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February 12, 2013

"Just Prisons: What Would Jesus Do?"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy commentary at The Huffington Post authored by Ron Nikkel, who is the President and CEO of Prison Fellowship International. The piece provides a critical religious and international perspective on incarceration and here is an excerpt:

Many people simply take prisons for granted, accepting them as a fact of life for a safe society or at worst being somewhat of a necessary "evil" for justice to be served.  The history of prisons is checkered with jails and prisons being used both as unjust instruments of political, social, economic, and ironically religious coercion and control; and in other times and places being used as a rather blunt instrument deemed to serve the course of justice.  However, the more I have studied the impact of prisons on the lives of people, the more I see prisons as one of the most confusing, irrational and socially destructive institutions ever devised by humankind. Prisons cannot ever be equated with justice being done.  Prisons by themselves do not equate to justice.  While prisons may be useful for restraining some offenders and preventing others from committing further crimes whilst they are locked up, most offenders, their families and communities do not benefit from imprisonment. The overall ecology of imprisonment is as counterproductive as dousing a fire with fuel.

February 12, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Thanks for including this in your blog. Many who visit this blog will completely agree because they come here out of desperation over the lives of prisoners. Two or three will disagree completely, and they represent the attitudes of MOST of society, I think. I, personally, know of many people who advocate for animals, but who don't care about inmates.

Posted by: Dana | Feb 12, 2013 11:01:35 AM

Particularly since the blogger is acknowledged, thought this might be germane here:

Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment by Mark Osler (Feb 1, 2009)

Posted by: Joe | Feb 12, 2013 11:26:51 AM

"While prisons may be useful for restraining some offenders and preventing others from committing further crimes whilst they are locked up, most offenders, their families and communities do not benefit from imprisonment."

The point is not to benefit them. The point is to benefit us, and the benefit has been substantial, as the crime rate has plummented as incarceration rose, meaning thousands fewer crime victims. Do they count?

The whole thing is just sentimental mush. If you want Jerry Sandusky et al. back on the street, fine, have at it. I don't, and I don't care whether prison benefits him. Same deal with any other rapist, swindler, strong arm and meth pusher.

This kind of blather gets traction only by blanking out the details of what the huge majority of inmates did to get them to where they are now. It's a form of argument that might persuade a sixth-grader, but probably not a whole lot of them either.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2013 1:17:42 PM

In fairness to the author, he may not be responsible for the headline, and much of the body of the piece has an international focus, drawing attention to conditions/events in prisons in Venezuela and Honduras that I assume most pretty tough-on-crime Americans would agree are deplorable and would find unacceptable for American prisons. What is perhaps irksome about the piece, however, is the implicit suggestion that the author was just sitting around reading the Bible one day and he noticed some stuff about prisoners that somehow everyone else in the world had been too dense or selfish to notice before. We have at this point approximately seventeen centuries of experience with various societies ruled or culturally dominated by Christians trying to figure out how to best reconcile the teachings of Christ with a functional criminal-justice system, most without anything equivalent to modern U.S. taboos about separating church and state. Maybe everyone else has gotten it wrong, but at least it ought to be acknowledged that people have thought about this before.

Posted by: JWB | Feb 12, 2013 2:24:31 PM

Bill your empathy and understanding is as expected.
But again, the whole point is, inmates get to take turns going to Federal prison.
They are warehoused with an expiration date (release date) the same as a can of corn.
I think your basic philosophy is right in line with the worthless Congress that we have
in place currently.. All talk and no action.. Just protect themseleves by staying away from anything that could cost them votes...You on the other hand, had complete immuity
and didn't/don't give a rip.....Only way a creep like you can make it..

Each Federal/Ex included always seem to be more God like than the next.
You haven't learned anything from the drubbing you took the other day on the long winded post....

So Bill, PLEASE turn off the yellow button behind your ears.
It is the PreBooker Guideline Chip that causes you to malfunction in this manner.

By the way Bill, you are no better than anyone else on this site or the world.
So bend over BILL and grab your ears and pull your head out.

