Republican presidential candidate and Baptist preacher, Mike Huckabee, is endorsing a policy that sounds reeeeeeaaal Christian like.
In a radio interview with Iowa’s Jan Mickelson, the two spoke of America’s broken justice system- a topic I’ve written about at TIME, previously. Certainly, our justice system is broken with a capital B. Between an incarceration rate that is over-the moon (especially if you’re a black male), mandatory sentencing guidelines that tie judges hands and prevent any level of mercy, and our failure to rehabilitate offenders (as demonstrated by recidivism rates), the United States is going nowhere fast when it comes to criminal justice.
The question is, how do we fix it?
I believe our problem is that the American system is based on a punitive concept of justice instead of restorative justice. The overhaul in the justice system needs to be a philosophical change before anything else can change. As I wrote at TIME:
“The American approach to crime and punishment needs some re-framing because the old way simply doesn’t work. A punitive focused approach results in over populated prisons filled to the brim– both with some folks who justly should be there, and some who probably should not. All however, are forced to acclimate to a violent prison life that simply turns them into “hardened criminals” even if they didn’t arrive as one. When they are released, they face so many barriers to reintegration into society that the violent survival mechanisms the prison system taught them quickly become one of their only tools to move forward in life.
We cannot continue a system with this philosophical approach and think that we’re actually doing justice– we’re not… We must become people who long to see a life restored instead of a life destroyed, and we must become willing to do whatever it takes to make the former happen, while resisting the easier path of doing the latter. Together, we can begin to influence culture in such a way that we reform our penal system to become something that sees justice as a life restored instead of punishment given.”
Those are my thoughts– but Mike Huckabee?
Well, from the radio interview (embedded below) it seems he thinks a good solution is to start selling poor people as slaves. During the show, Jan Mikelson mentions that he’d recently been re-reading the Old Testament book of Exodus, and found a passage that commanded poor people be sold into slavery if they didn’t have money to pay restitution for their crime. In the audio he states, “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold… If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them.”
And, Mikelson would be correct– the Bible did command poor people be sold as slaves for the crime of stealing. However, decent, moral people are able to admit that the Old Testament writers got it wrong on slavery (and a few other things). Those same, decent and moral people are also able to freely confess that slavery is immoral in our time too.
Huckabee however, affirmed he thought the idea of “if they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them” was a pretty good one:
“Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.” (“Take them down and sell them.”)
I’m not sure how to word this, so I’ll keep it simple: Mike Huckabee is wrong.
Slavery is wrong. It has always been wrong. It will always be wrong. There will never be a scenario where slavery will be morally acceptable.
It doesn’t matter if the person is an exploited sex worker, a brick layer in India, or an impoverished person in the United States who happens to have stolen something. It is always wrong to sell people for the purposes of forced labor (slavery).
It always has been wrong, it always will be.
I’m disappointed that Mike Huckabee doesn’t seem to have the moral compass to see that reality.
H/T: Think Progress (Full audio below:)