I took a road trip the other day from San Diego to Sacramento. Normally, I take I-5 which is mile after mile of open space and farmland. On this trip I decided to take the 99, because after an exhausting vacation, I needed a route with more diversity to keep me awake.
California’s history includes the tale of Father Junipero Serra who formed Catholic Missions one day’s walk from each other from San Diego to San Francisco. These missions were the beginnings of some of the cities we have today. It is called the mission trail and makes a beautiful sight-seeing trip for tourists.
I discovered yesterday, as I cruised my way north on 99 that it is the prison trail of California. I passed towns with names like Avenal, and Atwater, and Corcoran and Chowchilla and wondered which came first the town or the prison. It was a trail of towns where prisons were put in order to be away from the populated areas of California and towns grew around them.
I thought about the large prison population. There are currently 117,000 prisoners in California which amounts to about .3% of the population. These prisoners are jammed into prisons that are so overcrowded that the US Supreme Court is forcing California to reduce its prison population over the next two years.
In my book, Blessed-Are-They-That-Hunger , I have a chapter entitled “We Hunger For Justice”. It talks about injustice in America and the racial bias of those incarcerated and on death row. Thankfully, there are some of our leaders that are paying attention to this and fighting for change .
The reality of my previous blog on rehabilitation became real to me as I traveled those miles and passed those prisons. I reflected about a state that incarcerates so many and wondered about our so called “free society”. Freedom is not for all of our society and less so for those of a certain color or ethnic heritage. Maybe it is time for California to open up its prison gates and find a new way to reduce crime.