The same politicians have taken positions in the legislature that stand in opposition to almost any proposal for reforming the criminal justice system, falling back on the traditional view that, following a criminal conviction, there remains a debt to society that ought to be paid in full.
Do these objectives stand in contradiction? Are they even related? Some believe they are related—and for good reason.
At a recent event in which two organizations, Goodwill and KentuckianaWorks, presented their “Reentry by Design” program aimed at helping convicted felons overcome criminal records and reenter the workforce, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) made a case for Congress to consider how the limited options available to nonviolent offenders threatens to derail any move towards the traditional notion of family values.
“If I’m a Republican and I say, ‘I’m for family values,’ and ‘I want families to be together,’ and ‘I want dads to be around,’ well, dads can’t be in prison for 20 years for a nonviolent crime they committed when they were 21 or you don’t have family values.”
In April, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed the Felony Expungement Bill into law, which will allow some Class D (nonviolent) felonies to be cleared from criminal records five years after a sentence has been completed. The bill failed in Kentucky’s legislature for a decade, where it fell prey to staunch opposition that can best be described as predictable.
On the other side of the aisle, the conviction held that within the justice system, an opportunity for redemption is crucial. A person needs to work to support a family, and he or she needs to be afforded the opportunity to do so without undue prejudice; otherwise, children will become the victims and the cycle will repeat itself. That, along with a demand for reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders, seems rational enough.
But aren’t prison sentences supposed to act as deterrents?
That is certainly the intention behind one ideology. The other ideology prefers to focus on rehabilitation as the primary objective of criminal incarceration.
The truth, if you believe statistics, is that neither of these are the case; exhaustive studies have failed to demonstrate that harsher sentences have in anyway deterred criminal behavior, nor have they demonstrated that prison institutions have seen any notable reduction of repeat offenders. (Maybe it has something to do with the for-profit prison industry in the U.S.)
Certainly, no one would argue that incarceration and a criminal history are impediments to a family’s well-being.
Do You Think?