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March 2 2015

Dorm Life: The Criminal Down the Hall

Charlotte Allen

Political progressives worry so much about violent campus crime that they see no problem with, say, evicting somebody who is suspected of sexual assault from the campus, sometimes even before there’s been a hearing on guilt or innocence.

But now the same progressives apparently want to invite convicted violent criminals onto campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a movement to pass laws that would bar college administrators from asking prospective students whether they’ve been convicted of a felony. About 70 percent of U.S. colleges and universities include questions to that effect on application forms—reflecting what seems to be an understandable concern for the safety of other students who might not want to share a dorm room or classroom with a rap sheet.

But here’s the new thinking, as reported by the Chronicle:

But there is no evidence that people with criminal histories are any more likely to commit crimes on campus, or that any of the recent campus shootings, including those at Virginia Tech, were by people with criminal histories, says Robert A. Stewart, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, who is conducting a nationwide study of such screenings.

***

Answering yes [to a question about a conviction] rarely means automatic rejection, but the scrutiny that usually follows is enough to make some applicants feel unwelcome, says Alan Rosenthal, co-director of justice strategies at the Center for Community Alternatives, an advocacy group for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

"We know education reduces recidivism," he says. "So if you close your doors, thinking you’re keeping your campus safe, you’re undermining the safety of your communities."

In other words, college students are supposed to jeopardize their own safety so that non-students can be safer.

Advocates for requiring colleges to open their doors to convicted felons trot out the sad tale of Adrien Cadwallader, rejected by both the State University of New York and a local community college on account of his felony record:

He fought tears as he tried to explain why he, a 33-year-old former cocaine dealer with violent impulses, deserved to sit in a college classroom.

"I told them how difficult it is to live with the guilt for the things that I have done," says Mr. Cadwallader, recounting his admissions interview at the State University of New York at New Paltz, a working-class town in the middle of horse country, about 80 miles north of Manhattan.

He had taken classes while behind bars in the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and hoped upon his release that a college degree would get him off the path that had taken him in and out of prisons for eight years.

***

"They kept asking me about my rap sheet," he says. "It doesn’t tell my full story. Those things were done by a person that is no longer me. I felt like I was being set up to fail."

***

Mr. Cadwallader has abandoned his college aspirations and is living on welfare.

Violent tendencies? Cocaine dealing? Eight years in and out of prisons? Living on welfare instead of working? Would you want the 33-year-old Cadwallader living two doors down the hall from you if you were a 19-year-old sophomore at New Paltz?

And by the way, the recently closed Mt. McGregor, in Wilton, N.Y., wasn’t the county honor farm for goof-offs who got onto the wrong side of the law. It was a medium-security facility for serious offenders.

Ah, the magical thinking of political progressives knows no bounds.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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