For me, summer is the sound of cicadas, the sight of lightning bugs, and the setting off on a family vacation. My mother was a teacher and my dad a farmer, so their schedules aligned perfectly with my school schedule, which allowed us to take summer vacations as a family. Because my dad didn’t like to fly, we drove everywhere—across the country to California, down to the southern tip of Texas, and out to the beaches in Virginia and Florida. I’ve continued this tradition with my daughter. We take a family vacation every summer. Continue reading “Kim Ball’s Summer Reads”
Do you remember where you learned about the guarantees of our Constitution? Was it in sixth grade civics class like it was for me? My daughter Claire, who is 11, is going into sixth grade this fall, and I’m curious about whether or not she’s going to be taught about the Constitution and, specifically, about the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel. Continue reading “Let’s Talk about the Constitution”
Happy summer! As I get ready to go on vacation and summer break with my awesome daughter Claire, I can’t help but think about parenting. I love being a parent. Honestly, I was a little surprised by how natural it felt when I became one, and it remains so to this day. But don’t mistake natural for easy. Parenting is not easy.
Some of the best parenting lessons I’ve learned are actually those I’ve taken from studying and teaching best practices in criminal justice reform. Sound funny? But think about it. A lot of parenting is about teaching children to make good choices and helping them change bad behaviors. As a parent, you teach your kids how to problem solve, be polite, and respect social norms, and you also teach them that choices have consequences.
Continue reading “All I need to know about parenting, I’ve learned in my criminal justice career”
Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination has me thinking a lot about our progress since then on the civil rights and social justice issues he championed. I’ve read that RFK spent more time than most politicians visiting areas of the country that faced issues he sought to change—like discrimination, labor rights, and poverty—to gain firsthand experience.
Continue reading “One Person Can Change the World”
My first job after law school was in Pulaski County, Arkansas, as a special assistant prosecuting attorney in a problem-solving court that saw mental health and substance misuse clients who were a danger to themselves or others. At the time, I had never heard of a problem-solving court and was surprised by how the judge ran the court. It wasn’t like anything I’d seen on Law & Order. And yes, unfortunately, that was my only reference to an operating court after graduating from law school. The judge, Mary Spencer McGowan, ran a tight docket and was a no-nonsense judge, but she taught me more about humanity in the justice system, second chances, and procedural fairness than any other influence in my career. Continue reading “The Perfect Recipe for Problem-Solving Courts”
When an individual has completed their time in prison, they are expected to go back into the world and start rebuilding their lives. Trying to successfully reintegrate back into society with a criminal record is next to impossible. Individuals are severely limited in job opportunities, education, housing, and loans, among many other things. Second Chance Month is dedicated to highlighting the ways in which organizations are working, and we all can work, to create a bigger and brighter future for the 65 million Americans who are limited by their criminal records. They went to prison, served their time, and now it is our job to make sure they have a fair second chance.
Continue reading “Prison as Punishment, Not for Punishment”
No one deserves to be labeled for the rest of their lives for an act they did at their lowest or toughest moment, I’ve heard many say recently when talking about re-entry. Colleagues in the criminal justice system have been talking about reentry initiatives for nearly two decades, and yet our successes are hit and miss. We still have a long way to go to overcome the collateral consequences that follow too many formerly incarcerated individuals when they return home.
Continue reading “The Language of Second Chances”
I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership over the past year—are leaders born or made? What’s the best way to grow as a leader? How can I inspire my team and guide JPO to new and greater successes? With it being Women’s History Month, my thoughts have also turned to what it means to me as a woman to be a leader and how can I best use the lessons I’ve learned as a woman working in male-dominated fields to mentor the women on my staff.
Continue reading “Lead Like A Woman”
I have been lucky in my career to have a wonderful professional mentor who is also my friend. Domingo Herraiz, the director of programs at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told me the most empowering thing I can recall, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” Will Smith has summed up the same advice into a great dictum: “Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Forward.”
Because of Domingo’s advice, I’ve had the courage to take risks and come up with innovative ideas. In particular, I’ve learned to embrace research. As a former prosecutor and senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), I admit, it was an adjustment, but, boy, am I glad I was willing to fail. Continue reading “From Research to Policy to Practice and Back Again”