Noteworthy items out there in the ether:
- Either civics teachers are doing a terrible job or some kids aren’t paying attention in class. Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released yesterday by the First Amendment Center. USA Today has coverage here. In an unrelated story, 40% of Americans say they will vote for this guy for President in 2008.
- Great editorial today in The Philadelphia Inquirer about “Cell-block nation.”
Our prison population is number one in the world. We’ve got more inmates than Russia, more than the known number in China – what a distinction for the Land of the Free.
Americans who prefer to ignore reality don’t want to spend money on support programs for “ex-cons.” They call it coddling. They ignore that it’s more expensive to keep building $150 million prisons and spend millions more in maintenance costs to house them.
Just the words early release scare people who conjure images of some Willie Horton raping and pillaging his way through their communities. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It won’t if prisons are used to rehabilitate rather than warehouse inmates. It won’t if you have effective support programs to help released inmates make a successful return to society. Most important in that transition is helping them to get a job.
- Speaking of rich, white, male privilege and of further expanding Pennsylvania’s already overcrowded jails with more black and brown young men, on Tuesday, the PA House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on House Bill 326, which would increase criminal penalties for gang-related activity. Meanwhile, today’s New York Times features a story about the failure of such legislation in other areas of the country. “L.A. has this approach of being tough on crime,” said Craig Watkins, the district attorney in Dallas, where some Los Angeles-style tactics are being rolled back. “But the result of that is overflowing prisons, high crime rates and increasing numbers of gang members. Now we want to be smart on crime.” Clearly, the planets are aligned when a DA is saying the same thing I’ve said privately to friends and colleagues.
- Finally, friend of the ACLU Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus was assaulted by Capitol Police on Monday while waiting to enter the hearings featuring General David Petraeus. His crime? He was wearing a button that said, “I love the people of Iraq.” As Firedoglake notes, this is not what democracy looks like.
Andy in Harrisburg