California needs criminal justice reform

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by Janani Rangarajan, Archbishop Mitty High School

The generic view about prisoners is that they must be locked up for public safety.  While this usually true, it is difficult for most people of this day to remember the original purpose of the U.S. justice system. Its’ intent is to deter crime, sanction criminals, and eventually integrate them back into society.

 

While prisoners deserve the jail time they have earned, it is immoral for people to cast them aside as unimportant and no longer a part of society.  My advocacy group at Archbishop Mitty High School is working to raise awareness of this viewpoint, and we hope that with more informed citizens, there will be a higher willingness to fix the deteriorating rehabilitation systems of prisons.

“I was in prison and you visited me .

…I tell you whenever you did this for one

of the least important of these

brothers and sisters of mine,

you did it for me!”

— Matthew 25:36, 40

California currently has an extremely high recidivism rate; the Department for Corrections and Rehabilitation measured that during 2005-2006, 67.5% of all released felons went back to prison within three years. If improvements are made in the rehabilitation system, then taxes for jails will decrease long term, more jobs will open up, and millions of prisoners will finally be able to get the fair chance they deserve to start over.

“We are still a long way from the time when our conscience can be certain of having done everything possible to prevent crime and to control it effectively so that it no longer does harm and, at the same time, to offer to those who commit crimes a way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return to society. If all those in some way involved in the problem tried to . . . develop this line of thought, perhaps humanity as a whole could take a great step forward in creating a more serene and peaceful society.”            –Pope John Paul II, July 9, 2000

For more information on Restorative Justice reform, please visit the United States Council of Catholic Bishops website and the Diocese of San Jose websites. 

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