Saturday, April 23, 2016

Got a Bit of Time? Go to Jail!

Okay, now this is something I can really get behind – a judge spends the night in jail, apparently just to show a bit of empathy for a veteran he sentenced earlier that day. You can read about it here

If you don’t count Boy Scouts or whatever, then the first time I ever went inside a jail or prison was during my first job out of law school. I worked for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and my judge had the whacky idea that if we were going to write opinions sending people to prison, we ought to at least visit a couple. So we went through Leavenworth Prison – at the time, the second most secure prison in America and a pretty scary place – and the United States Disciplinary Barracks, where people in the armed forces go who commit serious crimes. By the way, if you want to see some serious discipline, visit the disciplinary barracks. There’s a reason for why the word’s in the name.

Since then, I’ve toured a lot of jails and prisons, to the point where it’s become a bit of a hobby. I even took my wife to a medium security federal prison about 10 years ago.

Now I don’t think judges need to actually spend the night, but if you’re a judge – or frankly, if you’re anyone at all working in the criminal justice system – you need to at least go inside one. Most people don’t. In fact, when my friends at our local jail offered tours to judges, prosecutors, and county commissioners, they routinely declined. I imagine it’s that way all over the country.

Most jails and prisons have tours. If you work in criminal justice, figure out a way to book one. It’s not spending the night, but at least it’s close.