Locally we have an issue with our jail and overcrowding of criminals. I know this is not an isolated issue here where I live, but all across the nation, and so this applies here in Helena and also where you live.
We have well-intentioned citizens (even churchmen) lobbying to get a bill passed to raise taxes in our county to expand the size of the jail, and add up to 38 employees. The flyer that a group is handing out is titled “Yes to Justice.” And it is filled with fearful rhetoric. You know, if we don’t raise taxes to have a bigger jail built then we will have criminals running the streets! Boo!
But, me thinks, they are not thinking about justice at all.
The information in the “Yes to Justice” flyer says that an inmate in the jail costs taxpayers $40,000 a year to keep him there, and this is why we must pass the local bill. Well, that seems like justice (insert eye roll here).
Let’s say a man steals five thousand dollars and the judge says “Two years in jail.” Well, now what has this thief done? He has stolen $85,000, and our justice system gave it to him. We have two criminals: the thief, and the people who sent him to jail. And we have two victims: the original victim, and the tax payers. Justice does not require a victim to continue to be a victim at the hands of the criminal or the justice system. This is not legitimate justice but rather a continuation of injustice.
Now, there is a reason there are no jails or prisons in God’s Law, namely God does not desire victims or society to continue to suffer at the hands of wicked men. God is after justice and restitution. this doesn’t mean we do not have a place to hold bad men and women while they await trial, of course we do. But such buildings are not there to rehabilitate the criminal. So, in God’s Law if a man steals five thousand dollars and is caught, what does God’s justice demand? Restitution. The criminal owes $10,000. If he can’t pay, he must work it off, see Exodus 22:1-5. This criminal in our system would be in jail for two years sucking $80,000 from tax payers is now, under God’s law, a contributing member to the labor force. The victim is being repaid, and the criminal has a job. Just suppose this all works smoothly. What happens after a couple years when his debt is paid? Does he leave his job? Why would he? He is making money and has no need to steal, and the employer has a capable employee. Compare that to our system when a criminal gets out of jail and has nothing, what is he tempted to do? Steal again. And why not? If he gets caught he gets a warm bed with three meals a day, and we pay for him. What deal!
A criminal in my county is living off of $40,000 a year of tax payer money, when I know of families of 5 and 6 people living on an income less than the criminal. Justice and all that.
My suggestion to my city, and others, is not to raise more taxes to accommodate more criminals, but to change the penal law to fall in line with God’s justice. We either submit to God who is good and just, or we submit to man who is himself, judge or criminal, wicked. And you might say, “but the current system is so broken it can’t be fixed.” And so we make it worse? It is never too late to stop in the road and turn around. This is, after all, what repentance looks like.
The knee-jerk reaction to community troubles is to throw money at it. The knee-jerk reaction to community troubles ought to be repentance and seeking God’s will. To keep criminals from running the streets we need to repent and turn back to God.
God is just, and His law flows from Him. If we want real justice we will bend the knee to God and obey His Word. Either we obey God, or we submit to man. Our nation is in the midst of submitting to men, and…well, how is that going for ya?