Yesterday I talked about restorative justice as an alternative to our current system of punitive justice in the United States. We don’t make any real effort to “restore” the villain, the victim, or the community. Our only objective seems to be revenge, and even a casual reading of the words of Jesus should tell us that this is not a worthy outcome, nor a healthy one. In the end, if revenge (punishment) is the ONLY outcome then everyone loses.
The villain loses because they are left with less hope of a productive and meaningful life after the system is through with them. I’m not really talking about murderers or violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority of those in prison did not commit violent crimes. Violent crimes have decreased dramatically over the past few decades, though even one is too many.
America imprisons the highest number of its citizens of any democracy or more than 2.2 million people. A significant portion of these are as a result of the so-called “war on drugs” in which we decided that we would spend billions of dollars incarcerating addicts rather than treat them. We know that effective education can lower crime rates, but we still spend more and more money on prisons and less and less money on education.
Even if our leaders and people have no compassion or mercy, pure economics should convince us that we need to try a different approach. So why does America spend more on prisons and jails than schools?
- The problem is worse in former Confederate states where more than 25 percent of African-American men will spend some time in prison. Setting the cause aside forces a large portion of society deeper into poverty and hopelessness.
- Increasingly, prisons are being sold to for-profit corporations that have an investment in keeping the population higher.
- Approximately 2.2 million Americans won’t vote, and those who get out of prison CAN’T vote, even though they have “paid for their crimes.” In Florida alone 1.5 million taxpayers can’t vote because they have a criminal record. One political party has a deep investment in this disenfranchisement in an attempt to stay in power.
So you now have read this devotion has NOTHING to do with you – except your tax dollars are paying for this INjustice system. And, oh yeah, Jesus said, “I was sick and in prison and you did not care.” (Matthew 25:43)