Sunday, May 22, 2005

Kentucky's Overcrowded Prisons

The Inquirer, Cincinnati, OH
May 17, Tuesday.

Kentucky Overcrowding Defies Reason
Your Voice Column: Paschal Baute
Editor: Ray Cooklis.

Regarding The Kentucky Enquirer article "Campbell County inmates sue" (April 30), on a lawsuit by 27 Campbell County Detention Center inmates who claim that extreme overcrowding at the facility violates their constitutional rights:

Kentucky's growth rate among Ohio Valley states clearly beats all the surrounding seven states in at least one area - growth in prison population.

In the number of prisoners in state and federal corrections, Kentucky's rate of growth, compared with the average of the seven surrounding states, is not twice, not three times, but almost four times the average rate of all seven surrounding states, an increase of 8.5 percent from 2003 to 2004. Kentucky's growth rate in prison population is also three times the national average, according to a recent Associated Press report.

Does Kentucky have more criminals, four times the average of the surrounding seven states? Or is its "tough on crime, lock 'em up and throw away the key" sentencing code one of the harshest in the country?

How is this happening? The vast majority are in jail for using or selling drugs. We have gone from paying $7 million in 1970 to $300 million-plus per year for "corrections" in Kentucky. There is little left for rehabilitation. If we take time to examine the situation, we shall find that we are simply punishing addictive behavior by incarceration - mostly without rehabilitation, so that two-thirds are back in jail within three years.

Jails and prisons in Kentucky are so overcrowded that in some county jails inmates are living in Third World conditions. Even when volunteer programs are offered, some county jails' staffs are too busy with the overcrowded warehousing of inmates to accept the offer. I have firsthand experience in this.

Black people are five times more likely than white people to be in prison. Is the current sentencing code creating a new underclass of those trapped in addiction, joblessness and resentment?

Are the streets, shops, stores and homes any safer in Kentucky? Is this a corrective justice system , or a stealth reverse apartheid, which is undermining our safety and security by generating an increasing population of unreformed addicts? Who will examine this situation?

Paschal Baute is a pastoral psychologist in Lexington, Ky.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Who is "Paschal Baute?"

I am Galileo, restricted to my home the last 8 years of my life by the authority of the Roman Catholic church for saying that the earth was not the center of the universe.

I am the German Catholic member of the Nazi SS whose pastor gave the names and addresses of Jews living within our parish to the government, and whose church offered no guidance and therefore allowed me to be absolutely certain we in our Nazi party were on “God’s side.”

I am the oriental child of twelve years of age who spends 18 hours a day sewing Nike shoes for $1.40 per day wages in sweat shop conditions.

I am the third world woman whose husband beats her regularly and whose parish priest has no guidance but to pray for him. No, I live in Eastern Kentucky, and whenever I talk of leaving or abuse, my minister tells me that is NOT God’s will for me, that I must love him for Christ’s sake.

I am a wounded healer who has not always been guided by the better angels of our nature (Lincoln) and who needs God’s grace at every moment.

I am the Catholic mother of a daughter sexually abused by a priest twenty years ago who just now got a verbal apology from the bishop and who still cannot attend Mass or believe in God. I have six personalities and can’t throw away anything for fear of offending somebody.

I am one of the countless unknown persons, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian who was abused or killed by official Catholic or Protestant authority that was convinced it was doing God’s will.

I am, incredibly, a spark of divine life, light and fire, called and enabled to transform my world including my own darkness.

I am every forgotten soul who died without any remembrance by famine, war, pestilence, disease, accident, or political or religious persecution.

I am the lucky husband of a wife of 35+ years and the lucky father of three children and lucky grandfather of three.

I am, as of today, the lucky survivor of prostate cancer that already metathasized to lymph nodes, still astonishingly alive almost twelve years later.

I am everyone I ever met, learned from, listened to, been moved by, and I am at times sometimes too passionate for my own good, but I will not give up my (and that of our “over-the-hill” gang) ecstasy in downhill skiing, love of sailing, playful fun with others and quiet stillness with Mystery.

