Criminal Justice Reform is Smart and Right

Kendall Baker Criminal Justice Reform

As I go door-to-door each day to discuss with voters who I am and why I want to represent them, I always ask them what issues concern them, what they want to see changed and how their next representative might be able to help empower them to revitalize their community and by extension, our district.

One issue that seems the most consistent is crime. Often, right there at the door step, I find myself getting into discussions with people who do not just want to lock people up and throw away the key. Many of our residents have lived in our community for anywhere from twenty to fifty years. These residents have seen that people get locked up, people go away, and yet crime never seems to decrease. It is still all around them; it is around us all. It is well known that when the breadwinner goes to jail or prison, the next in line will attempt to provide for the family. So in that sense, the cycle never breaks.

I talk about my experience as a pastor, as a community healer. I have suggested that jails and prisons are not rehabilitation centers, despite the best attempts or intentions. Do some people deserve to lose their freedom? Yes, of course, for the violent among us that refuse to adhere to the laws that exist, they should pay the penalty.

There are programs now that have proven to be great ways to keep repeat offenses down and get able-bodied people back to work. Often these are faith-based, and some will argue government should not be involved in funding such endeavors. I would argue that what works, deserves to be tried as much as possible. If the problem solver that gets us greater efficiency and greater accountability at a lower taxpayer cost, let’s find a way to make the solution bigger.

The voters I have spoken with overwhelmingly agree, and if they don’t fully agree with my thoughts, they know that a middle ground in this direction is preferable to the status quo. The tide is turning in the debate on criminal justice reform. As a Republican, I am glad that it is my side of the aisle that is offering the more humane solutions, looking for the best way to defeat the cause, not just defeat and distort the system with loopholes or favorable statistics.

We Republicans are looking at the whole person, and trying to make sure there is something to look forward to once freedom is regained, whether it is educational opportunity or a job. The other side of the aisle wants to distort the facts and then move along. When poverty or homelessness ensue, well, they have the “perfect” government programs for those things. These people may find themselves free from a cell, but they are never free from government, free from despair or free from the stigma of repeated rejection.

There is a better way, and we are leading it.

Every time I talk about crime and justice matters with a voter, I am reminded of this verse:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
– Micah 6:8 (KJV)
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