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Critical Assistance

All of Us or None and Critical Resistance marched on City Hall this morning to demand jobs for parolees and probationers. They were greeted at the front door by signs advertising the "Oakland Mayor's Job Fair" in Room 121.

The sixteen individuals who ventured inside seeking support found a continental breakfast, hot coffee and job counselors armed with a variety of listings and services. Our intent was to showcase the various kinds of critical assistance we provide to formerly incarcerated individuals who want to start new lives.

Outside, the organizers of the march were clearly upset by the City's willingness to meet their demands with job assistance. After much screeching through bullhorns, they stormed the building and promptly put an end to our peaceful job fair. They shouted down our job counselors - some of whom are rehabilitated felons - and completely disrupted the proceedings.

They picked the wrong fight.

Ron Owens - Oakland's parolee intervention coordinator, who transformed his life after many years in state prison - went head to head with the protest leaders. The debate was heated but the truth was clear: felons who want to change their lives have many opportunities in the City of Oakland.

These two protest groups pretty much discredited themselves today. They managed to demand jobs and sabotage a job fair within one hour. They wanted publicity, not progress.

But they do raise an interesting question: For how long should society punish individuals with criminal backgrounds? If an ex-con gets on the right path and proves his or her worth to society, should they still be identified as felons?

In the case of sex offenders or murderers, the answer is clear. But should a nonviolent crime committed in one's youth continue to haunt a person?

What do you think?

March 2, 2005 | Permalink


Lots of folks can't handle your correct and open response to problems. They do not expect a mayor to ever have answers that make sense to the community. Keep up the work and someday soon more of the community will understand.

Posted by: Chet | Mar 2, 2005 8:07:30 PM

Some people just want attention. Actually doing something constructive is not part of the deal, what matters is being noticed.

Maybe the California stalking law can be applied here.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg | Mar 2, 2005 8:28:47 PM

How many employers have signed up with Project Choice so far for the Tax Exempt credit and free bonding? How many ex-felons have been placed in jobs?

Also, how long has Project Choice been operating and how many ex-felons have been placed?

Which organizations provide effective drug rehabilitation and where is the transitional housing located or how do ex-cons who do not qualify for OHA HUD programs pay for the housing without jobs? Is the housing free?

Posted by: Inquisitive | Mar 2, 2005 8:56:03 PM

Jerry, your "job fair" was fake. Why are you trying to pretend you were actually having a job fair? All there was was one small table with some photocopied material that you put together this morning. That "job fair" was a direct response to the protest today -- which is a good start. It's great if you want to start aggressively promoting jobs to former prisoners. But it's sad that it took this protest for you to make this effort - and such a superficial effort to boot.

Felons in Oakland DON'T have many opportunities in the city of Oakland. That's just not true.

I don't think those two groups discredited themselves, and from what I saw, I don't think they care about publicity for themselves. They just want justice and safety in Oakland, and they're giving you concrete ways to make Oakland safer. The big question is: why aren't you listening? Why are you trying the same old tired looks-good-on-paper strategies as always? We're tired of that in Oakland.

Posted by: Grepped | Mar 2, 2005 9:40:18 PM

Hey. The mayor is trying to do some good. It is not easy to get ex-cons a job. Instead of cursing some imagined darkness, why not light a candle and support every effort to get those who have gone astray back into the world of employment?

Are the folks at "Critical Resistance" running a hustle, do they realy care but are just stupid or are they on an identity trip so strong that they can't see what the mayor is trying to do?

Posted by: Pete | Mar 2, 2005 10:00:23 PM

A 72 percent reduction in homicides does look good on paper. It also looks good in reality.

Posted by: Whale | Mar 2, 2005 10:20:07 PM

Off topic but would love to get your thoughts on the billboards in Oakland for your next post.

A billboard is not a form of outdoor art. Please take a look at the existing billboards and if you want them, put them in the rich neighborhoods like rockridge, montclair, etc.

