Tuesday, December 28, 2010

About Vick, Obama and prisoner rehabilitation

Dave Weigel onPresident Obama's praise of Michael Vick

The Vick/Obama is only interesting at the level Obama meant it to be interesting -- as the start of a discussion on prisoner rehabilitation. Vick will be fine, because he has several years left to play football better than almost anybody in the country. He gets a comeback, on national television, with an array of writers eager to chronicle it. How useful is the Vick situation for starting a discussion about prison reform, or the rights of felons? Does it make a discussion of felon re-enfranchisement any less toxic? It can, and it's really the only way that Democrats -- especially Barack Obama -- can start a discussion on this without coming out of the gate as soft-on-crime wimps.

I suspect that this discussion won't get too far with Vick as its leading example. "Rehaibilitation" is relatively easy to come by when A) you're likely to secure a multi-million dollar contract upon your release from prison and B) employers are motivated to give you that contract because of the possibility you'll help them generate millions of dollars more in ticket sales, team paraphernalia (if, as is happening with Vick right now, you take a team to the playoffs) and other opportunities. But Michael Vick is the only recent felon to whom those conditions apply. There are incentives out there for employers who hire recently released convicts, but lots of companies remain skittish about those prospects. I'm not sure how Michael Vick's example serves as a good starting point to fixing those problems.

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