Two news stories caught my eye today that are indeed related. The first is the announcement that the federal government is moving away from privately run facilities for reasons of prisoner and guard safety and programming. That is to say that more programs are offered in federally run facilities that attempt to rehabilitate. The second was the sentencing of a former NFL player who plead guilty or no contest to drugging and raping multiple women in several states. He received 18 years in federal prison. I am not linking them here as I do not hope to discuss the details of them really, but rather to start a discussion about our justice system. I want to begin here with a pretty narrow focus so that we might actually get somewhere. I am going to propose a few questions in the hopes of generating some response.
The first question is probably the most important and the most difficult. What is the purpose of our various systems of incarceration? (federal, state, local, county, prison, jail, etc.) Is this a punishment for behavior? Is this a hope for rehabilitation? Is this a warehouse system where we put those we deem to be societal unfit? What is the over all purpose of the system?
The second question is simply this, do we have to many laws that are resulting in time within the system?
The third is what do we, as a society, hope from those who are released?
The fourth is what are we, as a church, doing for prisoners, and what should we be doing?
Finally the fifth is what has caused the massive incarceration rate that we have in the United States?
There you go, short, sweet and to the point. I hope to have some interaction via comments so that while this is short, the conversation might be large.