Justice Problems in Prison

Does the Gospel, really, bear on every aspect of the world? Does this include prison, and criminals? Should we care about prison rape?


But by and large, we seem to find more humor than outrage in these crimes. In part, this simply reflects the nature of our criminal justice system, which has become decreasingly rehabilitative and increasingly retributive.

Here are some other interesting quotes.

“In the 1970s, as economist Glenn Loury has written, “the corrections system was commonly seen as a way to prepare offenders to rejoin society. Since then, the focus has shifted from rehabilitation to punishment and stayed there.”

“Morally, our tacit acceptance of violence within prisons is grotesque. But it’s also counterproductive. Research by economists Jesse Shapiro and Keith Chen suggests that violent prisons make prisoners more violent after they leave. When your choice is between the trauma of hardening yourself so no one will touch you or the trauma of prostituting yourself so you’re protected from attack, either path leads away from rehabilitation and psychological adjustment. And we, as a society, endure the consequences — both because it leads ex-cons to commit more crime on the streets and because more of them end up back to jail. A recent report released by the Pew Center on the States revealed that more than one in 100 Americans is now behind bars. California alone spends $8.8 billion a year on its imprisoned population — a 216% increase over what it paid 20 years ago, even after adjusting for inflation. That’s money, of course, that can’t be spent on schools, on job training, on wage supports and drug treatment. Money, in other words, that can’t be spent on all the priorities that keep people out of prison. Money that’s spent instead on housing prisoners in a violent, brutal and counterproductive atmosphere. And there’s nothing funny about that.

Ok, so anybody have any thoughts on this?

Should the gospel have an impact on the way we allow prisoners to be treated?

Should the church have and take responsibility for this?


4 thoughts on “Justice Problems in Prison

  1. Couple of thoughts – 1) Prisons are WAY understaffed (or way overpopulated, however you want to put it), so there is little that can be done to prevent the horrors that take place there. 2) My suspicion is that the few guards that do work in these prisons are so hamstrung as it relates to what they can dole out punitively that they serve as no real deterrent to the inmates who intend to do others harm. 3) The punitive measures that are taken in sentencing criminals are pitiful in my view. Institute stiffer penalties for crime and watch prison populations plummet. 4) One reason that recidivism is so high is that prisons are relatively cushy places to be – food, shelter, clothing, bed, cable tv, etc.

    Those off-the-top-of-my-head things said, prisoners who commit crimes behind bars (such as rape) should be subject to the same (worse) punishment as anyone on the outside would be. However, I suspect that those on the receiving end of such assaults aren’t in any hurry to report what’s happened to them. A troubling situation indeed…


  2. I am throwing this out with only a little thought. (Keep that in mind therefore.) I wonder where the assumption that society has a responsability to “rehabilitate” criminals comes from. (For the sake of argument, let’s say I am only speaking of violent crimes, be they murder, assult, rape, torture, etc.) That last one leads to an entirely different discussion. I digress. Under those circumstances should not the punishment fit the crime? Is there not at the very least an argument that one who takes life and/or drastically changes another’s, ought to give up his own?

    That said, the system is so corrupt that it is difficult to agree with or back the death penalty in the modern system. That to me is the real conundrum. It seems to me that the whole system needs to be re-thought. This is a real arena where, indeed, everything must change!


  3. The Old Testament had a law somewhere about only imprisoning violent criminals, and punishing non-violent lawbreakers in a different fashion.

    It kind of seems to illustrate how prison could effectively protect society from the threat of violent criminals, without also subjecting lesser criminals to such a corrosive environment. Can you imagine serving time for tax evasion, or mail fraud along with gang-bangers?

    It would also drastically reduce the prison population and the expense.


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