Access To Justice

About two thirds of the world’s population, 5.1 billion do not have access to justice. Of these, 1.5 billion or one in five, have been left with justice issues they are not able to solve. That could be a land dispute, being the victim of a crime or a consumer debt.  These figures come from a new report issued by The Task Force on Justice. The report indicates that 253 million people live with extreme injustice and are deprived of legal protections. They comprise 40 million modern day slaves, 12 million stateless, 200 million who live in countries which are so insecure seeking any kind of justice is not possible. The report points out not only the advantages of providing justice but also the fact that as a human right along with education and health care, it is actually cheaper. In low income countries, where most of the lack to access to justice exists, it costs $20 per person, universal primary and secondary education $41 and healthcare at least $76.  These figures would certainly increase for the developed world, but the message that providing justice to those who need it is cheaper than we think remains.

It’s so easy to forget that providing justice is part of the infrastructure of security in any country, and that infrastructure is necessary for prosperity, a prosperity which in turn provides citizens with a modicum of quality of life.

Broken Capitalism

The Guardian has been running a series they call Broken Capitalism, and have featured articles about Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan. Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway or Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund. Suddenly these and others have become aware that the way capitalism is currently practiced will soon affect their bottom line and possibly their future. It is not yet clear how serious they are in fixing capitalism, in making it more equal and in addressing the economic inequalities of our society, but the mere fact they are acknowledging it is hopeful. What I found of note in the article about Ray Dalio are the figures which are prompting his interest. Here they are.

  • 40% of Americans would struggle to raise $400 for an emergency.
  • The childhood poverty rate is 17.5% and has not meaningfully improved in decades.
  • In the developed world the US scores lower than any country (except for Italy and Greece) in educational achievement.
  • The US incarceration rate is nearly 5 times the average of developed countries and 3 times that of emerging ones.
  • For the bottom 60% premature deaths have increased about 20% since 2000.

Education And Recidivism

A Rand 2018 study found that inmates in correctional facilities who participated in educational programs were 28% less likely to recidivate. In addition the United States Sentencing Commission found that inmates with less than a high school diploma were 60% more likely to be subject to recidivism  and those with a college degree had  only a 19% chance to relapse into criminal behavior. Several recent studies have pointed out the importance of education for inmates and the Rand analysis states “Every dollar invested in correctional education saves nearly five in re incarceration costs over three years.”  As a result of such studies a bipartisan bill is being proposed in Congress. It would reinstate Pell Grants for inmates and thus acquires added importance. The Vera Institute of Justice and the Georgetown Center for Poverty and inequality showed that restoring Pell Grants for inmates would not only increase their employment, in this case by 10%, but increase their collective earning in the first year by $45 million. Obviously if it passes, the bill which would affect 463,000 prisoners, would improve their lives after incarceration, and therefore benefit all of us.  It is equally worth noting that not only is this bill a bipartisan effort in super partisan times, it also recognizes the importance of education in correctional facilities—something that’s been forgotten!

OPMs And Higher Education

We all are aware of the increasing costs of a college education, of the pressure of admissions and the role money continues to play, and in a recent article Kevin Carey tries to explain why this has happened.  He writes universities had a choice and when they were at a crossroads they chose the way of profits. When online education took off, and some universities signed on, it was, he says an opportunity for education costs to be lowered, particularly benefiting low income and others who couldn’t afford the costs of elite institutions and receive an education regardless of their financial status. But that is, he describes in some details, not what happened. OPMs happened instead. They are online  program managers, sometimes called enrollment managers, people  and organizations which begun as start-ups  helping students with tests like the SATs and were so successful they  branched out to eventually be partners in offering online degrees. Some are now also publicly traded and have been able to show a large profit for themselves as well as for the universities they partner with, showing profits of about 42% roughly half for them and half for the universities. They tend to have strong marketing and operate much the same way as for profit colleges do and did, and some of the same people are involved. The Education Department  divisions which  had tried to change the rules to protect students against for profit colleges practices are now apparently rather secretly rewriting these rules  and the author points  out that it looks like OPMs will be able to do whatever they see fit to make as much money as they can. While some view the role of enrollment managers as being more benign and as being of use to universities, what I find distressing is how academic institutions which are meant to guide people to uphold the values that make us an open society, have allowed themselves to be led by profit motives. And even more distressing in the case of their involvement with OPMs they have done so in a way that does not benefit the current and future students who need help.