In the mid-1990s, when then-Gov. Angus King unveiled an ambitious prison-construction plan, the proposal had nothing to do with any "lock-'em-up" agenda. Maine had one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, a tradition of moderation on law-and-order issues, and no intention of changing either one. The centerpiece of King's plan was a $65 million maximum-security prison, which opened in the town of Warren in February 2002. The new facility was built to replace a 178-year-old, red-brick monolith that, as local lore has it, was a model for the grim prison of Stephen King's Shawshank Redemption.
Shelbyville, Tenn., is an archetypal American working-class community of 16,000 people. Located 53 miles south of Nashville, it has one high school, one movie theater, six pawnbrokers and no parking meters. Its greatest claim to fame is the Tennessee Walking Horse, a smooth-gaited breed developed and tirelessly promoted locally. But far more visible are the 18-wheel tractor-trailers -- each loaded with roughly 5,000 chickens in open metal crates -- that rumble through town day and night. They're headed for the cavernous Tyson Foods plant on Shelbyville's west side, next to the Duck River. Tyson Foods Inc., based in Springdale, Ark., is the world's largest processor of chicken, beef and pork, with sales last year of $23.4 billion.
The plaintiffs in John Doe v. President George W. Bush had their day in court -- actually, 50 minutes -- this past Monday. That's how long oral argument lasted in U.S. District Court in Boston in a case that raised the question of whether Congress must formally declare war before Bush can lawfully attack Iraq.
In a time of growing doubt about whether the death penalty is being administered fairly and accurately, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is hewing to a policy of full speed ahead in implementing it. "He's the anti-Ryan," says David Bruck, a federal capital-defense lawyer in Columbia, S.C., contrasting Ashcroft with former Gov. George Ryan (R-Ill.), whose misgivings about the death penalty have struck a national chord.