Mar 292010

There are times when prisons need legislators to correct problems.  There are other times when legislators should not meddle.

Greg Smith …[Greg] Smith [R-Heppner] wants to impose a sweeping ban on all sexual material in state prisons.

Oregon prisons already do ban sexually explicit material. You can’t mail it to inmates; you can’t bring it to them on visits either.

Hard-core pornography confiscated under the system’s administrative rules includes depictions of sexual violence, sexual encounters and sexual simulations. But some magazines like Playboy, regarded as "soft porn," are permitted, along with — don’t smirk — more literary, artistic and scholarly depictions of nudity.

(If and when Playboy veers beyond nudity into more graphic territory, by the way, it, too, can be confiscated, returned to the sender or destroyed, a prison spokeswoman said Friday.)

In addition, "amateur" nudity — that is, nude photographs of girlfriends, boyfriends or spouses — is banned, as well, because it tends to trigger disputes and conflicts. It harshes the mellow, and anything that does that is dangerous in a prison.

All too often, the state’s prisons operate like a black box. Make that 14 black boxes, containing just under 14,000 inmates. Often, Oregonians don’t pay much attention as long as things are going fairly well.

As a legislator, though, Smith is obliged to pay attention. He helps oversee the budget for the $1.3 billion corrections system.

In our view, legislators should have a keen interest in doing four things: 1. Reducing prison costs; 2. Boosting rehabilitation and thereby reducing recividism; 3. Keeping the public safe; and 4. Keeping prisoners and prison guards safe. Whatever legislators can do to help prison managers control a population and a situation fraught with tension, difficulty and danger, legislators should do.

But legislators should be wary of micromanaging and meddling. Smith has picked out an area to focus on that actually doesn’t need his help. Although prison rules on sexual material stop short of a complete ban, prison managers say the rules are working very well.

By and large, corrections of the corrections system ought to be in the hands of the people running the system, not those who parachute in now and again for a visit.

Correction: Did we suggest a thank-you note?

More precisely, it should be a "thanks but no thanks" note.

Inserted from <The Oregonian>

Personally I agree with the Oregonian.  When I was a prisoner, this was never a problem, and if the system is not broken, why fix it?  But I wondered just why Rep. Smith would be motivated to fix a problem that does not exist, so I did a little research.  I found that he has an agenda of his own.  Smith opposed teaching sex education in public schools. Smith also voted against equal rights for same sex couples.  He said, “There are some of us who view homosexuality in all of its forms as a sin.”

That makes it abundantly clear that Smith’s agenda is to impose his own personal religious views through legislation.  Faith can play an important role in in the rehabilitation of some prisoners, but it must be voluntary.  The imposition of piety codes upon unwilling subjects has the opposite effect.

Therefore, in my opinion, this measure should be opposed.