Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Judge Kevin Allen: What We Learned

On Nov. 19, the Institute of Government and Politics held a forum relating to the court system and the mentally ill. Judge Kevin Allen of the First District Courts was the speaker at the forum. The following are a few of the things that Judge Allen spoke about at the event. Background information on Judge Allen and the mental health courts can be found in the previous post.

1) How He Got Involved with the Mental Health Court
When Judge Allen began the interview process to become a judge, he was asked at every step of the way if he would be willing to start a mental health court. He said yes, despite the fact that he didn’t know anything about mental health courts. At the time of his appointment, there was only one other mental health court in the state of Utah, and it was located in Salt Lake City. Judge Allen said running a mental health court in Cache County is very different than running one in Salt Lake because they have many more resources than he does. The other judges in the First District Court told Judge Allen that he could run the mental health court if he wanted, but that he would still be expected to do an equal amount of work in the regular courts. He agreed to this and assembled a team of mental health experts, prison officials, USU professors and police officers, and together they did the research needed to open the mental health court.

2) The Problem with Our Criminal Justice System
“It’s estimated that one in six prisoners has a serious mental illness,” Allen said. “Not just a mental illness. I’ve read studies that indicate that half of the prison population has a mental illness. But one in six is a serious mental illness: schizophrenia, major bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder. These are serious mental illnesses that, without treatment, cause people to act out in very destructive ways. The problem too is that in prisons, they don’t get any treatment. There are so many rules and regulations at the jail, and they have to have them to maintain order over there, but often times they are really detrimental to those who are mentally ill.”

Judge Allen also spoke about the extreme costs of incarcerating people. He said Cache County alone is spending about $1 million on housing the current mentally ill inmates. According to Allen, if Cache County would instead spend that money on helping these people get treatment, it’d be amazing what that $1 million could do.

3) The Purpose of Mental Health Courts
“The purpose of mental health courts is very simple,” Allen said. “What we try and do is have the person recognize they have a mental illness. By the end of their time with us, I want them to be able to talk about their mental illness to anybody, anywhere, anytime. They have no shame attached to their mental illness. Because that’s one of the biggest problems we have, is that they won’t talk about it or get the help they need. After they recognize it, they have to accept the treatment we are going to give to them.”

Judge Allen then proceeded to share his go-to analogy about mental health. He explained that when someone gets diagnosed with diabetes, that person’s doctor prescribes to them some medication and explains that they will have to change their behaviors. They can no longer survive off of a diet of fast food and soda. If they don’t take their medications and change their behaviors, they will die. According to Judge Allen, mental illness is the same way.

The theory is that if these people can recognize their illness, and accept the treatment the court is going to give them, they will not go back to jail.

4) Why Mental Health Courts Work
“We have the power of the robe,” Allen said. “I have the power in mental health court to immediately remove someone’s liberty. I have complete 100% discretion.”

He gave an example of one woman in the mental health court that was late to every doctor’s appointment she had. Allen finally took the action to tell her he would put her in jail if she was late even one more time, and she hasn’t been late since.

“I have the ability to hold them immediately accountable,” Allen said. “It is a powerful tool.”

5) Mental Health Courts make a difference
“Mental health courts work. We have about a 70% success rate, and we measure success by a lack of recidivism. Lots of them go on to live happy, meaningful lives. You sit in something like this, and you see someone’s life totally change.”

Allen then shared the following parable:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance. As he drew nearer, he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.

Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing. The boy replied, "I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen.”

"But", said the man, "You can't possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can't possibly make a difference."

The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, "I made a difference to that one.”

Allen said the mental health courts teach him the same message as this simple story.

“We are not changing the world, but if we can help out one person, then it’s worth it,” Allen said.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mental Health & the Courts - With Judge Kevin Allen

On Thursday Nov. 19, Judge Kevin Allen will be speaking at the Utah State Alumni House at 5:30 p.m. He will be discussing the evolving relationship between the courts and mentally ill, the mental health programs expanding across the country and the importance of these problem-solving courts.

