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“Just the facts, Ma’m”

July 15, 2015

For example, as President Obama noted today in his speech to the NAACP: “the United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners;” and “African Americans and Latinos make up 30 percent of our population [but] they make up 60 percent of our inmates.”

During many years of my childhood I was a fan of the radio program, “Dragnet,” with Jack Webb’s objective policing, reminding the witness that he was only interested in the facts. I probably should give him some credit for stimulating my interest in justice, and my sense of rational and fair policing and trials (including presumption of innocence, rather than bigoted presumption of guilt).

President Obama’s speech was loaded with facts—and he emphasized that he was reporting facts—about the effects of racism, and punitive small-mindedness, on our system of justice, and especially our prison system.   Our situation is astounding, it is astonishingly and embarrassingly bad. Need I say, psychopathological.

Here’s the video, and here’s the transcript. It’s an extraordinary speech. It really is.

He calls, in strong terms, for effective parenting, neighborhoods, schools, policing, trials and sentencing, prisons. He names prison practices and conditions, including use of solitary confinement, that are so inhumane that they are simply intolerable.

In the New Testament tradition, that is a strong part of our national philosophy of justice with mercy, he points out that no one is “without sin,” and he voices our cultural belief in the possibility of individual redemption and reform, and he calls for intelligent programs of rehabilitation.

He calls for a lot of change.

And then it’s not just the facts.

Really really remarkably, he calls for love, a system of justice based on love!

Whoa, he has a vision of healing our psychopathologies. (This is an amazing episode of this novel!)

And he points out that reform is now being supported by many politicians in both parties.

Next Tuesday he will be the first sitting president, in history, to visit a federal prison. Seriously, this sounds like the spirit of Pope Francis.

He’s calling people to walk the walk, and to live their faith.

And he says he believes we can do it.

From → justice, Obama, racism

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