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Artisan Gets Prison for Clean Air Act Violations

The Clean Air Act dates from 1970 when many of America’s urban and manufacturing cities were struggling under a thick haze of smog. It wasn’t just an ugly situation—smog had significant health and environmental effects. Since the passage of the Clean Air Act, which has been amended and strengthened several times, pollution levels of the six most common pollutants have been reduced by 70 percent. It was a remarkable success, and Americans enjoyed cleaner, healthier air even as economic activity grew by 246 percent. Yet the question of what kind of consequences would Clean Air Act violations yield remained.

Americans drove more miles, both individually and collectively. They built more stuff and generated more energy, and yet the air in the United States is much cleaner than it was 45 years ago. Is it time to celebrate our success rather than to continue to tighten the screws of environmental regulation?

Some would say so. Senior fellow Oren Cass at the Manhattan Institute suggests that we should be pleased and proud with our success in cleaning up the air over American cities. However, pollution efforts are subject to the law of diminishing returns. After so much progress, mere incremental improvements come with great effort and expense. Cass believes that while we don’t want to slide backward, perhaps it is time to take a breather (no pun intended) and leave well enough alone.

Other Details on the Clean Air Act

Bold ideas change over time. When the CAA was passed, it was a dramatic turn that improved the environment and quality of life. However, as the regulations get ever stricter and the gains become ever smaller, perhaps the bold approach is to reassess.

While Cass suggests a modest approach of locking in gains while balancing progress and pollution control efforts, many in the business community have had enough. So, in a somewhat reactionary attitude, they collectively support the withdrawal of the act entirely. And it is no wonder, even small businesses and artisans are reeling under threats and intimidation foisted upon them by regulatory agencies operating under the Clean Air Act. Not only is it impossible for them to comply with the regulations, but some also even risk jail time and fines if they continue to operate at all—even on a relatively small scale.

Was the Clean Air Act Intended to Send Small Businessmen to Jail?

The case of artisan Patrick Keough is a picture-perfect example of Clean Air Act enforcement that has gone too far—at least, in the eyes of many in his community and in the opinion of small business owners in general.

The Clean Air Act was intended to clean up huge power plants and industrial facilities that belched out dangerous pollutants at an industrial scale. It also regulated auto emissions, which had a large effect on air quality by sheer numbers. The Clean Air Act regulated industry and autos. And for a time, all was well. That is why it was hardly expected that a small business sculptor would come under the heavy hammer of the EPA. And it was even less imaginable that he would do jail time.

Repercussions of Clean Air Act Violations

Keough, 59, is a small business owner who produces large-sized fiberglass statues of animals and other objects. He recently produced 6-feet tall hearts for Nebraska’s sesquicentennial celebration, even as he was under indictment from the EPA.

The artisan’s troubles began in 2013 when a fire broke out in his workshop. He moved drums of fiberglass gel coat to a farm for storage after the fire. However, he failed to apply for the appropriate permits to store the drums on the farm. Eventually, he was charged with endangering the health of his workers and pled guilty. After nearly four years of wending through court, in March 2017, Keough was sentenced to six months in jail and one year of probation.

It is hard to imagine that the public health of the nation, state or even town was affected by Keough’s small business operations. In the larger picture, it is hard to imagine a greater waste of time on the part of the EPA.

If this kind of harassment of ordinary citizens is the only way to improve air quality, then perhaps Cass has a point. Perhaps our air is clean enough for the time being, that the possible gains have already been realized, and that further improvement can only lead to business strangulation, economic stagnation, and loss of freedom.

Dignity on the Road to Rehabilitation And the Benefits of Education in Prisons

Sister Tesa, Opus Laureate and founder of the groundbreaking program, Hour Children, is a feisty advocate for prisoner rights. Tesa believes in the humane treatment of inmates and in the benefits of education in prisons.

In truth, this discussion isn’t just because humane treatment is the bedrock of a just society. Prison conditions affect all of us. Countless studies have shown us that prisons have a profound effect on inmates. But what wasn’t as well-studied were the effects that harsh penal systems have on the society at large. It has now become clear that what happens in prison doesn’t stay in prison. Behaviors and lessons that inmates learn in prison stay with them even upon their release, resulting in a population of ex-convicts who will reflect those lessons. The conditions that prisoners experience will likely influence them to be either violent and recidivists or well-adjusted and capable of leading fulfilled satisfying lives once they leave prison.

Recognizing the Benefits of Education in Prisons

Sometimes, in public policy decisions, we don’t know what the outcomes will be. However, it is not the case when it comes to the benefits of education in prisons and dignified road to prisoner rehabilitation. It is unmistakable that we know what works, and we know what the effects of our current policies are. And yet we continue on a misguided war on drugs and the harshest mandatory sentencing laws in the western world.

We can end prison recidivism by recognizing the benefits of education in prisons and build better prison programs and practice humane dignified treatment, or we can keep ratcheting up the punishment and build more prisons to house an ever larger percentage of the population.

Prison Education is Not Just Humane, It is a Smart Money Move Too

The statistics are not in question. The RAND Corporation issued a study that showed that states saved $4 to $5 for every $1 spent on prison education. How are these returns possible?

The prison recidivism rate tells the story. Most states have a prison recidivism rate of 40 percent or more. This case means that within three years, 40 percent of those released from prison will come right back behind those bars.

Keeping inmates in prison is expensive. Costs vary by state and the security required for particular categories of convicts. But the figures range from $40,000 per inmate per year in Washington to $60,000 per inmate per year in New York State. High recidivism means far more prisoners in jail at any given time. That results in huge tax bills for the public—just to take care of all of those prisoners. It’s a horrifically large price tag to house people in such wretched circumstances.

