As he was when he ran the city’s Department of Correction, and his TEAMs management system pacified Rikers and was a finalist for Harvard’s Innovations in American Government award, Kerik is still preoccupied with fixing the prison system.
“I vacated more than a hundred federal consent decrees, creating one of the most efficient and secure correctional systems in the United States, so naturally I constantly look at this system for ways they could better comply with minimum standards, maximize their efficiencies and reduce costs for the American taxpayer,” he said.
“For the most part, I have very little interaction with the staff,” he said, but asserted that anyone who knew his background could guess that he has a “great amount of respect and admiration for the men and women that work in this field. I know the frustrations and dangers of their job.”
To his own shock, he’s found himself agreeing with the likes of The New York Times, CNN and Justice Anthony Kennedy on matters of crime and punishment. “It’s shocking for me,” Mr. Picciano said, laughing. “I know him for 16 years. I’m thinking, ‘What’s he talking about, he’s losing his mind.’”
Kerik was moved when he recently read a speech Justice Kennedy gave in front of the American Bar Association in 2003, which a friend had emailed to him. Among the lines that struck him most was this: “As a profession, and as a people, we should know what happens when the prisoner is taken away.” The majority of the inmates around him deserve a chance to get out and make something of their lives, Kerik said, instead of wasting away in prison.
Of course, this includes him. With time off for good behavior, Kerik is looking at a release date in the fall of 2013.
“I have learned so much on the inside that I just couldn’t see or realize from the outside,” he wrote
in an email. “We can’t be soft on crime, and people must pay for the mistakes they make, but the overreliance on incarceration for punishment can often destroy a man who could otherwise pay for his mistake and return to society as a more productive and better person. In many cases, our system of criminal justice today is preventing that from happening. For more than two decades, some of the brightest legal minds in this country have called for a revision of the federal sentencing guidelines and a repeal of the mandatory minimums. Now, I think I know why.”