Things to Know About Judge Allen:
·         Grew up in Cache County, Utah
·         Graduated from Brigham Young University as an undergraduate
·         Graduated from law school at the University of Oklahoma
·         Served as the President of the Cache County Bar Association
·         Was a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the American and Utah Bar Association’s Litigation, Real Property and Estate Planning Sections
·         Was appointed to the First District Court in March 2008 by Gov. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.
·         Was instrumental in establishing the Intermountain Mental Health Court Conference held annually at USU
·         Serves as a member of the Utah Sentencing Commission and is serving on the Board of District Court Judges
·         Established and presides over the First District Mental Health Court

Things to know about the First District Mental Health Court*:
·         It is located in Logan, Utah
·         It is a diversionary court and a innovative method to jurisprudence that holds mentally ill offenders responsible for their actions without imprisonment
·         The court allows individuals with mental health problems, who have committed a nonviolent, nonsexual crime, to receive court-monitored treatment
·         It uses a narrow set of mental disorders like schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder to decide a defendant’s eligibility
·         Judge Allen reached out to mental health experts and faculty members in the Utah State Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology to help him when he was starting the court
·         For individuals who enter the program, their sentencing is postponed until they successfully complete it – a process that takes an average of two years

Free pizza will be provided at the forum. Follow or tweet the event using #iogpforum

*Information was taken from Liberalis, The Alumni Magazine put out by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. To read the full article, “Changing a Life,” written by Kristen Munson and Jeremy Pugh, go here: http://liberalis.usu.edu/2014/spring/changing_a_life.php

Monday, November 16, 2015

Intern Spotlight: Rachel Evans

Meet Rachel Evans.
  • Major: Political Science
  • Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Favorite Aggie Ice Cream Flavor: Aggie Blue Mint
  • Place She's Dying to Visit: Australia
  • Intern For: Senator Orrin Hatch
IOGP: What has been the highlight of your internship?

RE: The highlight of my internship has been witnessing history. From John Boehner resigning as speaker, to the Pope visiting DC, to another possible government shutdown, something exciting happens every day. It is an incredible feeling to be in the same city at the Pope and be only a building away from the new Speakership election. I wouldn't trade my first-hand account of today's history for anything.

IOGP: What is it like working for Senator Hatch? Have you been able to interact with him?

RE: Working for Senator Hatch is a one-in-a-lifetime experience. It is hard to find another Senator in Congress that does as much as Senator Hatch has done for so long. The people in his office are driven, kind, intelligent, and professional. The Senator himself is sharp and quite funny. Despite his extremely busy schedule, he makes it a point to say hello to the interns when he sees them in the office and checks in often to make sure that we are having a good experience. I am the intern for the press team. Occasionally the press secretary asks for my help when recording videos of the Senator for press releases. This allows me to interact with Senator Hatch quite a bit.

IOGP: What are your plans post-internship?

RE: Post-internship I am hoping to get a job and stay on the Hill. I am close enough to graduation that I can finish my degree online and get started on a career out here. I hope to work on the Hill because it allows me to be a part of the legislative process in many aspects. In my opinion, it is easiest to transition straight from an internship into a full time position, so I am hoping to make that work. Long term I might go to law school or just try and make a career out of working on the Hill. Other than that I am just going with the flow.

IOGP: Which classes really prepared you for this internship?

RE: A few classes in particular have prepared me for my internship; one being Dr. Lyon's Legislative Politics class. It was so helpful to understand a part of the legislative process before I started working for an actual lawmaker. However, I think that each class I took in college helped me get to where I am now. Knowing even a little bit about a wide variety of things allows one to ask questions and spark interesting political discussion.

IOGP: What do you like most about DC?

RE: There are many things about DC that frustrate me. This morning, for example, my commute that normally takes 25 minutes, took 50 because there were so many high school tourists flooding the Metro. However, there is nothing quite like working in the Nation's capitol. For years in school I studied the process that happens here, and now I am living it. I love seeing the Capitol building and the Washington monument every day. There is history and energy in every part of this city. 

