I am linking to an article on the BBC News website about Johnny Cash and prison reform. Mr. Cash took up the cause of prisoners during the mid-60's with a series of concerts at penitentiaries across the country. His long held belief was that rehabilitation was more important than punishment and that it made no sense to keep prisoners who had been rehabilitated behind bars.
The article is also a reminder of what kind of hell prisons were back in the 1960's. The article talks about the penitentiary in Cummins, Arkansas - but it could have been the Louisiana penitentiary in Angola, the Mississippi penitentiary in Parchman or Huntsville prison in Texas.
Today, almost 50 years later, we're still debating how to run our prisons. Maybe it's time we start with deciding just what prison is for. We might also consider whether or not some of the numbers prosecutors and courts throw around really make sense. We should also think about the way enhancements are used. Is punishing a misdemeanor offense as if it were a felony just because the defendant had a couple of prior convictions a good idea?
It's more than just a bit ironic that it's the conservatives in the South who are debating whether or not we've gone too far in trying to make everything a crime and in looking for ways to lock folks up longer. While their motive is primarily financial, the fact that it's now up for debate in the reddest of the red states is significant.
The article also gives me another excuse for a clip from the Man in Black himself...