Kudos to Senator Jim Webb for leading the way to whole-scale prison reform. As he said when he introduced this bill:
"Let's start with a premise that I don't think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have five percent of the world's population; we have 25 percent of the world's known prison population. There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice."
Nothing demonstrates better how brain dead our political environment has been since politicians competed to outdo each other in calling for more punitive and harsher prison sentences. For decades, the American public has been trained to believe that nothing is too bad for prisoners and that the harsher the environment is, the more of a deterrent it is. Just like GW Bush uses his gut to know capital punishment is always justified, Americans believe that those terrible people deserve whatever they get when locked up. Yet as Dr. Atul Gawande shows, the lock them up in solitary truly is cruel and unusual punishment and counter to our declared beliefs expressed in the Constitution.
And for a nation that professes to have so many Christians, it is important to remember that in the Gospel, Jesus taught that we have an obligation to those who are the least of us, including those in prison. Cruel and unusual punishment is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus just as it is antithetical to our Constitution.
For those who only care about the bottom dollar, it is an expensive failure. One we can no longer afford.
Thank you, Senator Webb, for having the courage to pull America out of this senseless and cruel policy.
[Updated for clarity]