So: another snippet that may or may not get pursued in more depth. Just pretend Kristof or Gladwell is writing this and has done the appropriate research and fill in the missing insights and connections they would make.
We've been watching The Wire, after starting it somewhat reluctantly. A friend of ours has all the discs and it's been passed around the neighborhood with such rave reviews that I overcame my resistance to another police drama and I'm glad I did. It's a really good show (we're just starting season 3, so don't give anything away!), different from the rest - nice slow pacing, realistic perspectives, great writing, strong characters. None of which is what I want to talk about tonight.
The thing it's brought up for me over and over is how completely messed up our prison system and the whole justice system is. It's not a new opinion, but it's been reawakened. It doesn't punish effectively, it's not enough of a deterrent, it doesn't rehabilitate, it doesn't make the streets any safer. (This would be a good place to insert some of that research a better writer would have done. About what percentage of our population is locked up, and the disproportionate numbers of young black men, and the extreme sentences for things that are barely a crime, and recidivism, and violence in jail, and so on.) It just fucks people up, and actually seems to make things worse in some ways.
And far too many people - including some of my middle-school students when I was in New Mexico - just expect and accept that they will end up there at some point. Like my friends and I expected to go to college. You do your time, then you move on, maybe even using new connections and new skills and new resentments to fire things up when you get out.
It really depresses me. Enough to take action on prison reform? I don't know. Enough to pile onto my guilt about not doing enough to change the world and help those less fortunate, all the while feeling like that's a sort of pretentious and superior claim anyway? Absolutely. And that's not even touching on the whole death penalty issue. Sure, in a perfect world, I can see how some criminals (say, Jeffrey Dahmer et al) deserve to die. But ours is far from a perfect world, and it's just not right. Let go of it, Texas.
Tomorrow: something cheerful! Maybe.