“The Criminalization of Poverty”: Radley Balko

writes: ...NPR found that in the vast majority of America, defendants can be charged for a public defender, for their own parole and probation, the cost of a jury trial, and their stay in a jail cell. Some jurisdictions have even found ways to charge people “booking fees” after an arrest, even if the arrest never results in a criminal charge, a policy recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. My favorite example of this nonsense, though it isn’t in the NPR report, is … [Read more...]

Today’s Themes: Gallows Humor and Vodka

A round-up of what I've been reading."Missouri Considers Lifting Lifetime Food Stamp Ban for Former Drug Felons." Missouri is one of 10 states that currently has a lifetime ban on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for anyone convicted of a drug-related felony, but they could soon be amending their policy.The harsh ban was part of the welfare reform effort of 1996, but most states have since modified or completely removed the lifetime ban. However, the Missouri Senate … [Read more...]

Poor Little Rich Christian: Hulu’s Intermittently-Insightful “Rev.”

“First let's say morning prayer. But let's say it quietly, in case somebody here has got a hangover.”That's from the first episode of Rev., a Hulu series about an Anglican vicar in a tough London neighborhood, and it captures the show's best side: a humorous acceptance of human weakness, combined with a seriousness about prayer. There's a lot to love about Rev., so although I'm going to be critical, I want to start by highlighting what's so intriguing and endearing about the show. Its first t … [Read more...]

In Which I’m Inspired by Direct Mail. Really.

I just finished The New Evangelization: 2003 - 2013 Missionary Letters, which is basically a collection of fundraising letters from A Simple House, an intentional Catholic community which practices "friendship evangelization" among the poor in DC and Kansas City, MO. It's a genuinely moving book with solid reflections on the theory and practice of charity. There are good explanations of why the authors focus on friendship as vs. efficient meeting of material needs, and there are countless … [Read more...]

“A Stillborn Child Leads to a Murder Charge”: Me at AmCon

on an awful, years-long case: In 2006, 15-year-old Rennie Gibbs became pregnant. She tested positive for marijuana and cocaine during her pregnancy. Her daughter Samiya was born a month premature, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. An autopsy on the child found traces of a cocaine byproduct, and Rennie was charged with murder—or rather, with what Mississippi calls “depraved heart murder,” signifying an especially callous crime. Gibbs’s case has wound its way through the legal syste … [Read more...]

From “How to Read the Air”

Those who came seeking help often did so with a faint trace of shame hovering over them--the sense that they were once again pleading to someone to grant them a right that everyone else they passed on the street, on the subway, and in traffic took for granted trailed them in almost all of their dealings and most likely made them more deferential than they had ever been. … [Read more...]

“Making Do”: I’m in Commonweal

with an actual review of Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City: Painfully conscientious, rule-bound, and motivated more by spiritual longings than by practical material concerns—these aren’t the terms in which most Americans think of low-income unmarried fathers. subscribers-only for now; I'll let you know if that changes. I had a more thematic piece on penitence in the book, not really a review, here. … [Read more...]


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