In the aftermath of the fatal shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor joined the hosts of an EdSource Radio podcast to discuss the importance of school climate and social-emotional learning. Astor argued that law enforcement measures like metal detectors and random searches increase the school-to-prison pipeline and should be used judiciously, if ever. Instead, Astor recommended softening schools to create a better school climate and improve social-emotional learning. Astor pointed out the irony of school drills that assume that the shooter is an outsider, when most of the school shootings that have occurred in the United States have come from current or former students who have a grievance with the school or the school population. “It’s a misnomer that we’re protecting against outside terrorist groups,” Astor said. “The shooters themselves are learning exactly where the students are going, and they know all the drills.”
Professor of social welfare Laura Abrams was featured in a Social Work Today article about the role of social work in the U.S. juvenile justice system. Over the last half-century, the U.S. has favored a system of punishment that made it easier for juveniles to be treated as adults. But Abrams sees a new era unfolding with a wave of 21st century reforms that prioritize the protection of children’s rights and support for youth and families. “Social workers should care about juvenile justice reform because we need to restore our rightful place with youth who have been in contact with the law,” she said. She encouraged social workers to stay informed about the issues, become aware of local initiatives and connect with advocacy groups to advance the cause of juvenile justice reform. “We can’t consider [reform] done, even though a lot of progress has been made,” Abrams said.
Professor of Public Policy Martin Gilens penned an opinion piece for the Times Union in support of publicly financed state elections in New York. A change in the language used in the New York state budget created a commission to review the potential of publicly financing elections. Gilens argued that New York can “reclaim democracy from the jaws of Big Money through a statewide system of publicly financed elections.” Reform is necessary because 40 percent of the money spent on federal elections came from 0.01 percent of the population in 2016, he argued. Affluent and organized interest groups hold more influence over the outcomes of elections, while the lower and middle classes hold virtually no influence, Gilens’ research found. Gilens said New York has the opportunity to challenge the status quo and promote a government for the people.
Mark A.R. Kleiman, emeritus professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and one the United States’ pre-eminent experts on drug and crime policy, died July 21 after a long illness. He was 68.
Kleiman’s long list of publications includes his most recent co-authored books, “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford University Press, 2012) and “Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford, 2011), as well as “When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment” (Princeton University Press, 2009).
He also worked at the United States Department of Justice, serving as director of the Office of Policy and Management Analysis, Criminal Division, and as the associate director for Drug Enforcement Programs. And he held posts as deputy director for management and director of program analysis for the city of Boston.
“Mark was a rare breed in academia, a truly Renaissance mind,” said Mark Peterson, professor of public policy in the UCLA Luskin School and one of Kleiman’s colleagues. “I quickly realized that he was both the smartest person in the building and among the funniest, with a quick wit that often required educational sophistication to fully grasp.”
Peterson added: “I can say that his network was simply enormous, encompassing friends, colleagues, mentees and protégés, graduate and undergraduate students, media figures, state and federal policymakers, all of whom he helped, he informed, he guided, and he just simply cared about.”
Kleiman also authored numerous journal articles, book chapters, technical reports and policy memos, as well providing articles and commentary for news media and book reviews and for professional publications. He served as editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis and was a referee for numerous professional policy journals. He also was an active blogger on “The Reality-Based Community,” focusing on public policy analysis of the criminal justice system, substance abuse, and drug policy in the United States and abroad.
Kleiman, who was born in Phoenix and grew up in Baltimore, graduated magna cum laude in political science, philosophy and economics from Haverford College. He earned his master’s in public policy and doctorate in public policy at Harvard.
He came to UCLA in 1996 shortly after the founding of the graduate program in public policy in what was then known as the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research. He served on the faculty of the Luskin School until retiring in 2015. He later joined the faculty of New York University, where he was affiliated with NYU’s Wagner School and served as director of the crime and justice program at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management.
Prior to UCLA, Kleiman held academic posts at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and at the University of Rochester. He also served stints as a visiting professor at the Batten School of Leadership and Policy at the University of Virginia, Harvard Law School, and the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. He was a visiting fellow at the National Institute of Justice.
In addition, Kleiman served on the National Research Council as a member of the Committee on Law and Justice, and he was chairman of the board of the Los Angeles-based Botec Analysis Corporation, a research and consulting firm that develops solutions to issues in public policy in the areas of crime, justice and drug policy.
“Mark leaves behind a legacy — us,” said former student Brad Rowe, who earned his master’s in public policy in 2013, and who later worked closely with Kleiman. “He was a teacher first and foremost.”