Who do you think you are.

Come on Bill answer me right now, point blank....

Oh we forgot Bill, you don't talk to people unless they are connected and supply their name on this all comers board....Isn't that right Charming Billy..
Your pies taste about as good as your posts do....

But you don't get it, do you Bill...You never will..

You just stomped on a mans feelings cause his son has another excessively
long federal sentence from creeps like you.. (not mines, but anothers post was clear).
You owe this man an apology and I reccommend to all to treat Bill with the same as he gives.. Will see if you can take as good as you give Bill.

So Billy BOY, read this and weep. I know none of this will sink in, but basically
as a man Bill, your a looser.....I don't tolerate whimps like you Bill...

Some day Bill you will fail and I hope I'm in that place to watch you squirm and wallo
in your own mess....Yours Truely, Post Booker Guideline Chip Terminator..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 12, 2013 2:27:03 PM

MidWestGuy --

As parody, this is darn good.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2013 2:52:24 PM

This may have been the most ridiculous piece I have ever read.

He is writing to an American audience, yet uses foreign examples to imply that our prison system is both unbiblical and a failure. Hogwash. If the fire had happened in an American prison, there WOULD have been "outrage" and "demands for justice." It did not happen in the US though, mainly because comparing US prisons to those in Honduras is like comparing a Lexus to a Yugo built by a retarded billy goat.

And these people who think that prisons are making criminals need to spend time in one. They enter as criminals and not being able to turn them into decent human beings is far more attributable to the pi$$ poor raw materials than any fault of the "system."

Finally, like all pieces such as this, it misses one crucial element. A solution. Instead of providing a viable alternative, he admires the problem. Perhaps we can send these poor souls to Ron Nikkel's house/neighborhood?

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Feb 12, 2013 3:02:08 PM

MidWest Guy stated: Oh we forgot Bill, you don't talk to people unless they are connected and supply their name on this all comers board....Isn't that right Charming Billy.."

Actually, as someone who can say from experience, no, it is not "right." No one is less "connected" than I am but the man you slander's kindness has gone far beyond "talking" to me.

It has far less to do with "connections" than it has to do with common "decency."

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Feb 12, 2013 3:08:34 PM

TarlsQtr1 --

I am humbled. But I must disagree on one point. You have a far better connection than any of mine. You have a connection to the future.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2013 3:14:04 PM

Why does putting people in cages have to be the default consequence for violation of laws (many of which are idiotic) passed by the state?

Exploration of alternatives is worthwhile.

Posted by: Steve Jensen | Feb 12, 2013 5:29:58 PM

This is what triggered the Bill Otis effect.
Dana posted this 2 threads down.
Intriguing (failed) effort to assail juve predicate for severe ACCA term

I read that whole case. I can only agree with defendant that old 20 and 30 year old juvenile adjudications are not prior convictions, but so far, the Courts have ruled that they are so. This defendant had two other convictions, which the court argued showed that the defendant never learns from his mistakes. But my son's 1884 juvenile adjudication was used in his criminal history in a 2007 conviction, causing his sentence to be 280 months. My son had no other prior convictions. I pray every day for this law to be changed. Juveniles did not have the option of a jury trial in 1984 in my state. Recently, they have began jury trials for juveniles, but that doesn't help the ones who have already had their sentences lengthened.
Posted by: Dana | Feb 11, 2013 9:39:41 PM

Then Bill comes on this thread and crushes Dana.. I don't know who Dana is but
my heart goes out to the guy...Hes lost his son and then Bill comes in
with a post like this:

While prisons may be useful for restraining some offenders and preventing others from committing further crimes whilst they are locked up, most offenders, their families and communities do not benefit from imprisonment."

The point is not to benefit them. The point is to benefit us, and the benefit has been substantial, as the crime rate has plummented as incarceration rose, meaning thousands fewer crime victims. Do they count?

The whole thing is just sentimental mush. If you want Jerry Sandusky et al. back on the street, fine, have at it. I don't, and I don't care whether prison benefits him. Same deal with any other rapist, swindler, strong arm and meth pusher.

