Liberty and Criminal Justice

By: Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) - Honorary Member of Our America Initiative

 

I just returned from an amazing convention in New Orleans called "Advancing Justice" that was sponsored by the Koch Institute.  It was amazing because there was actually a consensus across a wide political spectrum that our nation made a mistake by turning the political slogan "Tough on Crime" into a public policy!  Not only did this action unnecessarily deprive hundreds of thousands of people of their Liberty, it also destroyed lives, families and futures – as well as government budgets.
                Everyone should have the Liberty to have a meaningful opportunity to live a good life – and that certainly includes those among us who have made mistakes.  So once people finish "paying their debt to society," they should have at least a decent opportunity to succeed.  That means they should receive assistance, where appropriate, with education, drug treatment, housing and job opportunities.  Thus some of the many oft-repeated comments during the conference were:
                "Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done;"
                "As to prisons, we spend far too much and receive far too little;"
                "Since 97 percent of the people in prison will be released someday – and most will desire a better life – we will seriously reduce crime by helping them learn social skills and find a job, housing and a driver's license;"

The most dangerous person in the world is one who has nothing to lose;" and,

                "We are crazy not to provide mental health services to the mentally ill."
So providing people released from prison with assistance to succeed will not only provide them with more opportunities for Liberty and independence, it will also make the rest of safer.  In other words, "Smart on Crime" is much more beneficial for everyone than "Tough on Crime" (except for the prison guard's unions)!
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