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Harley Lappin: Disgraced Director or April Fool?

04/08/2011 02:54 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2011

I heard some news today and I'm wondering whether it's an April Fool's Day joke. My wife, Carole, sent me a message saying that Harley Lappin, who has reigned as the Director of the Bureau of Prisons since the previous Bush administration, was arrested for driving drunk and has resigned. I haven't read the reports, but my wife also wrote that Attorney General Eric Holder -- in accepting Lappin's resignation -- praised Lappin as an effective leader.

I have had the privilege of learning from many leaders. They are people who live in accordance with the values they profess to embrace. If it's true that Harley Lappin drove a car while intoxicated, then I would think society should brand him as a disgrace, not a leader.

I am discouraged beyond my ability to express when I read of the hypocrisy in our nation's leadership. People make bad decisions all the time and I understand that. I'm a huge believer in an individual's capacity to change, to grow, to redeem himself. Yet it troubles me when I see the powerful receive different treatment from the common man.

Harley Lappin presided over an agency that locks more than 200,000 people in cages. He fostered a culture designed to dehumanize people, branding them as inmates and registration numbers instead of recognizing them as men. That culture refuses to consider the men inside for anything other than the bad decisions they made or the fact that they were convicted.

The Bureau of Prisons does not consider what good people may have done in their past. It does not consider that the men locked in cages may be sons, fathers, brothers, or children. It pays no attention to what efforts an individual makes to redeem himself or reconcile with society. The only consideration given is that "the inmate" stood convicted.

Despite his sanctimonious, self-righteous stance while holding the top leadership role in the Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin chose to disregard the law. He drank, became intoxicated, and then put himself behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and drove, endangering the life of every individual who may have had the misfortune to be in his destructive path.

Instead of praising him for whatever he may have done in his past, if this system were not rife with hypocrisy and unprincipled positions, those who purport to uphold this system would refer to Harley Lappin as "the defendant." Because if his arrest and resignation isn't an April Fool's Day joke, that is exactly what he has become.

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