Latrobe's follies

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Our penal system was created to replace corporal and capital punishment with a reformative alternative. The word penitentiary comes from the same source as the word penitent. Prisoners were to be segregated to contemplate their sins and reform. Well, that idea didn’t work out, and the U.S. now leads the world with the most people in prison, the highest public costs for our “correctional system,” and we have the highest recidivism rates to show for it.

As an encore to this creation, Latrobe took on the design of the U.S. Capitol. There, too, the costs have become prohibitive; the goal (legislation based on democratic principles worked on collaboratively by the two major parties) has not been met; and recidivism (no term limits, few “parolees”) prevails.

All institutions work to benefit their administrators — whether prison officials or Congress — and not the public they are supposed to serve.

We need to seek reparations from Latrobe’s heirs. It might help balance our budget.

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