a bird and a bottle

The One Thing About Which Sam Brownback and I Agree
December 28, 2006, 4:00 pm
Filed under: criminal justice, law, news

Sorry for the break in posts, folks. I took a much-needed break from my computer. I will be away this weekend and then back to posting on my regular schedule next week. Happy New Year!

Much to my surprise, there is one issue on which Sam Brownback – the right wing nut conservative Kansas Senator – and I agree: the need to institute reentry support programs for people leaving prison. As the New York Times Magazine reported last Sunday in a lengthy article about prison reform from the Right, Brownback and other Christian conservatives have of late taken a new tack on issues of prison and crime. Where they used to be “tough on crime” enthusiastic supporters of mandatory minimums, the War on Drugs, and other punitive policies, they now support treatment support upon reentry, and second chances (as signified by the Second Chance Act, which would provide incrased funding to address the problem of recidivism through state-based programs to help reintegrate ex-offenders). They’re finally recognizing that locking people up in huge numbers does nothing to make society safer and might even be labeled inhumane in that it’s become purely retributive and not at all rehabilitative.

Where Brownback et al. and I diverge is our motives for supporting reentry programs and less draconian approaches. Though we are both/all seeking a more just approach to criminal justice, they believe that it can or must come through faith, and I believe that faith must be kept separate, for both constitutional and moral reasons. While faith-based organizations may have a (substantial) role to play in prison reform, faith cannot be the only path to reentry support – and it cannot be the only reason to fund such programs.

I’m not sure how much to emphasize this difference – is it ultimately unimportant if we believe in the same outcome (especially in this case, where for so long the prison reform movement had no political allies) or are the means as important as the end?

Either way, I guess I will have to reconcile myself to the fact that I can dislike Brownback with every bone in my body…except one.


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