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Study: Military More Willing to Admit Felons

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.


Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, a little Totenberg action today. I'm Rachel Martin.



And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008. And Rachel, I'm so glad you're here.

MARTIN: Hi, Michael! I'm so glad. How'd it go yesterday?

PESCA: Do you want to...

MARTIN: You were left all by yourself on Alison's first day away from the office for maternity leave, and we just said, it's the Pesca Show for two hours. How'd it go?


PESCA: Well, this is why I'm glad you're here, because at this very moment in the show, when the hosts are supposed to maybe banter with each other....

MARTIN: You were talking with your inner self?

PESCA: Hard to banter, so I tried to make some illusion to the actor, what's his name? Paul Giamatti? I think I invoked Giuseppe Garibaldi, who, as you know, was the "sword" of the Italian revolution. But my point is...

MARTIN: Of course I do.

PESCA: The one-sided banter sometimes spins off into craziness.

MARTIN: I've been there, my friend. It's not pretty.

PESCA: It's been described as a train wreck.

MARTIN: Oh, no!

PESCA: An apt description.

MARTIN: Well, I'm here for you. I'm here for you.

PESCA: It's been described as shocking, which brings us to, on the show today, shock as art.

MARTIN: This is shocking.

PESCA: I couldn't even do segues without you. People inducing miscarriages or starving dogs in the name of art. We'll talk about that.

MARTIN: That is a really harrowing story. It's a Yale art student who says that she has induced these miscarriages as part of her art project.


MARTIN: Apparently, she may not get to display her project on campus. Hm, wonder why?

PESCA: Also the effects of bringing in music, and taking out music, and how that affects people, how that affects relationships. Yeah.

MARTIN: Hosts. Relationships.

PESCA: What they do, how they react. It's like an experiment gone wrong.

MARTIN: Speaking of relationships, experiments that could go wrong. Assistants, have you ever been an assistant to someone?

PESCA: No, no, I've always been the alpha jerk.

MARTIN: It's tough. I've been an assistant several times. There's a woman who's had some harrowing experiences as an assistant. She's put all these together. She's culled from the stories of other people, other assistants, she's put them all together on a blog called Save the Assistants, an online forum, if you will, for disgruntled coffee fetchers, copy makers, and general office slaves. That's her quote, not mine. We're going to get into that story.

PESCA: Awesome.

MARTIN: Also, our friend, Ian.

PESCA: Yes, Ian ran the Boston Marathon, and he's going to talk to us about it. He talked to us while he was running, so that's awesome. And we're also going to get NPR's Nina Totenberg. She'll do a preview of what's happening in your Supreme Court today, unless you are not a U.S. citizen. Plus, the latest headlines in just a minute. But first...

MARTIN: Do you believe in second chances? The U.S. military seems to. New recruiting figures show that the Army and Marine Corps accepted a significantly higher number of recruits with felony convictions in 2007 than in the year before.

PESCA: The number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony convictions rose to 511 last year, more than double the number from 2006. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 350, up from 208 the year before. The Navy accepted fewer felons, and the Air Force didn't accept any.

MARTIN: The bulk of the crimes involved were burglaries, thefts and drug offences, but there were more serious crimes, too. Some recruits had convictions for sex crimes, manslaughter, or vehicular homicide. Several dozen had aggravated-assault or robbery convictions, including incidents involving weapons, and two were convicted for terrorist threats, including bomb threats.

PESCA: Each recruit with a criminal background needs a special waiver to join up. As the need for soldiers has increased, the military has tried to streamline the waiver process, and reduce the list of crimes that require waivers.

MARTIN: Lieutenant General James Thurman, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, says the increase of recruits with criminal records is not cause for concern.

(Soundbite of speech)

Lieutenant General JAMES THURMAN (Army Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army): We are growing fast, and there are some waivers, we know that. It hasn't alarmed us yet.

PESCA: And Thurman says the program represents the military's investment in young recruits much as it once invested in him.

(Soundbite of speech)

Lieutenant General THURMAN: I never thought I'd be where I am today. You know, the thing of it is, you've got to give people the opportunity to serve.

MARTIN: The number of recruits with felonies on the records is just a fraction of the 180,000 new service personnel recruited over the time period. But Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, who released the data, calls the increase the result of strain put on the military by the Iraq war, which he says, quote, "may be undermining military readiness."

PESCA: Another report showed that, for the third consecutive year, the Army missed Defense Department benchmarks for educational attainment, as well. The Army wants 90 percent of its recruits to have regular high-school degrees, as opposed to GEDs, but last year, the number was only 70.7. For more on this and other news, visit

MARTIN: Now, let's get some of the day's headlines from NPR's - BPP's Mark Garrison. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.