on crime, bloodlust, and the "samurai sword killing"

Posted in response to the comments on a comments on a Baltimore Sun editorial about the recent "samurai sword killing" in Baltimore. (Links have been added to this version.)

Wow. The bloodlust displayed by many comments on this incident makes me sad.

We don't have all the details, but it seems Mr. Pontolillo was probably acting in justified self-defense. I'm a martial arts instructor and a gun owner, and I stand solidly behind his right to do so.

But one of the few teachings that has stuck with me from my abandoned Catholic upbringing is that every single human being has the potential for redemption, regardless of their past mistakes. Mr. Rice has lost his chance at redemption, and that should sadden us.

If the very best thing that we, as a society, could do with Mr. Rice's human potential was let it bleed out onto the ground, then we are in sorry shape indeed.

Thanks to right-wing "tough on crime" policies, along with the economics of the prison-industrial complex, prisons have abandoned any attempt at reforming inmates. And so we see the sort of "revolving door" system that did nothing for Mr. Rice. A recent NPR story about Folsom prison notes that four decades ago, when it was a model institution where almost every prisoner got education and job training, most never returned to prison. Now, only 10% get job training -- and the recidivism rate is 75%.

So here's the end result of the "tough on crime" attitude spouted by those cheering Mr. Rice's death: more crime, more violence, lives wasted, and ordinary citizens with blood on their hands.

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