Christians should want better results out of the criminal justice system
Right on Crime’s Manager of State Initiatives, Greg Glod, spoke to ERLC about how he came to support conservative criminal justice reform. He says that the idea of “lock em’ up and throw away the key” had initially resonated with him, but conflicted with his Christian faith.
Glod grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church where he was taught that all life is sacred and that “no life is something that we should throw away.” Reflecting on this principle as a then practicing attorney, Glod determined overly punitive approaches to justice were not only ineffective, but morally flawed. He saw a need for redemption.
“Seeing the eye-opening stories of a guy who gets strung out on pain pills because he tore his ACL in Iraq and then commits several felonies – and that’s a guy who deserves to be punished – but that’s a child that loses his father, a wife that loses her husband. We need to start kind of rationing our punishment to commensurate with actually having redemption and having a second chance.” (tweet)
The conservative case for criminal justice reform contends that government spending must be held accountable to public safety goals. So, when an offender returns to his community, the government must do all it can to prevent new crimes, new victims, or any behavior that might land that person back behind bars. Given that around one in three people are going back to prison within three years, it’s safe to say the government’s return on investment for corrections spending is not good. Glod recommends two solutions.
On the frontend he says we must be more careful about ensuring only the right people are going to prison. Prison should be reserved for people who are legitimate threats to public safety. There are some who commit low-level crimes with little to no criminal history that could otherwise be diverted to mental health or substance abuse treatment programs. By addressing the root causes of their behavior we could decrease the chance they’ll commit another crime. The problem with incarceration is that, “Once you get in, it’s very difficult to break that cycle once you get out,” Glod says.
On the backend, for those offenders who warrant incarceration, there are reentry programs that can help them gain valuable skills that will increase the chance they don’t return to prison and change their lives for the better. Where some may need treatment, others may need job training or help securing housing. This is an area churches and the faith community tend to play an enormous role. Glod says, “There are a lot of folks out there that can be redeemed, can be law-abiding citizens, can be paying taxes, and can be a father to their children.” The Church is sometimes the only place offenders returning to their communities can turn to help re-assimilate into society, providing the resources and second chance they need to succeed on the outside.
“There are a lot of folks out there that can be redeemed, can be law-abiding citizens, can be paying taxes, and can be a father to their children.” (tweet)
Anyone who believes in redemption or is concerned about public safety should want to see better results out of their criminal justice system and out of their tax dollars. Texas is proof it’s possible. They invested in treatment and alternatives to incarceration and the results have paid off. Today, Texas has shuttered eight prisons and lowered its overall crime rate by 31 percent. “And that’s the whole point of the criminal justice system, first and foremost, is to keep the public safe,” Glod says.
Evidence reveals that simply locking a person away for a period of time and letting them back out without any sort of preparation for reentry does not bode well for public safety. After several months of meetings with White House officials, Right on Crime, is encouraged that the Trump Administration has urged lawmakers to strengthen reentry. This will help those who have served their time have a better shot at redemption – and a better return on their second chance.