Letters from Our Readers

Letters: 'Gross distortions'

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Letters to the editor

‘Gross distortions’

At the ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting, Aug. 4-10, the House of Delegates passed Resolution 507, opposing the use of private sector contractors in the U.S. corrections and juvenile justice systems (“Immoral Incentives,” October-November, page 72). Full of inaccurate claims and gross distortions about our member companies, it is difficult to see this resolution as anything other than a misinformed and obvious political statement.

Contrary to the resolution’s assertion, corrections contractors are not drivers of mass incarceration. In fact, contractors today house just 8% of the incarcerated population nationally; 92% are in publicly operated facilities. For more than 30 years, our member companies have helped address many of the tough challenges facing America’s public-run corrections system, including unconstitutionally poor living conditions, prison overcrowding and a lack of effective reentry programming.

Both Democratic and Republican officials at the state and federal levels have called upon contractors to be part of the solution—including the Obama-Biden administration.

The ABA resolution report also gets basic facts wrong about the work our member companies do, including:

• It falsely claims contractors benefit from “the consistent yearly increase in the prison population.” Not only has the total U.S. prison population declined by some 184,000 (11%) over the past decade, but contractors have zero influence on the number of Americans who are incarcerated in the first place. Those are government functions, which include establishing and enforcing the laws and determining the lengths of sentences.

• It wrongly claims that contractors are more expensive than government-run prisons, when federal budget data clearly shows hundreds of millions in annual savings, and the fact that states in which we operate often statutorily require cost savings as compared to public-run facilities.

• It falsely accuses our members of lobbying for harsh criminal penalties to put more people in jail. Our members have never done that. Actually, they have long-standing policies against any such lobbying activities.

It may surprise no one that a political statement would be replete with distortions to bolster its case, but the truth is this issue of criminal justice is too important, and the ABA’s reputation as a voice for the legal system too vital to let this pass.

We welcome the important debate over the future of America’s criminal justice system—and our members’ role in it—but it must be one based upon facts and reality, not political spin.

—Alexandra Wilkes
Day 1 Alliance National Spokesperson

Write the wrong

The web story “At some law schools, why are those who teach called ‘instructor’ rather than ‘professor’?” (ABAJournal.com/InstructorTitles, Sept. 13) advances misconceptions about legal writing professors. The first is about whether we are “skills” or “doctrinal” professors. The skills vs. doctrine divide exploits hierarchies in the legal academy and is a false dichotomy.

Second, we produce scholarship as part of the tenure and promotion processes, both on the traditional tenure track and the clinical tenure track.

Third, our advocacy for equal status in the legal academy spans 30 years. Volume 66:3 of the Journal of Legal Education features articles by legal writing scholars about status inequities precipitated by ABA Accreditation Standard 405(c). In numerous articles, we have discussed the gendered dimensions of our marginalization, misconceptions about our credentials, how race and gender create additional roadblocks for legal writing professors of color, and the disrespect we encounter from our students who reflect our mistreatment in the academy back to us.

The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s Perspectives magazine first wrote about our inequitable treatment in 2001. The opportunity exists for the ABA to write about us again. Maybe next time, as it did in 2001, it can cast its misconceptions aside.

—Teri A. McMurtry-Chubb
UIC School of Law

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