This Sunday's issue of The New York Times Magazine -- the Christmas Eve edition -- will include a feature by me on the politics of "prisoner re-entry" and prison reform. If you're a TimesSelect subscriber, you can read it online today, by virtue of one of TimesSelect's best features, Times Preview Wednesday, which includes links to articles in the Sunday magazine, book review, and travel sections.
The piece focuses on how the evangelical-Christian interest in prisoner mentoring and faith-based prisons has led more and more Republicans to embrace surprisingly liberal positions on more secular criminal-justice issues.
Shorter New York Times Magazine: "The G.O.P., the party of Richard Nixon's 1968 law-and-order campaign and the Willie Horton commercial, is beginning to embrace the idea that prisoners have not only souls that need saving but also flesh that needs caring for in this world. Increasingly, Republicans are talking about helping ex-prisoners find housing, drug treatment, mental-health counseling, job training and education. They’re also reconsidering some of the more punitive sentencing laws for drug possession. The members of this nascent movement include a number of politicians not previously known for their attention to prisoners’ rights. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a former federal prosecutor whom The New Republic once accused of being stained 'with the taint of racism,' wants to reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of crack. Referring to mandatory-minimum sentences, Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, whose district is home to Bob Jones University, declared on the floor of the House: 'I voted for them in the past. I will not do it again.' Perhaps most remarkably, the outgoing Republican-controlled Congress came tantalizingly close to passing the Second Chance Act, a bill that focuses not on how to 'lock them up' but on how to let them out. The bill may become law soon, if Democrats continue to welcome the new conservative interest in rehabilitation."