The state of America’s prisons: Yet another GOP failure

Okay, so we have how many elected Republicans in the United States? There is no excuse for the condition of America’s prisons as chronicled by Eric Metaxas in the four articles below. The third one gives you one of the reasons for the problem. I’d add another: ignorance and incompetence on the part of the Republican Party.

Not So Civilized: Preying on Prisoners

The Department of Justice estimates that “over 216,000 people are sexually abused in its prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities every year.”

This estimate does not include facilities run by the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE. Considering the vulnerability of those being held and the fact that immigration detention is “the fastest-growing system of incarceration in the United States,” you have the ingredients of the kind of systematic abuse that makes a mockery out of our claim to be a civilized, never mind Christian, society.

Strong words, I know. But as Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

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American Gulag? Treatment of Mentally Ill Prisoners

Suppose I told you that there was an institution where the mentally ill “interminably wail, scream and bang on the walls of their cells” and “mutilate their bodies with razors, [and] shards of glass?” Where inmates . . . “carry on delusional conversations with voices they hear in their heads,” and no one does anything to help.

You might think I was quoting a description of conditions at London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital during the 17th century, from which our word “bedlam” is derived.

But actually such a place exists today, right here in the United States.

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The Root of the Problem: Over-Incarceration and Money

On my last two broadcasts, I talked about the abuses and other violations of human dignity that are all too common in American prisons and jails. While many factors contribute to these abuses, one stands head and shoulders above the rest: America incarcerates far too many people.

This won’t come as a surprise to long-time BreakPoint listeners: Chuck repeatedly made this point over the years. But what might surprise you is the role that money plays in our over-reliance on incarceration.

Plainly stated, there’s money to be made in operating prisons and supplying them with everything from food to phone service.

And when there’s money to be made, politics will follow. And politicians make the laws about whom to lock up and for how long.

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Justice that Restores: A Biblical Vision

For the past three broadcasts, we’ve talked about the violations of human dignity that are all-too-common in our criminal justice system. Christians cannot be silent in the face of outrages like prison rape, the mistreatment of mentally-ill prisoners, and overcrowded prison facilities.

What makes silence even more unacceptable is that there is a biblically-based alternative to the status quo: it’s called restorative justice.

Four years ago, Mike Huckabee summed up one of restorative justice’s key principles when he said that “we’ve got to quit locking up all the people that we’re mad at and lock up the people that we’re really afraid of . . .”

The distinction between “people we’re mad at” and “people we’re really afraid of” is crucial in restorative justice…

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