12/11/06

Shrines To America
By: Mark W Adams


Go to any town square in middle America and you will witness an interesting architectural phenomenon which speaks volumes to our collective cultural history.

Holding a prime piece of real estate will be a large, impressive church that has been standing for well over one hundred years.  It may even have a plaque designating it as a protected historical building, but you can be sure it has been in continuous operation servicing a dedicated congregation for generations.

Looking across the street, usually in the center of the square, will be the courthouse. Often this building enjoys historical significances as well. Originally it was the center of all government power, whose functions have long since outgrown their original building -- outsourced to taller, box-like structures ringing the square.  But you can get there from the unmistakable old courthouse whose employees are more than willing to tell you where to go.

I marveled at this as a young lawyer, traveling to a city I hadn't been to before, and instantly recognizing where to go simply by heading to the center of town, parking close to the building that looked like it was where I should be, and as long as I was in the proper uniform -- suit, tie, briefcase in hand -- i would politely be directed to my designated cubbyhole via signs and helpful security.

However, over the last several decades, another garish building has dominated the center of the city. Literally overshadowing the quaint courthouse and high spires of the church is the county lock-up.

It seems a truly sad commentary on American society that an ugly, cinderblock monstrosity, a jail, is now the dominant building downtown -- literally overshadowing those other icons of our growth as a nation.
Seven Million in Prison: US Has Most Prisoners in World: "Tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crime rates have contributed to the United States having the largest prison population and the highest rate of incarceration in the world, according to criminal justice experts. A US Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year."

(Via t r u t h o u t.)

4 Comments:

Logipundit said...

Can't say I've ever noticed a jail crowding out the courthouse and church in a small town (and I've been to dozens of small towns--sales, not lawyering).

Are you simply talking metaphorically or do you have any examples of towns whose landscape have been drowned out by jails?

Make it a great day!

Mark W Adams said...

Alright, I've tried to rise to the occasion, and offer some visual examples. Check it out here

cindy said...

You really rose to the occasion - the follow up post with photos is excellent.

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