“Five myths about Americans in prison”

Myths abound in U.S. society when prison and inmates are concerned.  Media and policy decisions have too-often drawn upon “tough on crime” stances.  The result is that we as a society have become inundated with misconceptions about the criminal justice system, while prisons have become overcrowded and racial disparities only get bigger.

What is the work of the church in this?  Perhaps a good place to start is to address the misconceptions we may live with still.  An editorial in today’s Washington Post helps shine light on some common ones:

  • crime has fallen because incarceration has risen
  • the prison population is rising because more people are being sentenced to prison
  • helping prisoners rejoin society will substantially reduce the prison population
  • there’s a link between race and crime
  • racial disparities in incarceration reflect police and judge’s racial prejudice
Scripture offers us an opportunity to step outside of society’s misconceptions and envision a new community which offers restoration for those who are hurt as well as for those who hurt others.  Setting aside myths may allow us an opportunity to redefine what the criminal justice system means for us, and for the millions of men, women and children affected by the system.

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