In the past month there has been a growing national media discussion about the equities of criminal justice in America, and not just because of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
On March 7, televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson said on the program The 700 Club, “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.....I think this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded." Robertson went on to criticize the overincarceration of Americans, including young people, as a result of drug laws. Robertson's words were noticed by other media outlets, perhaps because they may have come as a bit of surprise from someone who
has described national tragedies and natural disasters as
divine retribution for immorality.
Inspired by Robertson, CNN's Fareed Zakaria, took on the issue of the America's staggering incarceration rates this past weekend in a
blog post and television segment, "Incarceration Nation." A few days earlier, Nobel Prize winning economist, Princeton University professor,
New York Times columnist, and self-described liberal Paul Krugman has
took on the prison industrial complex. And, today, George Will, whose brand of conservativism is less religious, but likely to the right of Robertson's,
wrote about drug legalization in the
Other than George Will, who is probably only passing the time between the last faux semblence of a competition for the Republican nomination for President and baseball's opening day, the sudden fervent interest in overincarceration and the war on drugs in the national media seems too little, too late. As noted in Zakaria's article, the problem has only been growing for more than thirty years.
Growing up in Texas at the tail end of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath, I noticed a trend in the Lone Star State. Military installations were closing down left and right and jails were going up like 7-11s. In some towns like Hondo or Big Spring, one could see both phenomena in the same city limits. One may even have seen the corporate logo on the side of a private prison's water tower. I may have only been a kid, but I had eyes. It's interesting to see a few of the nation's leading talkers now use theirs.