Rowe said that Kleiman was a demanding instructor, but “he could always make you laugh with his ready-made arsenal of anecdotes.”
Rowe, who now teaches a public policy course at UCLA Luskin and serves as the school’s intellectual successor to Kleiman on drug policy, continued, “And, wow, I’ve rarely met someone who so loved seeing justice done.”
UCLA was the launching point and incubator for many of Kleiman’s ideas, Rowe recalled. “It was a safe haven where he valued the commitment this group has for thought and action rooted in truth, equality, dignity and public safety.”
Albert Carnesale, UCLA chancellor emeritus and professor emeritus of public policy and mechanical and aerospace engineering, first met his future colleague during Kleiman’s time as a doctoral student at Harvard.
“In addition to being an extraordinary fount of original ideas, deep insights, and rigorous and revealing analyses, he was a devoted mentor to generations of students, a valuable colleague, a caring friend, and a compassionate and effective advocate for fairness and justice,” Carnesale wrote in an email after learning of Kleiman’s death.
Former student Jaime Nack, the president of Three Squares Inc. and who graduated with a master’s in public policy in 2002, wrote: “Mark Kleiman was an amazing professor … He truly cared that we mastered the material. He knew it would serve us in life and in our careers.”
No services are planned. He is survived by a sister, Kelly Kleiman, who posted on social media: “If you are moved to honor him, please donate to the NYU Transplant Institute, the ACLU, or any Democratic candidate.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times detailing the ongoing conflict between newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Years ago, in response to scandals surrounding the county jails, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence created a 600-page report with recommendations for reform in order to “establish a culture of constitutional policing, and consequences for those who wouldn’t acculturate,” Yaroslavsky wrote. Many of the reforms were implemented under former Sheriff Jim McDonnell, but Villanueva “has vowed to eviscerate these reforms,” he stated. Villanueva has prompted further criticism as a result of his reinstatement of a deputy who was discharged for domestic abuse allegations. Yaroslavsky wrote, “Alex Villanueva can either get on board with the U.S. Constitution or get out of the way.”
Elected officials from over a dozen different states, including state legislators, municipal and school district officials, gathered Aug. 3-5 at UCLA Luskin for a landmark conference co-hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). More than 60 elected officials were expected to participate in the first-ever National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) National Education Leadership and Public Policy Academy to learn about effective public policies that support Latino families and communities. NALEO Educational Fund and LPPI designed an innovative public policy curriculum to strengthen the governance capacity of Latino policymakers in the critical policy areas of education, economic development, criminal justice and immigration. “UCLA is ecstatic to partner with NALEO Educational Fund to empower Latino elected officials with the data and strategy necessary to address today’s most critical policy challenges and improve the well-being of Latinos from Connecticut to California,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI’s executive director. The invitation-only intensive training featured modules created by LPPI faculty, with a cadre of national policy experts and practitioners from across the U.S. advancing evidence-based policymaking. Conference speakers included Diaz and her LPPI co-founders — UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA — as well as LPPI-affiliated faculty such as Amada Armenta, who recently joined the faculty of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas also participated.
UCLA Luskin’s Evelyn Blumenberg is quoted in a Washington Post article about whether a Trump administration order to toughen work requirements for welfare recipients overlooks a well-documented link between transportation and employment. “Since the 1990s, things have become much more difficult for welfare recipients,” said Blumenberg, a transportation expert and professor of urban planning. “And I have not seen an upswell in movement for supporting the transportation part of this.” Cars play a key role in access to jobs that are “suburbanizing.” Blumenberg said, “It’s a touchy subject in transportation circles, where funds are focused on increasing access to public transit, even though poor people more than anyone need the flexibility and instant mobility of having a car.”
By Stan Paul
Just one visit. For those whose lives are entangled in the pipeline of the juvenile and adult justice systems, the life-changing meeting might come from a family member. It could be a psychologist. Or a chaplain. Or it could never come at all.
For many, though, the visitor is a volunteer — someone who can make the difference between continuing a downward spiral through the criminal justice system and turning a life around.
“The cycle continues until someone breaks it,” said Ernst Fenelon Jr., who was part of a Nov. 3 panel speaking about volunteers who help those incarcerated in America’s juvenile detention centers and adult prisons. The event also launched a new book co-edited by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Social Welfare professor Laura Abrams. It was sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, and the UCLA Justice Work Group.
