The Justice Department: Setting the Captives Free?

The Justice Department: Setting the Captives Free? October 7, 2015

The Justice Department has announced a plan to set 6,000 prisoners free, which as the Washington Post describes, is “the largest one-time release of federal prisoners.”

California State Prison (in 2006) illustrates overcrowding
California State Prison (in 2006) illustrates overcrowding: By California Dept. of Corrections (public domain)

This is only the first step in a larger process of prison reform, which will eventuate in tens of thousands more inmates being released from prison and moved to half-way houses or home confinement. The Post tells us that changes in federal sentencing guidelines could mean that “46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison” will eventually be eligible “for early release.”

In a recent post, I argued that capital punishment represents the “thin” or narrow conception of justice upon which our criminal justice system is based. The U.S. has simply given up on any attempts at rehabilitation, reclamation, healing, etc., of criminal offenders. We have found it much simpler to simply box them up in cages.

The present reform, leading to this large-scale release of non-violent drug offenders, is a crucial step away from the harsh, unyielding, and unsustainable penal system with which we have saddled ourselves.

Harsh sentences for non-violent offenders is really only one aspect of injustices that run throughout the system. Racial discrimination and racial disparity is another.

An upcoming half-day conference (Oct. 16) here at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities will address these issues. The conference, titled “The Ties that Bind,” will feature plenary speakers, Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds and Rev. Alan Bean. You can read about these speakers and other breakout panelists on the conference website.

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