So how much of a difference can prison education make?

After all, these same prisoners had educational options when they were on the outside. Studies from the U.S. Department of Justice, and many state corrections departments have found that job training and worker education programs typically reduced recidivism by 43 percent. That is a big number that could save most jurisdictions serious money.

Even more significantly, the Bard College Prison Education Program—developed in 2001—has shown that participants in their program have a recidivism rate of just 4 percent. Additionally, prisoners who earn a degree in their program have a recidivism rate of only 2.5 percent. In other words, a well-designed education program can reduce recidivism by more 90 percent or more.

Educational Access Has Been Reduced and Restricted in the Past 20 Years

In 1991, there were 1,078 degrees awarded to New York Prison Inmates in 1991. In 2011, only 141 were awarded. This case is largely the result of a huge change in the availability of prison programs for those who are incarcerated. There were more than 70 available programs in the 1990s, now there are a mere four. Most inmates do not have access to education beyond the most rudimentary and pedantic.

There are costs and benefits to all of our decisions as a society. One cost of relying upon harsh punishment and incarceration for crimes and infractions is that we have become a less humane country with ever-increasing levels of social dysfunction. But, lack of prisoner rehabilitation and education costs every one of us a bundle.

A Bold Change on the Road to Prisoners’ Rehabilitation

For years, as a nation, we have relied upon ever more punitive and harsh criminal justice sentences and prison conditions. The logic was based on the deterrent value of these methods, if the sentences are simply harsh enough, people will stop committing crimes. However, that hasn’t worked. As a matter of fact, the United States is not the only country that has dabbled in this folly.

There is an incontrovertible correlation showing that harsh punitive punishment almost always leads to higher incarceration rates and more crime. On the other hand, rehabilitation, education, support, and a focus on human dignity reduce crime, prison populations and social dysfunction.

For those who claim to be sincere about cutting government budgets, it’s high time to start funding high-quality prisoner education and re-entry programs.

Increasing Use Of Digital Tech Affects Youth

Digital tech is pervasive among the youth of today, and recent studies have investigated how this affects their mood. Duke University researchers have found out that the youths’ digital life may somehow trigger attention, self-regulation, and behavioral problems.

Madeleine J. George, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University, said that “on days at-risk adolescents use technology, the more they experience conduct problems and higher ADHD symptoms compared to the days they use technology less.”

“higher ADHD symptoms compared to the days they use technology less”

Teenagers who used their devices often were more likely to undergo problems like fighting and lying. Furthermore, increased digital use makes them distracted resulting in attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder symptoms (ADHD) mentioned in a recent piece by Duke Today.

Gadgets have become not just a medium of connection but also a method of entertainment. Digital technology has been growing rapidly to the point where it can affect people in daily life from mood changes to sleep deprivation.

According to Science Illustrated, in the United States, teenagers have been spending 8.5 hours using mobiles, computers, and other devices in order to play, learn, and interact. Australia’s teenagers were discovered to have been spending an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes in using their gadgets.

Youth using more digital tech

Researchers from Duke University have learned that using technology had some good effects too. Some days, teens were less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety when they spend greater time using digital technologies. Because of this, researchers boldly concluded that gadgets can also allow youths to make more social connections and feel stronger ties to their peers.

When it comes to society, digital technology has a lot of positive and negative implications. For example, World Economic Forum stated that digital technology negatively affects health, and someone’s ability to look for a partner.

According to Gene Block, a Chancellor at University of California, “Perhaps, the most dramatic impact of digital technology is the reduction in the amount of sleep.”

Teenagers who suffer from mental health problems are relying on different mediums to help them go through life. The rapid development of digital technology clearly has advantages and disadvantages but bold innovations in technology will mean that perhaps a solution for these side effects will also be developed.

Precision Medicine Promises Better Healthcare At Lower Costs

“an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, lifestyle, and environment”

Genomics, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are three bold technologies holding the key to a transformation in healthcare. This transformation promises to deliver targeted, personalized medicine, or precision medicine, resulting in more efficient treatments at lower costs.

Precision medicine can be defined as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, lifestyle, and environment.” Precision medicine can be personalized in terms of both treatment selection and customized product development.

Genomics


Big data and analytics have reduced the cost of sequencing a genome from $100 million dollars in 2003 to $1,000 today. Tumor genomic sequencing is becoming more common as doctors determine which drugs will be most effective in treating a particular cancer. Illumina, the manufacturer of the DNA sequencer used for 90% of all human genomes ever sequenced, is responsible for the significant cost reduction. Francis DeSouza, Illumina’s bold leader, announced a 5-year initiative to bring genomics from the research lab into doctor’s offices.

Precision Medicine - Big data and analytics

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

Data gathering, sharing, and analysis are essential to accelerating progress in precision medicine. ASCO CancerLinQTM, a state-of-the-art health IT platform, aggregates and analyzes cancer treatment data from participating oncologists. Oncologists have access to information that enables them to make better decisions about treatment protocols.  Petra Streng of SAP notes, “without the speed of the data systems, and without the technical ability to look at all this information [think AI], no human brain can process millions and billions of iterations and compounds. This is where IT needs to play a key role.”

“This is where IT needs to play a key role”

Other critical elements necessary to progress the transformation include changes in how clinical trials are conceptualized and conducted and reforms in how regulatory agencies evaluate and approve new drugs.

For precision medicine to deliver on its promises, players across the gamut of the healthcare system—pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, insurance companies, government regulators, and technology developers—will need to engage and adapt. Based on the estimated market size of $87 billion by 2023, the precision medicine ‘gold rush’ is on.