Please get these billboards out of North Oakland, West Oakland, and East Oakland. Please. If you think they're so great, put them in the rich neighborhood first.

Posted by: Rafael | Mar 2, 2005 10:48:22 PM

What is the Mayor trying to do?

I know Jerry's Dad Governor Pat Brown set up the Civilian Conservation Corps when he was governor.

Instead of paying so much of our state tax dollars for fat pensions and salaries for prison officials and other retired state officials why doesn't Jerry the leader advocate shaving a mere billion or two of the $9 billion state prison budget for a new CCC?

Posted by: Oldtimer | Mar 2, 2005 11:36:19 PM

dude what papers do you read? You might not have noticed that California is in hock up to it's collective eyebrows.
Also inspite of the mismanagement of surplus's from the former administration, (some of which went to pay for the inflated prison guard social security) our legislators avoided any retribution at the polls for their incompetence.
That is due to Reapportionment, or more correctly gerrymandering. You want a billion for your pet social project, get back in line jack. Because we have roadwork, bridge retrofits, new school supplies, and millions of sick illegals to tend to first.

Posted by: papertiger | Mar 3, 2005 2:14:34 AM

Jerry's cute little job fair was nothing but a publicity stunt organized at the last minute because of the protest. It'd be nice if he spent half as much time focusing on actual solutions as he does coming up with PR ploys to flout on his blog and to the media.

I was at the protest, Jerry was not. His description does not really fit with reality. The reasonable requests of the protestors: 1. to end discrimination against felons in City of Oakland hiring practices and 2. to meet Jerry's own spokesman's promise of finding a job for any felon who wanted one, were not met. No one got a job at Jerry's job fair, cause it was a joke. Why should it even take a protest from groups Jerry clearly despises to push him to act?

BTW Jerry, there were far more than 16 people in that room, and your boy Ron Owens didn't do anything but yell at people and tell them how they weren't ready to be employed.

Finally, those stats Jerry is using to justify his curfew are false. Check out a more recent and thorough analysis from a group that isn't trying to look tough-on-crime so they can be elected attorney general.

Victims of homicide on neither probation nor parole: 64%

Suspects of homicide on neither probation nor parole: 73%

Doesn't really fit Jerry's picture of parolees running around shooting people. Time to find someone else to scapegoat.

Posted by: scott | Mar 3, 2005 2:27:11 AM


I'm shocked that you are shocked!

Posted by: jreid | Mar 3, 2005 7:59:53 AM

So, the dredlocked tofu-taco Che Guevara T-shirt crowd is accusing J of staging a job fair as a publicity stunt?

What do these trust fund babies think a protest march is? J'accuse!

I'm so tired of liberalism being hijacked by know nothings who screech all day and have no idea what its like to live next to crack fiends.

Posted by: M.V.S | Mar 3, 2005 9:17:11 AM

You got a point, sir, but whereas O-land parolees got a choice of vocational re-hab programs to select from, what do, say, whites convicted of say petty meth possession or manufacturing in Fresno have.

Posted by: hick | Mar 3, 2005 10:04:52 AM

This highlights the problem with the "left" and "progressives." They seem to think that there is something noble in being irrational, emotional, loud, disruptive, and even violent. Our culture has rewarded this sort of behavior for too long.

When they take a reasonable approach, they have my support. Studies show that violence is most likely between the age of puberty and about 30 years old. Now, taking that to an extreme, feminists would like to shackle every man with an electronic surveillance device. But, from a practical point of view, we should factor the reality of age predicting violent crime into our treatment of felons.

There isn't much value to anyone in labelling someone a felon in their 50's for a crime they committed when they were 18. If anything, doing so increases the likelihood that they will commit another crime, simply because things look more hopeless to them when they have the felon label pinned on them.

Posted by: DeadManVoting (aka Iguana) | Mar 3, 2005 10:13:26 AM

To Jerry's actual question, ...

