This week at Angelus News we've published an in-depth look at overcrowded prisons. In 2011, the court ruled that prisons could not exceed 137.5 percent occupancy. More than 15 prisons do not currently meet that federal mandate. R.W. Dellinger spent eight weeks to understand what is leading to prison overpopulation, including research, nearly 10 hours of interviews and a trip to Folsom Prison. His piece makes up our primary report available here. As part of the reporting, we also took a look the following:
- How long juvenile sentences exacerbate prison overcrowding
- What it’s like for juveniles who serve long sentences
- How families cope with being separated from a loved one serving time
- What the pope has to say about the dignity of prisoners
Pope Francis has inspired us to increase our reporting on the marginalized, especially during this Year of Mercy. We hope this report helps readers better understand the complexities that lead to overcrowded prisons. These stories, taken together with the high recidivism rate in the United States, underscore the need for a new approach. A criminal justice system that focuses on rehabilitation, and less on punishment, honors the dignity of every human person.
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops has come out in full support of Proposition 57: The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, calling the measure a “much needed first step,” which would create a “balanced approach to the criminal justice system.” The proposition will appear on the November 2016 ballot, promising to offer alternatives for dealing with crime, including increasing public safety as a preventative measure, offering rehabilitation programs and placing more decisions in the hands of impartial judges.
As the pope said during his Philadelphia visit, “Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children and views that pain as something normal or to be expected is a society ‘condemned’ to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain.”
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J.D. Long García, Editor-in-Chief