But the change I am thinking of today is that there is a rising tide of support for reform of the criminal justice system in the United States. The damage of excessive incarceration has become so self-evident with most folks in the system, from judges and chaplains to wardens and parole officers that authoritative voices are rising and letters are being written and voting records are being evaluated by folks with a passion for a more just society. I don't think anyone wants the USA to be the leading incarcerator (ahead of Russia and Rwanda and nearly 7 times higher than Canada).
I wish I had access to a major university's resources so I could statistically correlate the rising incarcerations rates with the rising poverty rates. This is not because I believe the majority of crime is caused by physical poverty but rather because the financial, health and family support needed to have the least harsh outcomes within the legal system (I just can't say criminal justice with a straight face any longer.) is in short supply in families too often being casually crushed quickly for relatively small matters. They have limited resources before and much less during and for a long time after a family member has been incarcerated.
I think this hit home in a new way when a husband and wife convicted in the Enron debacle were allowed to be incarcerated serially rather than concurrently so their children would not be as damaged. I think that is a great idea, but I'm a little queasy when I realize that so many other family would be in a better position if that had been available to them; but they could not afford high-dollar, powerful and creative attorneys. You know, as many people as I hear bemoaning their perception of "mollycoddling of criminals" I don't remember a single slap at this...because who wants children injured more than necessary? But this is even more vitally important in families whose financial and personal capital has been decimated by the criminal behavior of one of their family members.
Prison Fellowship states it well:
A truly just system
- allows for punishment that fits the crime;
- makes restitution to and for the victims of crime;
- to the maximum extent possible, rehabilitates the criminal; and then
- with needed skills and new maturity, restores the individual to society where they can shoulder their personal, family and community responsibilities with dignity and purpose.
Because justice has been co-oped for political purposes, we have a long way to go to helping these folks start being tax payers rather than tax liabilities. But it is in the best interest of us all that this happens. The change will not be without challenges and we each and all need to become more aware, more informed, more involved.
Take the time to read criminal justice related articles in newspapers, magazines and on-line; pay attention to the source of the material. Check out free Kindle books on restorative justice and prison ministry. Do not let fear and dis-ease make you fodder for the "news snippet political and quasi-journalistic cannon bombast" where the more affluent and powerful need only turn their backs on the needs of society as a whole in order to benefit from injustice.
Look with courage, because if I may paraphrase Leroy "Satchel" Paige, something is definitely gaining on us. And God entrusts to us the capacity to meet it with courage and a willingness to be God's Hands and Feet or to bury our heads ever deeper into the darkness of ignorance and fear leaving an attractive target for evil's boot, but certainly no protection.