Social Policy Reader
Here is your weekly prompt of social policy books and articles that will open your mind (click on links for sources).
This week: Human Trafficking, Criminal Justice Fines and the Poor, A Universal Child Benefit, MediCaring Communities, and Settling Refugees in communities.
A number of stereotypes exist about the nature of trafficking, its many forms, who is trafficked, where it occurs, and what is and can be done about it. This wide ranging and comprehensive “case study” of the St. Louis and the Bi-state area looks at trafficking from the perspectives of survivors, advocates, law enforcement, and social service providers. So many myths are busted in the book, including the perception that trafficking is primarily a bicoastal phenomenon. Many insights are presented – from the relative inattention to labor trafficking; to the importance of psychological coercion; to the influence of legal constraints and police culture in investigating trafficking cases. Readers cannot help but be affected by the both personal and statistical accounts of labor and sex trafficking going on in our midst.
A Pound of Flesh by Alexes Harris provides a granular analysis of the evolution and consequences of court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution to punish and control low-income defendants. The book documents the extraordinary effects of these practices on the growth of incarceration, the debt and hardship experienced in low-income and minority communities, and the disparities which result in the criminal justice system writ large. The study is focused on five counties in Washington State, but has many practice and policy implications elsewhere.
Eduardo Porter of the New York Times reviews a proposal from a group of poverty scholars convened by the Russell Sage Foundation. By eliminating the child tax credit and replacing it with a universal child benefit of $250 per month, child poverty would be reduced by 40 percent and deep poverty by 50 percent. The authors describe the international precedents and argue that it is fiscally feasible, especially given the benefits. The full argument and policy analysis will be presented in an upcoming issue of RSF.
Joanne Lynn is one of the most thoughtful and experienced policy advocates in long term care, chronic care, and end-of-life care. This book organizes an approach to caring for older and frail persons that is community-based. The approach builds on six core components: geography, care-planning, innovations in geriatric medical care, integration of social services with medical service, establishing community governance, and capturing financial savings.
Efforts to resettle refugees, especially recent efforts to help Syrian refugees have met very difficult headwinds in some cities and communities. Deborah Fallows reviews the efforts of Burlington, Vermont; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Erie, Pennsylvania, to successfully welcome refugees. The lessons are that this is hard and long-term work; that numerous benefits can accrue to communities (Erie counts 100 new business attributed to refugees), and there can be joy in the vitality and cultural contributions of refugees. See the related video “The Truth about American Towns that Welcome Refugees” attached to this article.