Earlier this week I wrote a piece on our criminal justice system, referencing a story by Adam Gopnik, The Caging of America, in The New Yorker.

With not much time to spend here today, I just want to add a couple of thoughts, thoughts which Gopnik's piece seems to bear out.

It's true that the United States incarcerates more people proportionally than any other nation in the world. Those on "my side of the aisle" know that, and protest against it whenever the opportunity arises. And they are right to do so.

What I fail, then, to understand, is those same people insisting that everyone else - bankers, businesspeeps, and congresscritters - get locked up as well. Well, I do actually understand. Payback is always fun, even if it is a bitch. But does it provide anything other than momentary visceral satisfaction?

There are people who need to be locked up. Remember Richard Pryor's line thank god there are penetentiaries? Those folks are out there. Jeffrey Daumer and Ed Gein were out there. And there are more of them in the pipeline of human possibility.

But not everybody who transgresses against society needs to be imprisoned. Sometimes they need to face their victims, they need to make restitution, they need to earn forgiveness.

Gopnik makes some very creative proposals for sentencing criminal fat cats that make eminent sense. Why spend taxpayer dollars on feeding and housing them for years?

Years ago, when the women's movement was making its first real gains in the interests of equal employment, I spent a few weeks working in a factory sorting cherries that had just come from the orchard. We got time off for lunch, but there were no other breaks. I asked why, and was told that women used to get breaks, but men didn't. And since we were now all equal, no one got breaks. What had been good for the gander was now going to have to be equally good for the goose.

That was, I thought, going the wrong way.

I feel the same way about jailing any and everybody who pisses us off. It's going the wrong way. It's one culture pitted against another, each one yelling that the other one belongs in jail.

There are a few people who belong in jail. Most of us don't. Most of us need to find other ways to get along.