Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The politics of crime and punishment

Chris Suellentrop has a very nice piece on the politics of crime and punishment in last Sunday’s NYT Magazine. Ranging from a discussion of largely secular scholarship on what works in preventing or deterring crime (unsurprisingly, swift and certain seems more important than harsh when it comes to punishment) to a consideration of moves on the religious right, largely prompted by Chuck Colson, to reconsider prison reform, Suellentrop paints an interesting picture in which faith-based efforts at rehbilitation play a large part. This has been one of the President’s signature issues, and also marks the career of Sam Brownback (unfortunately for him, the most Bush-like of the current crop of Republican con[or is it pre?]tenders).

Suellentrop spends some time discussing the Second Chance Act, which almost passed in the last Congress and may well go forward in the next. The question: will the prominent role of faith-based groups in prisoner rehabilitation and reentry be explicitly acknowledged in the legislation? Barack Obama, one of the Act’s co-sponsors, could show himself to be more than a garden-variety liberal with some leadership here.

I wish I could be more hopeful, but this litigation, about which I wrote here (and about which I’m likely to write again, once I make my way through all the appellate briefs on both sides), has the usual suspects, as usual, lining up on different sides. I wish that folks on the Left would spend as much effort on providing secular alternatives to religious programs as they do challenging them in court.

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