In a little-publicized appearance at Stillwater State Prison in Minnesota today (Aug. 17), Chief Justice Warren Burger was scheduled to deliver a commencement address to convicts participating in Insight Inc., the only privately funded, inmate-run college education program in the United States.
His intent is to praise and promote one of his favorite causes: He feels a new approach to inmate rehabilitation is urgently needed if the nation is to bring crime under control, Monitor writer Jim Bencivenga reports.
The chief justice attaches great importance to the idea of turning some prisons into ''factories with fences around them.'' Acknowledging that people ''do not go into prisons except by way of the judicial process,'' Mr. Burger said justices are concerned about what goes on in these facilities.''
He argues the benefits of ''training inmates in gainful occupations and taking off the backs of American taxpayers the enormous load of maintaining the prison systems of this country.'' The chief justice inspected two job training programs at the prison, sponsored by Control Data Corporation, in which inmates learn computer programing and assembly.
Sunday, the Justice Department came out with a report that said nearly three-fourths of all adults in correctional programs in the US are not in prison at all, but are under probation and parole programs instead. Parole is community supervision after release from prison. Probation, the most prevalent form of correction, has traditionally been used as an alternative to a prison or jail term. The General Accounting Office issued a report last week saying the parole system ''riddled with inconsistency, contradiction, and inefficiency.''