Thursday, April 13, 2006

Con Game. In a previous post, I linked to a British newspaper's account of new police regulations which give a policeman the discretion to allow a burglar to go free without a court hearing, much less a trial and sentencing. It appears from the article that a major reason for the policy is the expense to the government of incarcerating criminals.

In the United States, incarcerating criminals is similarly expensive. (The statistics on what we spend on prisoners per year, as compared to what we spend on educating our children, are simply shocking). But we seem to have the means and the will to undertake that expense. As a result, we have one of the highest prison populations in the world, if not the highest. There is a good bit of criticism, usually from the left, about that distinction, but one must admit that having fewer criminals on the street makes life much easier for the rest of us.

On the other hand, this article from the current issue of Forbes has a sensible criticism, it seems to me, of our prison system, and some good ideas to reform it. The author proceeds on the assumption that rehabilitative efforts, reasonably made, can have a positive effect on prison populations. (My sense is that many conservative commentators have decided that "rehabilitation" is an absurd and unreachable objective.) Greater Miami Youth for Christ has a very active prison ministry among teenagers, and from what I have been able to learn of the ministry, it has had some significant success in helping young people turn away from their paths of self-destruction.

It seems to me that Christians who seek to leaven a culture like ours, a culture full of so many corrosive ideas being promoted by a relentless media, ideas that enable and encourage people to make bad decisions, should not support a policy of simply building more prisons, but demand that something intelligent be done with the people in the prisons while we have them there.

As I have thought about that article from Britain, I had a couple of other thoughts.

One of them is that civilized countries have always had a problem with dealing with its criminals and with the expense of building prisons and maintaining prisoners in them. One way to deal with the problem was simply to execute convicts for all sorts of crimes. Another, if you were English, was to put the prisoners in obsolete ships sitting in the Thames, or to send the prisoners to the American Colonies and to Australia. It is interesting that somehow those convicts in America and Australia managed to be socialized suffiently to build new societies.

Another thought is that, finally, we may see the English rearm themselves. Right now, they have some exceedingly strict gun control laws. For example, if you shoot or otherwise harm a burglar in the act of pillaging your home, you will be prosecuted. This has to change, it seems to me. And we may see it in our lifetimes.

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