With former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral this week, my thoughts have turned towards leadership again. I’ve been inspired by his leadership style throughout the years since it seems to be themed around the person. I’m from the South, so the art of weaving conversation through work, personal, and even political is something I cherish. Bush also seems to understand that a personal touch is crucial to leading effectively.
Every year when November comes, I immediately think of Thanksgiving and what I am thankful for. This year, November also means midterm elections and exercising our right to vote. I recognize, though, that not everyone is able to participate in this essential part of our democratic process whether it is due to misinformation, cumbersome voter registration laws, or felony disenfranchisement laws. Being able to vote allows us to share our voice and help shape the direction of this country. Breaking down the barriers to voting is critical to making sure all voices are heard. That is why this year, I am so thankful that Florida voters passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to more than one million citizens with a felony conviction.
To kick off the new school year, I am delighted to welcome Dean Vicky Wilkins to JPO’s blog. Not only is Vicky a dear friend of my mine, she is the dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University, which houses JPO, and she has been an incredible partner to and administrator for this center. We share a commitment to providing opportunities for purpose-driven students to connect their learning to their passions. I’m proud of the students who have come to work for us at JPO and excited to see where their futures take them. I am also incredibly proud of leading an office filled with passionate professionals fueled by purpose.
– Director Kim Ball, Justice Programs Office
This month is full of new beginnings for JPO and for me. JPO is packing up and cleaning out, preparing for an office reconfiguration. We’ve grown and changed over the last two years and so have our needs. We’re losing our library and conference room to create more office space to house our growing team of experts and leaders—but isn’t everything online now, anyway, and, really, who meets in person anymore? Continue reading “New Beginnings – Fun and Stressful at the Same Time”
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.
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.
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.