Saturday, March 13, 2010

Part of the Problem?

Continuing to advocate for that which has not worked—traditional rehabilitation programs focused on jobs, drug abuse, housing, etc., about which we've posted—could be defined as being part of the problem, and that describes this recent editorial from America magazine, which, unfortunately, too often describes the institutionalized Catholic approach in America to criminal justice.

What works is an internal transformation the criminal undertakes, based on truth potent enough to trump the truth of the criminal/carceral world; and that truth is the Great Story of the Catholic Church, told through her social teaching by a transformed criminal, as outlined by the Lampstand Foundation.

An excerpt from the editorial from America.

“Recession-driven prison closings may provide state lawmakers an opportunity to promote a more rational approach to criminal justice that still puts public safety first. Draconian sentences even for low-level offenders have long crowded penal facilities, and over the past two decades the building of new prisons has increased dramatically. In the 1960s and 70s an average of four prisons a year were under construction, but in the 1990s the average jumped to 24 a year. Correctional costs now swallow up huge portions of many state budgets. According to a March 2009 report by the Pew Center on the States, total corrections spending has reached an estimated $68 billion, an increase of 336 percent since 1986.

“For some states, this spending has produced disquieting signs of skewed spending priorities. In Michigan, for example, one of the states hit hardest by the recession because of its ties with the ailing automotive industry, the state government spends more on corrections than on higher education, despite having already closed half a dozen penal facilities.

“Other states are considering early release for low-level offenders who seem to present little risk to public safety. Arizona, New Jersey and Vermont reduced the sentences of thousands of probation and parole violators who had been returned to prison for violations of various kinds. Early release, though, can work well only if strong re-entry programs are in place—initiatives that provide help with housing, jobs and substance abuse. According to Marc Mauer, executive director of the nonprofit Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., the commitment to re-entry programs has grown over the past decade—a positive sign of a practice he hopes will continue.”