Sunday, December 24, 2006
Conservatives and prison reform
An interesting read, in the New York Times Magazine, about the right's "jailhouse conversion" on a number of criminal-justice and prison-reform issues, including the "Second Chance Act." I was struck by this passage:
Over the past decade, as the political scientists William Galston and Elaine Kamarck have suggested, the culture war of the 1970s and 1980s that revolved around race has been replaced by one that revolves around religion. A side effect has been a radically different crime debate. If the Second Chance Act fails to pass, it will not be because the two parties cannot agree on the importance of rehabilitation programs in prisons. But it may be because they disagree on the role religious organizations should play in rehabilitation. . . .
By passing the Second Chance Act, Democrats can acknowledge that the Christian desire to improve the lives of prisoners is more than a mere proxy for evangelism. And in doing so, they can re-embrace a cause of their own: the creation of a criminal-justice system that is more humane and more just. The current moment is, in Michael Jacobson’s view, “the best opportunity of the last 25 years for altering the way in which the United States has used incarceration.” But if that moment is to be seized, if there’s any possibility to reform a prison system that almost everyone thinks has failed, both parties are going to have to rely, at least a little bit, on faith.
Also this, regarding Sen. Sam Brownback:
There are few, if any, senators more closely identified with the Christian conservative movement than Sam Brownback. Like a growing number of conservatives, Brownback is a political proponent of the so-called new-evangelical causes, which range from AIDS in Africa and slavery in Sudan to poverty and the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a bill that helped build the coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the re-entry movement. Even when he disagrees with his fellow religious conservatives, he gives faith-based reasons for doing so. A convert to Catholicism, he has said his religion informs his support for a less punitive approach to immigration reform. In February, he held a hearing intended to foster debate on whether the death penalty can be reconciled with Pope John Paul II’s call to create “a culture of life.”
Brownback also routinely mentions prison reform — especially the faith-based variety — in public speeches.