One virtue of what used to be called "hard labor" or even "corporal punishment" was that it established in the public's mind the notion that punishment could be finite and that a criminal could actually pay a "debt to society" so as to not become a slave for life.

Today slaves are permanent wards of the modern therapy-state, the undocumented workers of any race, or administratively adjudicated non-citizens -- all of them perpetual clients of self-appointed "advocates".

Thanks to Jerry Brown for seeing through the sanctimony of failed politics and dealing with the hard questions of our day.


Posted by: John Robert BEHRMAN | Mar 3, 2005 2:06:34 PM


"This highlights the problem with the "left" and "progressives." They seem to think that there is something noble in being irrational, emotional, loud, disruptive, and even violent".

Uh aren't you rather twisting and distorting your presentation regarding the history of the left and progressives in this country?

I think you have the wrong grouping here pegged as "emotional", "irrational" and "violent".

Wasn't it Timothy McVeigh who was involved in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City?

Isn't a white supremacist group suspected being behind the recent Chicago murders of a Judge's family members which occurred this past week?

Wasn't the right wing organization otherwise known as the Klu Klux Klan behind thousands of lynchings of black people not only after the Reconstruction Era in this country but following WWII as well?

To bring us up to modern times isn't it the anti-abortion or ironically the pro-life crowd who not only advocates bombing abortion clinics but have actually murdered doctors in these clinics?

In another country these kinds of political murders and violent activities have been be described as "death squad" activities.

Too often nstitutional organized right wing terror and intimidation of thousands of black people who resided in the South following the Reconstruction era for decades has too often been described as the secret activities of clandestine groups of southern white men. But people who lived down South recognized these folks who walked around in their businesses suits and police badges during the light of day.

Posted by: Sistah | Mar 3, 2005 7:54:04 PM

Jerry, I'm really glad to hear about the assitance programme. Here's the problem with it: It fails to address societal bias against ex-convicts. I've been behind bars twice, because I did something stupid, and my life is forever ruined because of it. Millions of Americans pay lip service to "paying one's debt to society" but can't seem to walk the talk. I've been turned down for over a dozen jobs because of my criminal past, all because people just won't trust me.

I even need to hide my past from my friends, and much of my family has no idea I've ever been to jail. I'm relegated to really crappy jobs, never earning much money and as a result I'm never able to improve my lot in life. I thank God for my wife, without whom I would surely be dead or worse.

Until society, in whose debt felons are presumed to be begins to change its attitude toward those of us who've messed up felons will continue to be little more than second-class citizens. Don't treat us like lepers. We're human beings. Yes, we've made mistakes-some of us more than once-but that doesn't mean we're all worthless.

Posted by: xCon | Mar 3, 2005 8:49:26 PM

Mayor Brown, why are you running for attorney general? Arnold has to go. We need you back in the governor's mansion.

Posted by: James | Mar 3, 2005 10:30:22 PM

I don't have much of an answer to this one, more just a question. When is it reasonably safe for us to trust someone again?

The fear will remain the Archie Fains and Lawrence Singletons.

And on the other hand, I've got a vague memory of Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) explaining why he couldn't run for President. If I recall correctly, it involved a mailbox and his belief that beer was food.

Maybe the answer lies in recidivism rates. Maybe when an ex-con is about as safe as an average member of society we should forget the risk factor. For some kinds of ex-cons, as they get older the threat should eventually drop below average.

Posted by: Dishman | Mar 4, 2005 12:03:09 AM

Yes, ex-cons should be identified as ex-cons. Actions have consequences.

And don't tell me that ex-convicts can't get jobs. I knew a guy who'd robbed banks. He went straight after he got out of prison. When he was working as a pipe-fitter, one employer told him "Well, I wouldn't hire you to handle my bank accounts, but as long as you do your job here, I'm not worried you'll steal a two-ton natural gas manifold."

If we want the citizenry to be honest, lets be honest ourselves. Don't pretend those that have been convicted of crimes haven't been.

Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge | Mar 4, 2005 6:46:44 AM

Good points from the
learned pundits"--when can we trust people if ever? and "Let's be honest."

Do we cite examples of the most extreme offenders or the average offender to make our points? Or are these just more scare tactics?

And when we talk about trust, let's include Are white collar criminals as well like the ones on Wall Street who also rob and steal from real people and cause incredible hurt and harm.
They are just able to do it without guns.

What about those who pay billion dollar fines like the head of Citibank Sandy Weill who New York prosecutor Elliot Spitzer was unable to prosecute?

We spend all our time in Oakland villifying the bankrobbers who come in from outside the door? I don't know how many tellers or bank employees they have shot or brutally assaulted.

But what about the non-convicted bank robbers inside the banks? The New York state workers lost $300 million dollars from their pension fund.

Investors who invested monies in Saloman Smith Barney brokerage firms to pay for their children's education said they were "lied to..robbed..stolen from.."
One said it would be years before they could financially recover. "Wall Street Fix" a PBS Frontline special.

When can we trust Wall Street if ever? Why weren't these individuals issued 'stayaway orders" or barred from continuing financial dealings in Wall Street? Why weren't they put under house arrest between the hours of 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.?

Posted by: Sylvia | Mar 4, 2005 9:58:56 AM

Crimefightahs of the left and right often forget that the "felon" stamp is often wrongly applied. Armed robbers, murderers, rapists, sex offenders, etc. ARE felons, but what about those people who are doing time, even serious time, on drug cases, or "telephone harassment" or even petty property crimes? And there have been too many wrongful convictions in CA courts to just assume that persons who have been branded as felons were in fact guilty. An old judge in LA county recently killed himself after he was told he was being investigated for molestation; and yet some humans sit in Pelican Bay on a 3rd strike for some petty meth conviction earned while they were inside.

Posted by: hick | Mar 4, 2005 11:01:01 AM

My opinion as a redneck in a red state: "society (should) punish individuals with criminal backgrounds" as long as their sentence and penalties call for and no more. Once you've 'paid your debt to society', you should be welcomed back. Not with closed eyes, but with open hearts. Trust, but verify...

BTW, I'm OK with penalties like sex offender registry, three strikes, re-applying for voting rights, and the death penalty. I'm also OK with decriminalizing pot. Go figure.

Mayor, thanks for your service and nice blog!

Posted by: Bama | Mar 4, 2005 4:39:30 PM

I used to run a recycling operation, and in that position, I hired a lot of ex-convicts. People incarcerated for less than a year (particularly where they had committed repeated petty offenses) were more likely to be problem employees than were people who had served a single longer sentence. In most cases, people who had been convicted of crimes of passion (often violent) turned out to be some of my best employees. I think that there are two important observations that come from this experience. My experience shows that ex-prisoners had a lot of safety issues. I believe this was because they often assessed risk differently than did most other people - the "it won't happen to me" factor. Training and supervision works on this. Secondly, a screened sample of ex-prisioners were no more dishonest than the general population of people who applied for jobs of that sort. Good tight personnel policies, careful supervision, and administrative oversight of the whole system are essential whether or not felons are employed.

There is also a subset of people, some of whom have been to prison, who act like the ringleaders who could not take yes for an answer. Those people are to be avoided like the plague.

Posted by: Eric | Mar 4, 2005 4:40:56 PM

Regarding your question, "For how long should society punish individuals with criminal backgrounds .... .... should a nonviolent crime committed in one's youth continue to haunt a person?"

I say let the record stand as public information. Anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe size can look into the specifics. If the person committed a crime in their youth , but has reformed, the record will reflect it simply by the fact that he/she hasn't went back to prison.
Do not hide that truth from employers. They are law abiding citizens and they need the whole truth to make informed decisions. It is only fair. Everyone is responsible for their actions. Why hide the facts? The whole bias against ex-cons is a bogus argument and smacks of class-warfare.

Posted by: Tim P | Mar 4, 2005 6:20:35 PM

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