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The World and I, December 2003 | Go to article overview

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The United States imprisons a higher proportion of its population, by an order of magnitude, than any other developed nation. This "lock them up and throw away the key" penal policy might work fine while the criminal is in jail. But we do not actually throw the key away, and one day the criminal is released. When he is, prison has prepared him, in most cases, for nothing except to continue a life of crime.

There are programs, many of them based on religious beliefs and practices, that seek to rehabilitate criminals, with some evidence of success. In contemporary America there is strong resistance to introducing anything with a religious flavor into areas of public policy. However, purely pragmatic self-interest would suggest that these programs be evaluated seriously. If prisoners can be released posing less of a threat to society than when they were convicted, it surely makes practical sense to do so.

These and related issues are the subject of Creating Penitents in Penitentiaries, the Current Issues Special Report. Meanwhile, the Arts section publishes A Light Still Burns, a collection of poems from prison by Rael James Grey.

President Kennedy had charm and charisma; his presidency was polished into the myth of Camelot by writers like Theodore Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. It did not hurt the Kennedy reputation that the press of the day did not see digging up personal scandal on the president as any part of its mission. But even at the time there were those who did not buy the myth. In John F. Kennedy Without Tears, in the Currents in Modern Thought section, Alan Levine recounts the often ugly political and moral realities behind the shining image. Morton Kaplan offers his own reflections on Kennedy's presidency in his editorial.

The history and historic sites of Britain figure large in this issue. …

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