Justice Policy Center Senior Fellow Receives Mead Award

Article excerpt

At the International Community Corrections Association's annual conference, held in Indianapolis Nov. 8-12, 2003, the prestigious Margaret Mead Award was given to Jeremy Travis, who is a senior fellow with the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Under his direction, the center is developing research and policy agendas relating to crime in the community, new roles for justice agencies, sentencing initiatives and inmate re-entry programming. Travis is the former director of the National Institute of Justice (1994-2000) and has a long and distinguished career in criminal justice. His career includes working with law enforcement as a deputy commissioner for legal matters with the New York Police Department, chairing the New York City Chancellor's Advisory Panel on School Safety and serving with the Vera Institute of Justice, managing demonstration projects on bail reform, judicial decision-making and victim-witness assistance.

The Margaret Mead Award is presented annually at ICCA's conference and to individuals as a means of recognizing outstanding contributors to community corrections, who have shown dedicated service to the cause of social justice and humanitarian advancement. Margaret Mead was an imminent social anthropologist who had been closely associated with the halfway house movement in the United States and was a keen proponent of community care. Toward the end of her life, Mead, although in ill health, traveled from her home in New York to Oregon to address a meeting of the International Halfway House Association (now ICCA) and, at that time, gave the association permission to create an award that would symbolize what she had long advocated for and worked toward. After her death, the association created this prestigious award.

The format of the presentation is a dinner followed by an address by the recipient of the award. The substance of Travis' Mead lecture addressed the need to explore the community's role in inmate re-entry. For Travis, the re-entry issue is linked to the discussion of "what works" in correctional programming. Corrections professionals should be concerned about the issue of re-entry because, as he noted, there will be approximately 600,000 inmates released every year from U.S. prisons and another 7 million to 10 million a year from jails. The urgency to find what works best should be an important task for correctional and justice administrators. Some reasons for this need to search out the most effective means are:

* Offenders are coming out less prepared and with various social and economic concerns;

* Supervision services are not appropriately or adequately targeted to offender risk or need;

* Offender families have specific service needs that have not been considered; and

* Concentration of offenders in select neighborhoods puts a strain on the local resources.

An interest in finding answers to these concerns has led Travis to examine the state of parole in the United States and to explore the dimensions and consequences of inmate re-entry especially as it relates to the transition from prison to home.

During his Mead lecture, Travis raised provocative and principled questions about the current state of criminal justice. In looking for answers to what works best, he felt that policy-makers and practitioners should be looking to both law enforcement and corrections. He discussed the recent move to evidenced-based policing as well as the current what works movement in corrections. Travis asked the basic question: Why focus on what works? He then gave the following reasons:

* Criminal justice programs spend taxpayer money, and they deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely;

* There is a growing concern for results-based justice and an increased demand for accountability of justice agencies;

* There is a moral obligation to help and not hurt; and

* An acceptable standard of practice is beginning to be developed. …