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By Chuck Baldwin
June 28, 2002


The prospect of local businessman Frank Patti spending 8 years in federal prison for tax evasion causes me to once again reflect upon the justness of throwing people in jail for non-violent crimes. Of course, Patti is not the only man facing a long prison sentence for this type of crime. Local commissioners facing such charges as bribery, racketeering, etc. could face sentences that would force them to spend the rest of their lives in prison. At 71, Frank Patti's sentence could also amount to a life term. Interestingly, these potential prison terms are longer than those many murderers receive.

If this sounds to you like I am some kind of "bleeding heart" who wants to see crime go unpunished, you are mistaken. People who know me know that I am a law and order kind of guy. As a Christian, I know no other way to be. I was taught by a Christian father and mother to respect the law, and I do. Before surrendering to a divine call to ministry, I was preparing for a career in law enforcement. I have a nephew who was a policeman and a son who is attending law school.

However, I believe it is past time for America to examine its practice of locking people up for non-violent crimes. Even though the United States is far from being the most populous country in the world, we incarcerate more people than any other nation. According to recent reports, there are more than two million people behind bars in U.S. jails and prisons. Many of these people are there for crimes in which no one was physically injured or killed and, therefore, pose little or no threat to society.

Aggravating the problem of mass incarceration is the fact that U.S. prisons have become the number one recruiting station for militant Islam. If a prisoner is a black male, the chances are extremely likely that he will leave the prison system as a committed Muslim. Therefore, even if he was not a threat to people's safety when he entered prison, it is very likely that he is a threat when he leaves. If prisons were designed to reform or rehabilitate people, they are miserable failures.

Furthermore, it seems that this infatuation with locking people up serves more the interests of ever-burgeoning government bureaucracies than the interests of justice. A breadwinner behind bars means more welfare, more food stamps, and more dependence upon government, not to mention more government jobs, of course.

It is very interesting that there were no prisons under the Biblical model of justice. Punishment for many non-violent crimes involved mostly financial restitution. Violent crimes mostly resulted in capital punishment. There were times when criminals were turned over to victim's families for them to meet out justice as they saw fit. Now, that would be a deterrent!

With the federal government increasingly encroaching into the area of crime and punishment and with an exploding number of new laws continually being created, more and more people are losing their freedom over crimes that have more to do with offending the powers of government than injuring the lives of innocent people. Such a system hardly promotes justice.


© Chuck Baldwin Live commentaries may not be reprinted or republished without permission.  All Rights Reserved.

Chuck Baldwin is Founder-Pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. In 1985 the church was recognized by President Ronald Reagan for its unusual growth and influence. 

Dr. Baldwin is the host of a lively, hard-hitting syndicated radio talk show on the Genesis Communications Network called, "Chuck Baldwin Live" This is a daily, one hour long call-in show in which Dr. Baldwin addresses current event topics from a conservative Christian point of view. Pastor Baldwin writes weekly articles on the internet   and newspapers.  

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