IOGP: Any recommended sights to see in DC?

RE: I highly recommend going to the Jefferson memorial at night. It is gorgeous. The Newseum is another one of my favorites. Also, there is an incredible bookstore/cafe at Dupont Circle that is a must-visit for locals.

IOGP: What advice would you give to current students thinking of a political internship?

RE: As far as advice for potential interns goes, I can only recommend that they go for it. For me, a political internship in DC seemed intimidating and maybe even boring. Now, I don't feel like that at all. My internship has taught me about real-world professional experiences and has opened doors to me. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Senator Hatch gave me and I can't believe I ever second-guessed it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

15 Ways To Stand Out as an Intern

Taking an internship can seem intimidating. To be one of the youngest and most inexperienced employees is overwhelming at any local business, let alone in our nation's capital. But don't let your worries get the best of you! An internship is a great way to learn, network and build your resume by getting first-hand experience.

Whether you are interning in DC or in Salt Lake with the Legislature, you can use some of the same strategies to be successful. Business Insider published a wonderful article about ways you can stand out as an intern. To read it, Click here!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Intern Spotlight: Caleb Carroll

Meet Caleb Carroll.
  • Major: Political Science
  • Hometown: Evanston, Wyoming
  • Playing on His iPod Right Now: Hello, by Adele
  • Favorite Movie Quote: "I believe there's a hero in all of us." - Aunt May, Spider-Man 2
  • Intern For: Senator John Barrasso
IOGP: What has been the highlight of your internship?

CC: I actually work here indefinitely now. My internship lasted for about four weeks, at which point in time Senator Barrasso recommended me for a position on the Indian Affairs Committee. I applied for it and actually got the job. So the highlight would be getting an actual job from my internship. There are other highlights as well like getting to see a lot of people that have ran for president, or are running for president, you get to go to lots of galas and receptions, and DC is just a really cool place to live.


IOGP: What do you like most about DC?

CC: My favorite thing about DC is probably all the activities that there are to do here. A couple weeks ago, they did a movie in the park, we've gone to a food festival, we've gone to the beach and there are all the monuments you can go to. For Halloween, we trick or treated on Embassy Row and went to a party in the woods with a whole bunch of people. There are so many things to do and people to see.

                                                                                On Halloween

IOGP: What is it like working for Senator Barrasso? Have you been able to interact with him?

CC: I saw Senator Barrasso almost every day he was in the office. He is a great guy, and working with his staff was really nice. There were only two of us, two interns, in his office, so we got to do lots of different things. He gave me a present just the other day. Working with Senator Barrasso is fantastic.

IOGP: What are your plans post internship?

CC: This job is a stepping stone. I still have grad school that I definitely want to go. I am either going to go to law school or get my Master's in Business. I haven't decided yet. This is a good launching point, a good way to get my name out there. I get to meet a lot of different people that will definitely help me in my future endeavors. This is my starting point for future jobs.

IOGP: Any recommended sights to see in DC?

  • Capitol Hill, obviously. But if you are an intern out here, you're going to see that regardless.
  • Dupont Circle, they've got lots of cool shops
  • Lincoln Monument
  • Jefferson Monument
  • U Street, there are lots of cool clubs where you can go dancing, and I really enjoy that

IOGP: What advice would you give to current students thinking of a political internship? 

CC: I would say, do it! I was offered an internship last year in Senator Hatch's office, but I turned it down. But then I got out here and it's absolutely fantastic. So just do it! Other than that, I would say save your money. There's a lot of fun stuff to do, so you'll want to come out here with a bit of pocket change. Learn your major political figures, and the rest of the stuff you can't learn in school. They'll teach you here, and you'll learn as you go.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Why Local Government Matters

On Oct. 29, the Institute of Government and Politics held a panel discussion called, "Why Local Government Matters." 

Panel members included State Senator Lyle Hillyard, Bountiful City Manager Gary Hill and Logan City Mayor Craig Petersen. These three men discussed the importance of state and local politics and the influence your involvement can bring to your community.

