fashion than our hard-copy magazine ever could.

It also has been of incredible assistance in making connections with other people, professionals who want to share news or lawyers who are happy I’m telling their stories.

That’s why I’m happy to share news of a free blogging webinar occurring this Thursday, August 25—register here. Here’s hoping some attorneys take the plunge and discover how differentiation through blogging and other means is one of the best strategic paths to practice success—and satisfaction.

Cordell Parvin blogging webinar

Cordell Parvin

Taught by lawyer and career expert Cordell Parvin (and hosted by practice management software company MyCase), the webinar will be held at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET this Thursday. Here is the description:

Many lawyers who blog become “go-to” authorities in their practice areas. This leads to benefits including; new clients, speaking engagements, and job offers. So, how do you create a blog that you enjoy writing and that others find interesting? Cordell Parvin, attorney and former Practice Group Leader, will show you how to create a legal blog and start building your online audience in this blogging webinar. Here’s some of what will be covered:

  • The benefits of blogging
  • The art of writing a good post
  • Where to find topics
  • Creating a blog strategy
  • Essential ingredients to attract clients
  • Much More!

If you can’t attend the live session, you can receive the webinar recording by registering.

Thank you to the always-on-it folks at Above the Law for sharing the news of this free webinar, and to MyCase for hosting on such an important topic.