Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Governor Arnold and the Christian Prison Model

If I were a Californian and could vote for Governor in that state, Arnold 's Schwarzenegger's bold move to reform California's broken prison system ("the largest and most troubled in the nation") might make me consider voting Republican for the first time.

NPR reported this morning that the Governator has appointed prison warden Jeanne Woodford to head the Department of Corrections. What is significant about this is that Woodford has a distinctive track record for emphasizing rehabilitation in her prisons -- significant educational opportunities, counseling, support groups etc.. She is well-known as an adherant to and advocate for the rehabilitation model of corrections. Woodford's appointment signals that reforming offenders, not punishing them, will be the primary goal of the California prison system. And the Governator agrees. He has been recently quoted observing wittily that "correction should be the goal of the Department of Corrections." As obvious and banal as that sounds, all of this focus on rehabilitation is quite radical these days.

Arnold's decision to appoint Woodward, to emphasize rehabilitation, and to deemphasize social vengeance in the form of retribution is a Christian move. Rehabilitation is consistent with Jesus' command to love our enemies and consistent with his message of love and reform in general. A focus on rehabilitation is something we have been calling for for a long time. Maybe this is the start of a wonderful trend.


At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest reason to reform the prison system, though, comes from the broken justice system.

In the early nineties, when they first were implementing the draconian "3 strikes" laws, the projections were that the prison population would swell to the point that corrections would consume the entire budget. Well, guess what? It has. Only by cutting out all of the rehabilitation part of corrections have they kept costs remotely under control.

Arnold appears to have his heart in the right place, but I'm not sure he has the political will to actually fix the problem. All of the other budget problems he has faced he avoided with duct tape and bailing wire.

--eeh on pilgrimcafe.org


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