On Saturday when I went out to buy that basil, I found a ticket on my car. We have no off-street parking, and parking tickets are ubiquitous around here. Someone's always parking somewhere at the wrong time. They clean the streets at least once a week (depending on how much traffic the street gets) and you're not supposed to park there for a two-hour period (usually) on that day. Well, I noticed right away that the ticket left on my car was just the ticket, no envelope for sending payment. And I was *sure* I'd mentally checked whether it was okay to park there when I'd parked it on Thursday. And sure enough, when I looked at it, it was a ticket for someone else's car! I'm thinking there are two possible scenarios: 1. Someone got a ticket and figured they'd give it a shot at getting someone else to pay it or 2. The person dropped the ticket and someone found it and put it on the windshield of the nearest car.
But a deeper issue is punishment. We use punishment in our society to keep people in line. No one likes it, but we keep the system going. When Paul was in seminary, the maintenance staff at the school used a sticker system for awhile. When you parked where you shouldn't, you found a huge orange sticker that was next to impossible to remove right on your windshield. Did this work? All it did was humiliate, in my opinion. One of the seminarians would carry around some kind of razor scraper and would remove the stickers wherever he found them. Whenever I think about this particular man to this day, I think of him as an angel of mercy.
Our friend Mark, who is formerly homeless, currently in prison, and probably soon to be homeless again, will be released from prison at the end of July. He was put in prison for a parole violation. He had been in prison previously on a drug charge--they say he was selling, he said he was just holding some for a friend. Either way, they let him out on parole, and then he didn't report because he was addicted to heroine. So, he was put in prison again. Will he stay clean this time? Yeah, he's been off drugs for three months--one way of thinking is that it's a free ride to kicking an addiction. But what are the root causes of addiction, and have they really been addressed?
Paul was talking a few days ago about how the system really encourages recidivism. They say oh, yeah, you can go free on parole. But they aren't really free, and the problems the prisoners had in the first place haven't been addressed. They aren't put into programs--how about making that mandatory, instead of just reporting so we can reprimand if you've been bad? How about something that will really work, instead of this, which has an astronomical recidivism rate? California has a jaw-dropping number of prisoners in it's system. And we keep wanting to build more prisons. Wouldn't this money be better spent on prevention?