This kind of blather gets traction only by blanking out the details of what the huge majority of inmates did to get them to where they are now. It's a form of argument that might persuade a sixth-grader, but probably not a whole lot of them either.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2013 1:17:42 PM

This is what happens when you think your still a AUSAO O=off color

I know I blasted Bill and still feel he owes the man an online apology.

For me, sorry the readers that read thru my rant...BUT I don't put up
with people that think they are above all others...This mens you Otis..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 12, 2013 5:31:56 PM

MidWestGuy --

The problem with parody is that it gets old fast, but I guess I have to admire you for not giving up.

P.S. In the unlikely event that you weren't attempting parody, you might note that the words I quote and rebut are from the article, not from Dana, whoever he or she is. I had previously been unaware that it's morally blameworthy to disagree with propositions set forth in what gets posted here. I kinda thought that was what the comments section was for.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2013 7:58:26 PM

I have been reading Bill's posts for years. He always trots out some variation of "the crime rate has plummented as incarceration rose" as a justification for continuing to lock up and incapciating criminals. My question is whether Bill's univariate analysis has validity. I don't know whether science can quantify the relationship of the crime rate to the incarceration rate through time as the sole prime mover.
Did the crime rate rise concurrently with the incarceration rate?
Did the crime rate rise because the incarceration rate was lower?
Did the crime rate rise becuase the incarceration rate higher?
Did the incarceration rate rise because the crime rate was lower?
Did the incarceration rate rise becuase the crime rate was higher?
Did the incarceration rate rise because government built more prisons.
Did the incarceration rate go lower because certain government officials determined that incarceration was expensive in light of its perceived benefits and closed prisons?
I believe an intellectually rigorous ecological (systems theory) approach might better explain crime rates and incaceration rates in context.

Posted by: ? | Feb 12, 2013 8:46:40 PM

Steve Jensen -> what do you have in mind. Please don't just say "rehabilitation" b/c that's empty shirt rhetoric. It's easy to say that we ought to do something besides locking people-up, but coming-up with real ideas that provide public safety is very difficult.

Posted by: Steve Erickson | Feb 12, 2013 8:47:51 PM

? --

You might want to take a look at this University of Chicago study, which is widely cited and was credited by the eminent criminologist, Prof. James Q. Wilson of UCLA.

http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/LevittUnderstandingWhyCrime2004.pdf

No serious person thinks incarceration was the sole factor in crime reduction. It was, however, quite a significant factor, along with, inter alia, hiring more Nazi thugs, uh, make that, police.

When you lock up the people who commit crime, you get less crime. It's not that hard to figure out.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 12, 2013 9:10:19 PM

: : “Because of their irresponsible behavior, offenders are imprisoned where virtually all responsibility is taken from them -- in order to make them more responsible. Similarly as persons who have abused their liberty, offenders are imprisoned under conditions where they have no liberty. ”: :

This is utterly biblical and reasonable treatment:
“But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done”…” for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”…
”But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”….” But if you do evil, be afraid; for he
[the authority] does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister”…”Come now and let us reason together”…

: : “That is like treating a person with an infectious disease by banishing him or her to an environment of infectious diseases.” : :

This (a) has worked before, and (b) the alternative begs for re-offending: “Quarantine has the potential to be the most effective measure
for limiting the spread of infection.”~ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1854999/...”A man of great wrath shall suffer
punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again”...and again and again…

[P.S. Brasilia & Honduras are hardly proper examples for us]

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 12, 2013 9:18:01 PM

please spare me from those biblical babblings for christsakes and try to focus on some normal irrational real world rantings instead of those weird moral majority tidbits that belong in a bible study class

Posted by: John Cambridge | Feb 13, 2013 2:20:39 PM

John Cambridge --

"please spare me from those biblical babblings for christsakes and try to focus on some normal irrational real world rantings..."

Were you referring to MidWestGuy?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 13, 2013 7:54:49 PM

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