I am the recipient of the gift of faith and so many graces that I cannot count or even know of, who can never be grateful or humble enough for the incredibly undeserved gifts I have received.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the
Mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” –Albert Einstein.
“A man should share the passion and action of his time
in peril of being judged never to have lived.” O.W. Holmes, in Seekers
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein.

"A human being is part of the whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires, and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." --Albert Einstein

Sophia's Playfulness


A heart awakened
in-love, is
the best season of all.

The longing to play
is always present:
to hide and delight
in being “found.”

Is this the way
of Wisdom among us,
who loves to hide
from Herself
and delights in
being found?

She hides
in the human heart,
You, I and everyone,
in nature and stars
and in the spaces
between people.

She hides so well
that she forgets where
and how She hides.

Til we, you and I,
discover, in loving,
the wisdom hiding
in our hearts.

She doesn’t want
to be found too soon
as that would end the
game and spoil
the fun
–even for Her.

So She waits, inside
our hearts, hiding
for the gaiety
and wondrous
surprise of
being found already

Where we are
to look...

a poem for my 20 month old grandson
by Paschal Baute, 2002
reference: “Jesus, Wisdom, and the World”
an article by Elizabeth A. Johnson.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"This will not help faith thrive." editorial

This will not help faith to thrive
Editorial from the International Tablet

“The internationally renowned Jesuit magazine, America, bears the name of a country that has traditionally regarded freedom of speech as one of its core values. The resignation of its editor-in-chief, Fr Thomas Reese SJ, as a result of prolonged pressure from the hierarchy, dramatises the way American Catholicism is being pulled between two cultural norms. One stresses the importance of open and honest debate and the other expects deference to church authority and those who wield it. These norms are inevitably in tension, but they are not, with goodwill on all sides, mutually incompatible. . . .

Concluding paragraph

“The underlying issue is of concern throughout the Church: that debate and discussion are necessary parts of the process by which the Catholic faith develops. The action of the CDF against Fr Reese is bound to have a chilling effect, drawing the permissible limits of criticism and dissent ever more narrowly. This is a risk-averse philosophy which is of no benefit to the faith and intelligence of the Catholic laity in particular, and betrays a certain lack of confidence in the Holy Spirit. It is not disloyalty but honesty to acknowledge that there are usually two sides to an argument. As Cardinal Newman said in his seminal essay “On Consulting the Faithful on Matters of Doctrine”, to cut the laity off from participation in the Church’s thinking “in the educated classes will terminate in indifference, and in the poorer in superstition.”

For rest see

Sunday, May 15, 2005

New Writing Blog: Stealth Idolatry in Religion

When we examine what is being done today to divide the country between true believers and others, we must be deeply concerned about the uses and abuses of faith.

I do not believe that the Ultimate Power in the universe, of whatever name, intended us humans to use faith concepts to divide, to stereotype, to blame, to conquer, or even as is happening at this moment, to kill other innocent persons.

We are approaching, if we have not already passed it, a critical time in human history. Shall we move together to create a better world, more conducive to human aspiration, or shall we use our belief systems of whatever shade as justification for our motives that divide and conquer.

Sincerity is no excuse. Much evil, even murder and torture of all kinds, have been done by those who believed themselves to be sincerely right with God. Sincerity can be a cover, a mask, a way of hiding from ourselves, a way of refusing to be critically aware of our good intentions.

A critical need, it seems to me, is the need to reflect on the many ways faith and religious enthusiam can be employed to create distance and elevate one's own priorities. Long ago, Ronald Knox wrote a book on Enthusiasm. He clearly distinquished the perverse use of religious enthusiasm while affirming the need for enthusiasm for spiritual renewal. I do not know if a copy of this book can be found.

