Out of Control: Pope Denounces Criminal Justice Systems [JustSouth E-News, November 2014]

By Alex Mikulich, Ph.D. 

“The criminal justice system is out of control,”[1] proclaimed Pope Francis to the International Association of Penal Law on October 23, 2014. 

Francis laments how societies have become overly punitive, thereby losing the capacity to practice the “primacy of life and the dignity of the human person.”  

Sadly, Louisiana is a prime example of a criminal justice system out of control, as the state “locks up more of its people than anywhere in the world.”[2]

Newsmedia headlined the Pope’s call for the abolition of the death penalty and his declaration that the “life sentence was taken out of the Vatican’s Criminal Code”  because a “life sentence is just a death penalty in disguise.” 

Louisiana serves as exhibit #1 of applying the “death penalty in disguise,” as it incarcerates the highest percentage of inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP), including some who never committed a violent crime.  

As the Times-Picayune observes in an op-ed that underscores the Pope’s message, Louisiana’s “wasteful approach denies any possibility of redemption—throwing away lives but also throwing away money.  An offender who begins a life sentence at 20-something and lives to be 70 will end up costing the state $1 million.”[3]


Smart Criminal Justice Reform: 
Mississippi and Texas Leading Gulf South States [JustSouth Quarterly, Fall 2014]

By Alex Mikulich, Ph.D.

   “Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a major policy initiative presented last August. He explained that “many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems rather than alleviate them.”[1] 

    Calling for a new approach to the “war on drugs,” the attorney general lamented “our system is broken” as “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”[2] 

  Seventeen states, supported by the Justice Department and leaders of both parties, have directed funding away from prison construction toward evidence-based programs and services such as drug treatment and supervision, designed to reduce recidivism.

  The effort to pursue alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent crimes is one of five key principles of the U.S. Justice Department’s “Smart on Crime: Reforming the Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century” policy initiative.[3] 

  Holder praised Texas for investing in drug treatment for nonviolent offenders and changes in parole policies that reduced its prison population by more than 5,000 inmates in 2012. Similar efforts in Arkansas helped reduce its prison population by more than 1,400. MORE>>



An Introduction to Race, Racism, and Whiteness

By Dr. Alex Mikulich

Over 100 years ago, in his introduction to The Souls of Black Folk, W.E. B. Du Bois wrote: “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” Despite claims that we live in a “post-racial” society after the historic election of Barack Obama, the fact remains that the color line and racial hierarchy endures in the 21st century.  At issue for the Jesuit Social Research Institute, from the perspective of Roman Catholic social teaching and thought, is the persistence of disproportionate advantage for white Americans in relationship to pervasive and persistent disproportionate disadvantage for people of color in every sphere of life including health, wealth, income, education, housing, and the criminal justice system.  More than one issue among others, the contradiction between Gospel values and practices of racial inequality is scandalous. The contradiction between Roman Catholic and American claims for universal human dignity and equality, and the reality of social, political, and economic advantage that white Americans consciously and unconsciously accept and assume, betrays this scandal.  This article continues here

2013-14 Articles on Racism:

A Last Will and Testament: The Freedom Riders' enduring legacy -- Mikulich

The Monstrous Elegance of White Supremacy -- Mikulich

Six Myths of Payday Lending -- Mikulich

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Becoming Maladjusted for the Beloved Community-- Mikulich 

Marching for Racial Justice in Contemplation and Protest-- Mikulich

The Gift of W.E.B. Du Bois and Double-Consciousness--Mikulich


Thomas Merton’s “Letters to a White Liberal”--Mikulich

A Victory for Democracy: Americans repudiate voter suppression, racism--Mikulich

Race and the 2012 Presidential Election--Mikulich

The Real Fraud in “Voter Fraud”: How so-called reform laws aim to disenfranchise voters -- Mikulich

The Payday Shark in Your Bank Account -- Mikulich

Changing the Script: A Starting Point for Reducing Gun Violence--Mikulich

Stop Casting Stones: The Failure of Punitive Crime Policy--Mikulich

No Relief in Sight: Persistent High Unemployment for African Americans and Latinos in Gulf South States -- Mikulich

View all Racism articles »

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