Wave of reform

By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 6, 2008

Although many such reforms could eventually result from the current discussions in Augusta, militating against reform is the Criminal Justice Committee’s eagerness to please the Corrections Department in designing the new set-up. This attitude was in evidence on February 4 at the committee’s first work session on the proposal. At that meeting, Peter Lehman, to his dismay, was the only representative of the new activist coalition.

Maine’s and America’s penal system has run for decades on the high octane of harsh retribution, resulting in millions of human beings now behind bars and a national incarceration rate five times what it was 30 years ago — the highest in the world. But it’s possible Maine politicians are beginning to gain an understanding of what the Zen Buddhist at the Belfast meeting would call karma: Vengeance has a big price tag, and compassion can be cost-effective.

Lance Tapley can be reached at ltapley@roadrunner.com.

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