In discussing his plan to give conditional pardons to nearly 10,000 former inmates, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it balances “compassion and caring and protecting society.” There are signs that the impulse toward compassion is becoming a bigger part of the criminal justice conversation, reports the Christian Science Monitor. As the get-tough-on-crime 1980s and '90s come under increasing scrutiny for taking little thought for the reintegration of a generation of criminals, today's emerging policies show an attempt to help those honestly seeking to rebuild lives.
“Every day, we're adding to the 70 million Americans with convictions who are going to face … challenges,” says Sam Schaeffer of the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York City, which helps those just out of prison find jobs. “Policies like the one the governor enacted … are important not only for the number of people this helps just as a matter of pragmatics, but also, symbolically – hopefully getting other governors to act and think along the same lines.” Cuomo adds: “The stigma of having been incarcerated, the stigma of having committed a crime makes it very, very hard, and that's not what we need to do. “This nation needs to take a step back and really, I think, revisit the criminal justice system – the institutionalization of men and women who have committed a crime…. What is the purpose of the institutionalization? Are we trying to protect society? Are we trying to rehabilitate people?”