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Our society in the 90s was heavy into prisons and punishment. Not only that, but people were seeking careers in prison management, etc. Here's a LA Times article from 1995 that addresses the prison culture of the 1990s.
LA Times, June 11, 1995: In the '90s, Prisons Come Before Schools : The young, who know trends, see that the only jobs in social services will be behind bars.
"Now, in the nervous '90s, prisons are all the rage.
"Growing numbers of undergraduates I've encountered during the past year regard themselves as future employees of the California correctional system. One young woman majoring in nutritional science tells me she plans to work as a prison nutritionist. A physical education major hopes to find a job working with prison inmates. A bilingual freshman reveals her ambition to teach English as a second language in prison.
"I feel enormous compassion for today's young people. From their perspective, the professional market has been glutted by baby boomers; industrialists have moved factories and assembly-line jobs overseas. Harsh prison sentences and the "three strikes and you're out" movement have created a frenzy to build more prisons, which, young people accurately surmise, will need to be filled to justify their construction. If they want to work in the human and social services, prisons are where the jobs will be."
And it's not like as we entered the 21st Century there was a sudden revelation of our past mistakes. It's been a slow evolution of sorts for some politicians to admit the mistakes of their riding the "punishment culture" of the 1990s. At least Bill Clinton is admitting his mistake, but his "mistake" served him well at the time. Now it has become a liability for Hillary Clinton so he needed to do some fence mending. It's a start, but the best thing Bill Clinton could do if he was really repentant would be to become an activist for prison reform. A special assignment, perhaps, for the "First Dude".
President Obama has waited until he is no longer running for office before he could take this cause on. That's the politics of our society. I hope he is successful in making inroads...but I suspect that the best Republicans will do is agree to "baby steps" while pretending to be charging ahead with reform.