Our justice system should shift from punishing people to encouraging their betterment

If we want a long-term solution to violence, we need to give all people opportunities to heal.

SHARE Our justice system should shift from punishing people to encouraging their betterment
Prison cells at Pontiac Correctional Institution.

Prison cells at Pontiac Correctional Institution.

AP Photo/Seth Perlman

Thank you for cutting through the fear-mongering with your parole and rehabilitation for prisoners editorial, and helping us to imagine long-term solutions to violence. 

The Illinois criminal-legal system is very good at punishing people. We have nearly 40,000 people behind bars. Thousands of them are sentenced to spend their entire lives in prison. Two-thirds of those people are Black.

Basically, we have demonized young people from historically oppressed communities and pretended to solve social problems by locking them up.

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But locking people up has not made our communities safer. On the contrary, it has decimated families and communities, which exacerbates cycles of trauma, violence and incarceration in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

If we want a long-term solution to violence, we need to give all people opportunities to heal. 

The Earned Reentry bill is a crucial step in this direction. By providing parole eligibility to people who already have been incarcerated for two decades, it does not let everyone out of prison. However, it does ensure that people who already have been held accountable have opportunities to demonstrate their readiness to come home. It gives people with long sentences hope. And it shifts the focus of our justice system from punishing people to encouraging their betterment.

Imagine a justice system that helps people and communities to heal.

Shari Stone-Mediatore, managing director, Parole Illinois

Vaccinate the world

I’m glad to hear that Chicago schooland teachers’ unions are standing firm to keep school masking policies in place. Masks and vaccines are effective methods to help us through COVID-19 variant surges. But we must not forget that variants will keep setting us back until every country in the world has access to vaccines and other tools. We cannot continue to neglect low- and middle-income countries.

Congress must provide $17 billion in supplemental funding for the global COVID-19 response in the FY22 spending bills. I urge Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as Reps. Jan Schakowksy, Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly, and Mike Quigley, to support this increase. The United States must continue to marshal the political will to vaccinate the world, save lives now, and ensure we are stronger after the pandemic. 

Cynthia Changyit Levin, St. Louis, Missouri

Stopping gun violence

What can be done to stop gun violence? Ask any citizen on the street who is against gun violence. Ban military weapons from the hands of non-military citizens. Make it against the law to sell guns out of the trunk of your car with no paper trail.

Every single gun owned must be registered, If a gun is sold that must be reported. Failure to do that must result in a large fine and possibly jail time if that gun is used in a crime or death.

Guns sold at gun shows should be reported by a paper trail, showing who bought the gun and their legal ID, which will have a picture. That picture can be copied by a copier the gun show must provide. The papers should be given to state police. Every seller of any gun, no matter how or where it is sold, should have all information and a picture of who bought it. Everyone should have an official ID. If they do not, they can get one and then buy the gun.

We have seen the results of no gun control. As a child we saw a murder in the paper once a month maybe, now it is every single day.

What does this tell a sane person? No gun control is not working!

Connie Orland, Plainfield

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