Monday, May 21, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Lessons Learned the Hard Way 8

I finished Newt Gingrich's Lessons Learned the Hard Way.  In this post, I'd like to highlight what Newt says on page 205:

"...we must initiate an all-out effort to get current addicts off drugs.  Finally, we have to take back our prisons, with weekly drug testing and mandatory education and work programs designed to turn back out on the street people who are drug-free and have the ability to earn an honest living."

I appreciated the tone of this, especially in light of what Newt said earlier in the book about criminals.  Newt said that a felon should not be allowed to vote in Congress, for it's inappropriate for his vote to cancel out the votes of law-abiding citizens.  He ridiculed Michael Dukakis' push to register prisoners to vote, saying that this was not a pressing concern to many Americans, who wanted to be protected from criminals.  And he criticized Dukakis' weekly furlough program, which gave Willie Horton the opportunity to torture people.

I agree with Newt that the weekend furlough for Willie Horton and other violent criminals was inappropriate and reckless.  At the same time, I think that it is important to respect the humanity of criminals as well as victims and those who desire protection in society.  In my opinion, these concerns have to be balanced, and, in a sense, respecting the humanity of those who broke the law is a way to rehabilitate them and thereby protect society.  Just continuing to lock people up does not help society, since prisons are expensive.

I'm not saying any of this as an absolute.  Some criminals need to be in prison for life.  There may even be cases when the death penalty is appropriate.  But the reason that I appreciated what Newt said on page 205 is that he was in favor of drug treatment and rehabilitation.  I've heard people (especially tough-on-crime conservatives) lament that prisoners get educational opportunities in prison.  "Yeah, they go to jail, become a lawyer, and come back to sue society!", some have said.  But what good does it do not to provide education and job-training to people in prison?  They'd be less likely to commit another crime if they had work skills and a job.

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