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A Piece of My Mind
June 13, 2017

Gray Areas

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora
JAMA. 2017;317(22):2281-2282. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.1657

When I was young, I had a painfully simple philosophy that could be summarized like this: there are good guys and there are bad guys. Bad guys get locked up and good guys roam free.

It was straightforward and couched in the comforting illusion of a just, safe world. As a result, I believed that everyone who wound up in prison deserved to be there, and that every sentence was fair. I believed in “an eye for an eye” and enthusiastically supported capital punishment. Incidentally, I also believed that the US criminal justice system was too nice and was alarmed to learn that bad guys in prison got free food, shelter, and health care while so many good guys suffered.