Restorative Justice

University of Southern California seal.svgA facebook friend highlighted the case of a homeless woman of color who tried to park her van to optimize the education possibilities for her five-year-old son. The result? Five years-plus in prison. There were other anti-extenuating circumstances, but you get the drift.

Shift focus to the courtrooms of the 1% as celebrity helicopter moms await judgment on admittedly lame attempts to game the college admission system. Like this one.

Rich white women won’t be getting five-year prison terms, let alone be trolled for drug offenses to pile on the years. But there’s a basic unfairness afoot when white men jail people of color, but let “their” women get off with just internet embarrassment. Compared to hard time, even in minimum security, the “Aunt Becky” and “Desperate Housewives” jokes are a far better trade-off. In the minds of the accused.

I can’t quite bring myself to join the group chant for jail time. Prisons are a lose-lose proposition for offender and society. The winners are the 1% who own for-profit prisons. I’m an opponent of anything that enriches the over-wealthy.

Celebrity moms facing these charges have far better options. Instead of sending them to the Big House, give them jobs. Working with students who don’t have the advantages of the wealthy: coaching young actors, tutoring teens, or even heading to the border to help the needy. All far better options. Plus the opportunity for conversion.

That USC motto above, “Let whoever earns the palm bear it.” I think it’s time for people to earn back public trust. Not waste time in time-out.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to Restorative Justice

  1. Liam says:

    While I share your skepticism about prison as a solution, it might be prudent to explore why prison became a default punishment for criminal offenses (at least where exemplary fines could not be successfully assess) rather than assigned labor (of course, the continental-size hole in this being the “except” clause of Section 1 of the 13th Amendment….). One possibility is that prison depends much less on the willing and competent cooperation of the convict, and therefore offers less risk of a judge having to manage a case after sentencing to assess if a sentence has been fulfilled. It’s a problem of institutional scale, as it were.

    • Todd says:

      I get it: the easy way out.

      • Liam says:

        One could put it that way. Civil institutions don’t see redemption and salvation as part of their remit. Taxpayers are said to demand efficiency (or, more accurately, the surface appearance of it; if actual efficiency were the goal, we’d not be using prisons to be our primary means of dealing with serious mental illness in this country). We as a people don’t like funding courts and public defenders, that’s for sure. Officer Krupke’s eponymous song satirized this over 60 years ago.

      • Todd says:

        One person’s prison guard is another’s parole officer. Count me as unconvinced by the prevailing American ethic on this.

      • Liam says:

        Understood. I am offering an explanation and context, not a justification as such. I see little in the Amurkan civic culture to justify any expectation of change in this regard. If anything, I realized that any Hope really has to be grounded in God, not in evidence on the ground, of which what there seemed to be has ebbed considerably in recent decades. The most energized parts of Da Pipple (and not just the dexter side) have, if anything, grown to love exemplary punishment even more, pace the furrowed brows over the incarceration state.

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