Herbert J. Hoelter
Disrupting destructive federal sentencing cycles and providing new opportunities for people involved in the criminal justice system
Herbert J. Hoelter is the CEO of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA). Founded in 1977, NCIA is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to human service and correctional justice reform. The organization provides sentencing advocacy, works to lower the rates of suicide for those in custody, and assists adults and youth with career development opportunities and job skills training. Recognized for his his leadership at NCIA, Herb is a nationally renowned professional federal sentencing consultant who has been featured by The Boston Globe, The New York Post The Associated Press, and Fox News.
Herbert J. Hoelter spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Can you tell us about the book you worked on?
HERBERT J. HOELTER: I was the chief editor of a book called The Real War on Crime, which was published in the late 1990s. It was the result of a national commission that we put together that worked for two years, and it was funded partially by the Milken Foundation—we had worked with Michael Milken for a couple of years during his criminal sentencing process. We put together a coalition of about 25 people: former attorney generals, who had the biggest food bank in the country; former professional athletes; people who had a vested interest in seeing that we have a better criminal justice system. We brought in all of the experts to meet with the commission and we put together a report on criminal justice, on juvenile justice, on racial injustice, on women in prison—which is becoming an even more major factor today—and we published that, and it became kind of a textbook for a lot of criminal justice curricula at the colleges. It was one of the biggest selling books at that time. It sold something like 25,000 copies, primarily to colleges and individuals. It was a wonderful venture.
Q. NCIA has been involved with some of the who’s-who of Baltimore. Can you tell us about the individuals you’ve worked with over the years?
A. In our early stages of development, we wanted to put together a board of directors that knew us, because it’s a unique organization—a lot of people don’t like to talk about criminal justice, although we have to because it’s affecting all of us in many different ways. Oz Bengur had worked for Jerry Miller, my partner, in Massachusetts as a Vista volunteer and then went to Illinois with him when Dr. Miller went to Illinois. Then he came to Baltimore with Alex Brown, and I knew him from there because I had a former wife who worked at Alex Brown and has since passed.
Then I met Connie Caplan when she was doing work with Baltimore County in criminal justice and got to know Connie quite well. In fact, I remember going to a fundraiser at her house for Bill Clinton, and he couldn’t come and we were very upset. He sent some of his aides instead.
But yeah, we got to know them and they served on our board of directors for a while. They’ve since gone on to other things obviously, but I stay in touch, certainly with Oz. They’re just nice relationships. I mean Baltimore is such a wonderful community and a great town to do work in and great people here.
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