Hi Beautiful, I’m going a little stir crazy today, so I wanted to invite you and others in helping me share my Happy Dance celebrating St. Patty’s Day.
Sorry to interrupt your scrolling – well, not really – but come do the happy dance with me as we shed a layer or two of these toxic germs and shackles while speaking a word or two of love and affirmations.
I just wanted you to know that I’m doing the Happy Dance praising God for you and your life. The world would be so much gloomier without your radiance and sunshine!
I know you don’t hear it enough, but YOU ARE ENOUGH just the way you are and SO LOVED!
Missing you dearly. This social distancing sucks. I guess we’re getting a taste of what it’s like being prisoners, so to speak, but it’s only for a short while. It just reminds me and emphasizes how much I am blessed to sojourn this side of heaven being friends with you.
You are so loved and precious! Never lose sight of that, okay?
I’m praying for a release of blessings, great favor, wonderful health and a soaking of God‘s Great Love to follow you everyday!
Being a catalyst of change requires strong influencers who stand on lasting values that the good news of the gospel presents.
God’s Great Love Changes Everything!
Bringing my Lord’s presence into a domain (prisons) that the enemy has held captive for centuries is daunting, but worthy of the challenge because after meeting hundreds of prisoners, they’re beloveds just like you and me who have made horrible mistakes and deserve a second chance.
Most prisoners develop a deep and sincere desire to change their life circumstances through hope and motivation from family and/or religion. Focusing on this link and alternatives opens many doorways of opportunities in having goals filled with lifestyle changes.
“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Prisons are set up for punishment, profit and containment. Prisoners need hope, motivation and rehabilitation.
Could you be caged up like an animal and live in close quarters with hundreds, if not thousands, of others and accept being told what to do, what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep, when to wake up, when to work, when to shower and when to talk to loved ones on the phone, while being surrounded by criminal conduct and make sound decisions once released?
You might begrudgingly say they’re lucky to have a cage to live in and food in their bellies after committing their crime, but…
How is that teaching them the power to rewrite their stories, you know, through recasting the drama and redirecting their actions?
Having the opportunity to impact their lives is the greatest reward possible and one in which requires softening up great opposition.
Discrimination, racism and negative social policies and laws have labeled returning citizens “once a felon, always a felon.” This caters to the belief and reason why our recidivism rates are so high.
When we force our returning citizens into this category, we wonder why they recommit and/or become homeless.
We are what we believe, and when we’re told over and over that we’re bad and menaces to society, it’s no wonder we find ourselves living under the spell of deceit and lies.
Good decision-making skills requires options. Surviving in prison surrounded by criminal conduct pretty much means association with the wrong crowd. It’s hard to make good choices when there are minimal options available to us. That requires many opportunities.
Prisons are full of beloveds who lack support, encouragement and visitation from loved ones.
Could you sustain hope and peace of mind without a covering of love?
When I was rejected and unloved, my decision-making skills needed help, too. Every decision I made was based on fear. That’s all I knew.
When you’re surrounded by criminal conduct, and most decisions are already laid out for you, without a covering of love, there is no hope or reason to strive forward in making changes.
Strong support and dedication is a rare and unique gift of hope that all incarcerated need.
Reentry process is more like a survival process. Survival of the fittest! This is why it’s imperative to surround ourselves with people who are going to lift us higher.
How can we expect our returning citizens to be productive members of society when we judge, ridicule and turn our backs on them? That doesn’t influence them to become better individuals, become assets to our communities or even make our communities safer.
Unconditional acts of kindness and love opens doorways to new lives and behaviors.
During times of challenge, frustration and failure, knowing that someone believes in you helps you try again. Introducing others to the love of Jesus provides this comfort in faith.
Every day we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Replacing discrimination with rehabilitation and hate with love will restore precious lives and teach us a thing or two about ourselves, too.
Prisoners need society to understand, I am more than my mistakes!
Imagination – Preview of Life’s Coming Attractions
Sitting isolated in the back of the inmate medical care unit, back pressed up against the cooling cinder block, my body aches with cheeks burning through flushes of fever. My breath quivers between the spell of violent shaking. I wasn’t certain if the unsettling chill that was running down my spine was due to the fever or from the tiny glimpses of thrilling freedom that lay outside the prison’s walls.
My delirious mind imagines the wind of icy fingers running through my hair as I watch the flag become a cape in the strengthening wind. The freedom of the American flag clothed me with hope while my parched throat swallowed what’s possible if I keep leaning in and looking up.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
There was a time when there was no hope for me, but somehow I encountered God who lit a fire deep within me. This flame was so glorious, it blinded the darkness lurking in my heart. But here I sit; I was set free. What once was so dark turned into an everlasting blaze of radiant light.
My mind bolts back to the kind and empowering words shared with me, “God must truly love you, and I mean A LOT!!! Our Lord doesn’t allow someone to go through these kind of adversities that you’ve experienced unless He has one special and unique calling on your life.”
The sting of the tease of what life feels like through the blowing breeze of freedom that would some day be possible lingers. The illusion of what is possible wars with the recognition of what freedom actually looks like when you’re shackled and imprisoned doing time for your crime.