The book, “The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change,” was published “to highlight many examples of great practice, of volunteer programs that make a real difference behind bars … and impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers,” Abrams said. She was accompanied by one of her three co-editors, Emma Hughes, an associate professor and chair in the Department of Criminology at California State University, Fresno.
“This event, and the book itself, is intended to honor volunteers in jails and prisons, juvenile and adult institutions, who devote their personal and professional time, travel long distances and overcome numerous bureaucratic hurdles to reach out to those locked on the inside, whose humanity and dignity is often limited by the very condition of incarceration itself,” Abrams said in her introductory remarks.
Abrams said that the work of her colleagues and co-editors highlights many examples of great practice, impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers as well. “Unfortunately, this evidence of good practice is not well-known, so other volunteers have to keep reinventing the wheel, rather than benefitting from the experiences of others,” she said.
The co-editors pointed out that volunteers themselves are very diverse. They may be formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, teachers, musicians, artists, students or people of faith. A unique feature of the book is that it includes the voices of a number of people currently serving time, in addition to the 19 contributing authors from the United States, Canada and Britain.
“You may be that one person,” said Fenelon, whose 25 years of experience with the California prison system includes more than 14 as an inmate. He is now the program coordinator for the Prison Education Project (PEP), a “prison-to-college” program that seeks to enhance the educational experience of inmates and parolees while providing practical tools for reintegration.
“You’re here because it is a calling,” Fenelon told the audience of academics, social welfare students and volunteers, some of whom also had been wards of the foster care, juvenile justice and adult prison systems in California. “The best people to speak are the volunteers,” continued Fenelon said. Like himself, they “speak from a voice of unique experience,” and “sat where they sat” and they strive to “reconnect [those incarcerated] to their humanity.”
He was joined by Rosalinda Vint, president of Women of Substance and Men of Honor Inc. Vint, who grew up in the foster care system, has been “that one person,” Hughes said in introducing her.
“All of us have a friend or relative touched by the system,” said Vint, whose nonprofit organization provides mentoring, leadership training and other services for the Department of Juvenile Justice Ventura Youth facility. The former corporate executive, who left a successful 25-year career to reach out to foster youth, said it is a privilege to serve those who, like her, have suffered abandonment and loss. Recounting her own and her siblings’ experiences within the foster care and criminal justice systems, Vint paused, as her voice cracked with emotion. She continued, “This has changed my life, what I do. I wish someone would have come for me, looked me in the eye and said it is going to be OK.”
The relationship between two of the event’s speakers, Felix Miranda and Matthew Mizel, is an example of the significant difference that volunteering can make in the lives of both volunteers and those they help.
Miranda was raised in Nicaragua and he “saw things that no kid should see.” He was angry when he came to the United States, eventually ended up in trouble and lost 13 years of his life to the prison system in California. Mizel, a native of New Jersey, had a successful career in the entertainment industry before becoming a volunteer with Inside Out Writers in 2003, teaching creative writing in juvenile and adult facilities.
They met while Miranda was imprisoned, and the experience was transformative for Mizel, who was volunteering with the nonprofit organization founded in 1996. Mizel is now a doctoral student in the Luskin School’s Department of Social Welfare, where his research focuses on ways to reduce racial inequality in the justice system.
“I had to grow out of that phase,” said Miranda, who was recently released from prison and is now a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “You can make a change.”
Miranda said that at first he couldn’t understand why Mizel kept showing up to his prison visits, and more than once asked him why he would do this.
“He came every week — that’s what impacted my life,” said Miranda, who also is now a member of the Inside Out Writers alumni project. He credits Mizel “for the love and friendship he showed me,” and the writing program for the positive changes he experienced.
“Don’t just show up,” Miranda said about volunteers’ need for perseverance and engagement. “It’s the follow-up that matters.”
According to Hughes, the book is also intended to show correctional officials and policymakers how valuable this work is. “All too often volunteers are confronted with insurmountable hurdles in terms of red tape and bureaucracy when trying to access facilities.”
Hughes added, however, that she is encouraged by recent changes.
“I am heartened that this year, CDRC (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has a mandate to establish a volunteer advisory committee at every adult prison, with the intention of better supporting volunteer-led programs,” Hughes said.
The evening’s presentations also included a moving spoken word performance by Harry Grammar, who brought students from his New Earth Arts and Leadership Center, a comprehensive re-entry center serving 2,500 young people each year who are incarcerated in Los Angeles County detention centers and placement homes.