Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2011
Source: Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, GA)
Copyright: 2011 Ledger-Enquirer
Author: H. Berrien Zettler


I would like to follow up to a May 17 letter. The author rightly
points out that Georgia sentencing laws are overly harsh, particularly
regarding possession of small amounts of drugs. Loud cries of
objection can be expected from the private prison industry, which is
handsomely paid by the state. Additional hand-wringing is likely from
local and state governments because of the financial impact on their
budgets that diminishing sentences will bring about. As the letter
writer suggests, we will also hear an outcry from the public because
of probable cutbacks in services it has come to take for granted.

As some readers may know, on Dec. 9 thousands of men in Georgia
prisons went on strike to demand that the Department of Corrections
stop treating them like slaves and institute programs that address
their basic human rights.

While the strike did not extend to Muscogee County, this widespread
work stoppage does highlight legitimate grievances, such as lack of a
living wage for work; of educational opportunities and vocational
training; of decent health care and overcrowded living conditions; of
nutritional meals.

Cruel punishments are commonplace, and access to or by families is
often extremely difficult. Parole decisions seem inequitably
determined and sometimes appear to be punitive.

Ethical principles, particularly those of social justice in the
Judeo-Christian religious tradition, dictate that every human being be
treated with respect and be accorded basic human rights whatever his
or her conditions.

Punishment for a crime does not relieve us of the responsibility of
adhering to our religious duty, nor does a benefit gained justify
mistreatment of our fellow human beings. Slavery in the past was
immoral and slavery under another name today is equally immoral
whatever the benefit.

H. Berrien Zettler

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