“The Left might be godless, but the Right has only the form of godliness.”
Just chucking some ideas around here, so comments are welcome (especially from actual Americans.)
From the New York Times (April 2008)
The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.
Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.
How do you explain this phenomenon in the most Christian country in the world?
I read Ann Coulter (Godless: The Church of Liberalism) explaining how naive the Left is for believing that everyone can be rehabilitated. Fair call. She points out that the reason crime rates have fallen is because the prison population has grown. Prison is the solution. Vengeance is the answer.
The cases that Coulter documents prove that Left wingers have made some really dumb decisions concerning convict releases. Regardless of that ineptitude, it does look like they have more of a heart. They might not believe in “sin,” but they do believe in mercy.
In a country constantly divided like the two goats on the Day of Atonement, the easiest solution for the moral majority is a scapegoat. Perhaps there’s something deeper going on.
James Jordan has discussed Rene Girard’s theory concerning the communal lust for a scapegoat in various cultures throughout history. Once the blame is fixed, things can go back to normal. He sees it in Job. He sees it in Jesus. To avert the crisis, one man dies for the people.
The story of Lamech, like all of Genesis, follows the structure of the Feasts (yes, centuries before they were instituted!)  The Day of Atonement (lit. “Coverings”) in that narrative fixes the blame, unrighteously, on a young man who struck Lamech. The man was guilty, certainly, but his crime was not worthy of death. In the usurped role of High Priest, instead of turning the other cheek and modeling mercy for his people, Lamech modeled an unrighteous vengeance. His personal sin as ruler became a corporate sin. The world was eventually filled with vigilante violence. Nobody was willing to be wronged and bear it—covering a multitude of sin with love.
We see a similar situation in the first century. Among other things, Jesus called out the Pharisees for their lack of mercy. Note that he was not calling for an end to actual justice, but for the leaders to model the merciful, yet righteous and just, rule of Yahweh.
Perhaps this is the situation in America today.  An increasingly self-righteous Pharisaical Right scapegoats the weak. When good citizens call for mandatory sentences to curb growing crime, they are in fact part of a culture that is attempting to exorcise its own demons. Rich Bledsoe observes that this was most likely the situation with the demoniacs of Gadara.  That story also follows the Feasts pattern.
With so many in chains, the Left believes more (borrowed) government funding for rehabilitation of criminals is the solution. This strategy, too, will end in failure.
The Left might be godless, but the Right has only the form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5). The only real hope is the Gospel, the mercy of Christ, the love of God displayed in His fulfilment of the Day of Atonement on Golgotha.
 See (for example) James B. Jordan, Was Job an Edomite King? Part 1.
 See The Significance of Adah and Zillah.
 Although things have improved, at least in some states, since 2008. Some states report declining rates of incarceration, but this may be due to less police on the streets. Like the widely reported “College Bubble,” it seems there is also a “Private Prison Bubble.”
 See Mad Men.