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.
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