In case you missed it, here are a few of the things they talked about at the event. 

       From left to right seated at the table: Bountiful City Manager Gary Hill, 
Logan City Mayor Craig Petersen, State Senator Lyle Hillyard

On Low Voter Turnout in Local Elections:

Mayor Petersen: Here in Cache Valley, there are a number of communities who have cancelled their elections. This is because the law doesn’t require an election to be held when there aren’t more candidates than there are open seats. In Logan, we have three seats available on the city council and four candidates, and so we will have the election. However, since it is only this single race on the ballot, people are less likely to come vote. The fact that they are non-partisan elections means that parties aren’t involved in getting out voters; it’s the individual candidates that have to do that. Those are maybe a couple of reasons for low turn outs.

Senator Hillyard: I know a lot of people who would be good legislators, who simply say, ‘I wouldn’t go through the process. I don’t want to pay the money.’ I think that turns people off in voting. The strategy gets almost to be, ‘I know my hardcore people are going to vote for me, there will be hardcore people to vote for the other side. I just want to get the middle people not to vote. So I’m going to say as many bad things as I can about Mitt Romney, or as many bad things about President Obama.’ I heard a saying once that it doesn’t matter whether you get bit by the dog or the cat. People look at the election and say, ‘It doesn’t matter if I like the Republicans or the Democrats, it’ll all end up the same.’ And they end up not voting. That’s really a sad commentary about our election process.

Gary Hill: I think that people don’t appreciate necessarily how impactful the local government is to your day to day life. I think if people appreciated how much your city and your county do and affect your life on a daily basis, they might be a little more interested. Sometimes there is no controversy and no voter turnout because people are just pretty happy with the way things are going.

On Zoning and Planning for Population Growth:

Gary Hill: You have to take the time to plan well. Your master plan should outline what areas of town you want to have homes, what areas of town you want to have commercial development, how you are going to get people to and from those, how wide your roads are, and what you are doing for trails and parks. The planning is the first step. The second piece of that is don’t get behind on your infrastructure. If you get behind the curve, and you don’t start replacing your infrastructure as you need to, you are just going to have to pay much more later. It costs about 10 times as much to replace a road as it does to maintain it. It’s extremely expensive. You also have a policy decision to make about new growth. Do you put that burden on the existing taxpayers, or do you put that burden on the people who are demanding the growth? In other words, who pays for it? There’s a very big mix of what you can do, but it starts with planning.

Mayor Petersen:  Growth depends on the nature of the city. Logan City doesn’t have a large amount of area within our city limit to expand. So our likely growth over the next 30 years isn’t going to be as rapid as it might be in North Logan or some of the other communities. So the planning for growth really has to be considered in light of what your capacity for growth is.

Senator Hillyard: A number of years ago, there was a push in the state that we would have state planning for all of this. The threats got so heavy to the legislature that we had to make sure we had guards at the doors. People were so concerned that the state was going to plan it, and thought it should be left to the counties. So no one has ever dared even talk about that anymore.

Advice to Students Wanting to Get Involved in Local Politics:

Senator Hillyard: On the local level, candidates don’t run by political party. So if you want to get involved, what you need to do is pick a candidate and go say, ‘I’d like to help you, what can I do?’ There is plenty of good work for volunteers to do and it’ll get you the type of information and knowledge you’ll need if you want to run yourself.

Gary Hill: I would suggest, at the local level, go in and talk to your mayor. The mayors would love to tell you some of the things that might be interesting to you. At the legislature, I would strongly suggest that you find a bill at the beginning of the session on a topic that is of interest to you and just follow what happens. Call the bill sponsor and talk to them. They are so accessible. You will learn so much about the legislative process.

Mayor Petersen: If you’ve never been to City Council meetings, it is an interesting process. You ought to see a little bit about how the system works. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it really is designed to get people’s input and to be transparent. 

Former Interns on the Value of Internships

If you need any convincing that doing an internship is a good idea, look no further. These former interns tell you why internships are a great addition to your resume.