My journey began as a young idealistic Correctional Officer (better known to the movie-going public as a prison guard) soon after graduating from college. As I progressed through the system, I changed my views but not my principles.
After years of reading and watching news articles and TV segments about the need to reform our criminal justice system from the perspective of inmates, ex-inmates, and their advocates I decided to take action. I authored a book, THE QUIET REVOLUTION Shattering The Myths About The American Criminal Justice System.
In my book I offer a different perspective. I think our criminal justice system needs to be transformed rather than continuously reformed. From its inception, the American penitentiary was a means of reforming the way people had been punished. In 1799, a group of American Quakers established a new type of institution–The Walnut Street Jail.
This was a revolutionary institution with the intended purpose of restoring drunkards and other social misfits to their ranks in society at large. The method was to make people penitent (thus the term “penitentiary”) through total isolation and solitary confinement with only a bible as reading material.
Needless to say the experiment failed but the mission of rehabilitation was established for our prisons. This is the yardstick by which reformers measure the utility of our prisons even though this mission was foisted on corrections from without rather than from within. The types of criminals housed in our prisons has also radically changed during the past 200 plus years.
Our criminal justice system needs a new and mission that’s relevant to modern times. The mission should be clearly articulated and crafted from within rather than imposed by outside special interest groups and other reformers.
The system shouldn’t focus on what to do to or for offenders. The reform debate is a continuous political struggle between those who want to make the system meaner and harsher or kinder and gentler on offenders after committing a crime. Regardless of who wins the debate in the political climate of the time, the system remains mired in this reactive effort.
The system must focus on creating and maintaining safer communities by confronting and preventing crime rather than reacting to individual cases of criminal behavior. This is what Doing Justice is all about. Many people aren’t aware that the system has been transforming itself for more than twenty years. The calls for more reform goes on but the journey of transformation has begun and must not be stopped by traditional thinking and reactions.
It’s time for a new way of viewing and thinking about improving the system . It’s been a long journey for me and I hope to continue it.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton