Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) Pushes Prison Reform

I like Jim Webb. Don’t get me wrong; we have disagreements on numerous issues.  I believe that the Democratic Party should be at the forefront of every struggle for human rights and civil liberties and Webb believes that while Democrats were right to  back the Civil Rights movement, we should have “stayed neutral” in the debates over women’s rights and gay rights.   I am a pacifist and Webb is about as pro-military as one can get–although he is anti-nuke and thinks that the military should  only be used as a last resort (and, thus, this former Sec. of the Navy under Reagan was against the Iraq War from before Day One).

But Webb and I agree that the heart of the Democratic Party must always be the struggle for economic justice for ordinary people.  Fighting poverty, checking the abuses of wealth, and creating a broad middle class–those are the reasons Webb is a Democrat and I share them.  We also share a passion for prison reform. Webb sees, rightly, that the current prison system in the U.S. is broken–and is an economic drag on the nation and a new form of racist slavery.

So, now this Democrat from the socially conservative Commonwealth of Virginia (where he narrowly won his seat in 2006), a state that is second only to TEXAS in quick-but-sloppy trials and death sentences, is pushing for Congress to undertake massive prison reform. This year.  Wow.  Webb wants a complete, top to bottom, review of the nation’s criminal-justice system, with an eye toward greatly reducing the prison population (we now outrank China as first in the world in per capita citizens under lock and key) and reforming the way we incarcerate.

Considering that VA is not only a “law and order” state, but that prison growth is one of the few growth industries in our current economy, Webb has guts.  That’s another reason I like him.  I like politicians who have the guts to take on tough issues even if they shorten their time in office. (Webb, a successful novelist,  hardly needs his government paycheck.)

UPDATE: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is co-sponsoring the election, giving Webb some bi-partisan cover.

So, I got Webb’s back. How about you?  Contact Pres. Obama and tell him that you support Sen. Webb’s efforts for comprehensive criminal-justice and prison reform THIS YEAR.  Then contact your U.S. Representative to Congress and tell her or him the same thing.  Then contact both of your U.S. Senators and tell them, too.  Then, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and urge support.  Sen. Webb is having a major public  event on this initiative this weekend.  By Monday, Gentle Readers, let’s try for 50,000 emails,  letters, or phone calls to Congress and the White House and, at least 25,000 letters to editors of major newspapers throughout the country.  That won’t be all we need to do,  but it should give Sen. Webb’s efforts a major jump start.  Recruit all your family and friends to  do the same.

Oh,  and if any of you are police  or corrections or judges or work in the criminal justice system, or if you are clergy (especially prison chaplains or ministers who have spent time visiting prisoners) or have family who are either victims of crime or have been incarcerated for any reason, PLEASE include your experiences and insights in your contacts with media and Congress and the White House.

March 26, 2009 - Posted by | criminal juste


  1. What is Going ON?

    Within twenty-four hours Obama, Hillary, and Senator Jem Webb are talking about drugs & prison over population. Somebody is sticking their finger in the water. I sure hope it is not hot.

    Video: Obama On Legalizing Pot

    <a href=”https://levellers.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/sen-jim-webb-d-va-pushes-prison-reform/ Jim Webb on Senate floor

    Hillary on my previous post

    Comment by Weirdharold | March 26, 2009

  2. Hopefully, it means that policy is finally trumping politics and we will get real criminal justice and prison reform.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | March 26, 2009

  3. A good article on the cruelty of solitary confinement in the New Yorker, Mar. 30, 2009, p. 36

    Comment by bill j karras | March 29, 2009

  4. While volunteering as a mentor at a unigue faith- and character-based prison for women in Florida for the past and 2 1/2 years I have become more keenly aware that what we are trying to do out there is jeopardized by the systemic flaws, from the the top dowm. After reading Senator Webb’s article in March 29, 2009 Parade Magazine. I was elated to learn of his (and others’) efforts to begin the process of reform a system which is indeed very diseased. What can we do to help?

    I am very involved with our local Democratic party, our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and our community radio station (WMNF 88.5) here in Tampa, Florda.

    Please send me any information that I might share with my colleagues who are also interests in these issues.

    Comment by Eileen P. Handin | April 26, 2009

  5. Eileen, thanks for stopping by. I’d go to Webb’s website and see what suggestions he has.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 26, 2009

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