But we must begin. A good beginning today is better than a perfect beginning tomorrow. I have much writing already on the subject, which can be gathered here. I am establishing a new blog: A Stealth Idolatry in Religion, for this collation.
Address is
Please visit and leave your comments.
May 15, 2005.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wonder, at mystery, all around us. . .

My Spiritual practices.

Mostly I meditate on Mystery that surrounds us, the mystery of goodness and hate, the mystery of myself, and that of my relationships, the mystery of nature and the outdoors
that always beckons, the mystery of my 33 year relationship with my wife, the mystery of our adult children, and of this new little grandson, whom we never dreamed would give us such joy in life. I am simply in awe of it that I have the giftedness to be part of so much.

And I wonder what does the Old One think and feel about us, about this, about this moment,
and me and what pleases the Old One. So I wonder also about compassion, and risk and vulnerability and human blindness. Mostly I just wonder, and sometimes I write, and sometimes there are just thoughts and sometimes some poetry emerges. And I wonder about others, and sometimes I walk, and gaze and sometimes I work outside, and read. But wonder and awe at mystery is always at my elbow.

And I find myself frequently pausing, and feeling YES, Now, here I am, and this awareness itself is sufficient for the moment. But it has also been hard not to return to the last moments of all those innocent perishing in this war so unpredictably, and what should be our response as people and as a nation. And I am also fearful of the future of a society that is so ready to endorse military action and that has been so blind to its own ugly side.
I feel we are at a turning point in history where it will become clear that all religions have failed, or rather where all peoples have failed to grasp the ultimate challenge in each Wisdom tradition, which is to welcome the stranger. So never have I had more to wonder about. Sometimes it is overwhelming, but it is a very lonely time for those who are thinking divergently about the choices ahead and to have connection on these lists with some other hearts, is a dear solace.

I think about how rare and precious each of us is, and how valuable is every human being, and am sad for the poor of the world. War always hurts the poor more than others. And I wonder also if I am doing enough in my own area. I stay away from TV mostly, and we seldom watch it at all here. Mostly J and I are readers, and we enjoy talking about many things, esp. the new grandson and his latest “tricks.” Wonder at mystery, everywhere, is my most frequent spiritual practice.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Is this your concern? What is being done with your KY taxes?

If so, Who will sign this letter?
Herald Leader Editor:

In our Commonwealth of Kentucky, our jails and prisons are overcrowded, our judiciary and our parole system is overwhelmed and our budget is broken by a sentencing code that creates three times the national average and almost four times that of the seven surrounding states in new growth of our prison population. Is there something wrong here?

Please consider an investigative reporting series that addresses all aspects of this problem. There are many aspects to be investigated. Five times as many Blacks as Whites, warehousing creates Third World living conditions in some county jails, but the income from warehousing is the largest source of income in some counties, the ultimate resulting devastation to the Black family, the lack of rehabilitation available when almost 90% of the crimes are drug related, the revolving door aspect that two out of three are back in jail within three years.

Is this corrective justice or a stealth reverse apartheid? Does this tough sentencing code really reduce our crime rate and make our communities safer? At our present rate of growth in prison population we will soon need to build one new prison per year to house the inward flow, new and repeat, of those we are keeping in jail. We now have the highest rate of those in prison of any country in the world except Russia. Is this system working, or about to collapse?

How can we create a more effective transition system to help the released inmate secure job and housing and emotional support? How can we help secure jobs for those with felony convictions? What is missing that so many return to jail within three years? Why do we have so much addiction in Kentucky? Is it that much more than surrounding states? What does incarceration without treatment do to the addictive repeat offender? Why do we have five times as many Blacks as Whites in prison? Why is our nation have the highest per capita prison population in the Western world?

Please consider an investigative reporting series that addresses these issues and, hopefully, one which addresses all the players and all the components. For example, are counties making money on their jail populations and, if so, is that why they want no part of volunteer programs that are offered them repeatedly? Do they want their overcrowded conditions kept secret so they can keep the monies coming in? Questions, not facts, but relevant questions, if we care about how our tax monies are being used?


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