Power of Purpose
The power of purpose helps keep the focus looking upward from the love and support of a community who refuses to throw away the keys of second and third chances.
Would you run and hide from the exposure of your own character flaws or would you be willing to develop a plan to make your dreams come true and be all who God created and designed you to be?
Now, realizing that in order to become a great leader, you had to learn and earn an advanced degree at the University of Adversity, your faith ushers evidence to, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
Finding a place in society is overwhelming. The first few weeks after release are the most stressful and demeaning as you try and fit in making what others might consider “normal decisions,” but when living institutionalized with minimal choices, it’s easier to make good decisions when they’re already made for you. Yes, even though you’re surrounded by criminal conduct.
It breaks my heart and messes with my head that you fear me. I get it!
But I imagine a community filled with patience, guidance and support. I don’t want to fail, trust me! Prison is hell. Some of us want to change. Imagining the extension of grace with compassion to fail along with the opportunity to get back up and start again is courage to succeed.
I imagine a Body helping me experience my plan and purpose from prison to community.
I’ve completed time in prison for my crime. I imagine my community supporting punishment’s end.
But that decision is yours to make.
The laws of discrimination are permanently seared into my life, so…
I just hope and pray you contain the diagnosis of criminality to loom inside the prison walls and not foreshadow my daunting prognosis.
I can only imagine what it will feel like when my community finds it in their hearts to allow me the opportunity to start over without the looming shadow of defeat and judgment. That was my companion in prison, but now I’m free and looking forward to experiencing what freedom looks like.
When life isn’t exactly how we pictured it would be…
Facing seasons of disappointment and despair can leave us feeling isolated and alone.
Encouraging and inspiring our incarcerated can be a daunting lifestyle, but they deserve an outpouring of God’s Great Love.
Meeting our prisoners right where they’re at, determined not to leave them shackled in shame and guilt, surrounded by nothing but criminal conduct, is a priceless gift of Love.
It’s challenging to understand that during these grave times, being in a pit of hell, there are others in similar situations who have gone before us…
When you’re considered “incorrigible,” a “burden” or “a menace to society,” impervious to restraints and punishment, it’s hard to react/respond against this branding, this labeling, cauterized deep into one’s soul and flesh.
And we are, after all, a byproduct of our environment…
Discouragement leads to death and destruction. Being near the edge of the pit serves as a constant reminder that its edges of hell will swallow and take down those who dare come close.
Our incarcerated can only see and hear what’s inside their prison walls. They’re a number, not a person. It’s dark and it’s dangerous. It’s not filled with life and/or rehabilitation. It’s filled with segregated gangs; your color and ethnicity matters because that pre-determines your space, affiliation and housing and HIGHLY INFLUENCES what you learn and become.
But our Beautiful Jesus resides inside prisons and He reminds us through awareness that re-offenders lack relationships.
What would your faith look like if God said to you what He specifically spoke to my heart, There’s an amazing door of opportunity standing wide open for you [me] to minister here, even though there are many who oppose and stand against [you] me (1 Corinthians 16:9 TPT)?
Truly, God spoke those very words to my heart.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
As Christians, we are commanded to stand with the oppressed and fight injustice. What kind of Christians are we; ones with selective obedience accommodating our facades or are we, as a community, going to start loving more and rebuking division and strife like we’re commanded?
It’s not about us! Relationships matter. Re-offenders lack relationships!
Addressing our high recidivism rates requires programming and services essential to decrease the re-offender rates and foster successful community reentry. Reducing recidivism will benefit both our offenders and our communities.
When I personally think of despair and discouragement, I am reminded of Joseph in the Bible who had ample reason to be discouraged and knew what longstanding imprisonment offered.
Joseph endured the death of his mother, along with the conspiracy and hatred from his brothers.
Can you imagine the gut-punching torturous blow in being cast into a pit and then sold into slavery?
That’s unfathomable sibling rivalry.
Then to face imprisonment due to false accusations, OMG!!!
I don’t know about you, but my abandonment issues seem rather inconsequential.
Being molded by pain along with having a personal, intimate knowledge and relationship with God, allows us to survive and prosper where most would fail.
Being betrayed and deserted by family undoubtedly leaves deep emotional wounds that only God could graciously heal. Add in a long incarceration, being punished for doing what’s right, Joseph was even forgotten by those he helped.
But God doesn’t forget because He resides inside our prisons and knows what is on the other side of our circumstances.
Joseph’s life is one of God’s most powerful and miraculous stories of what redemption offers. Even saving his offensive family during the famine.
My heart of hearts believes that our beautiful Jesus wants to transform our deep losses and grave disappointments the same way He did for Joseph. God can and will make a way.
I don’t know about you, but I have decided to be a “Doer” of the Word and not just a “Hearer” that James 1:22 talks about.
Looking through the lens of God’s Great Love, we are able to believe that what lies ahead on the other side of our circumstances is greater strength and victory.
One bad circumstance leading to reintegration.
No story is beyond redemption.
We can’t overcome what we don’t confront.
Living for a cause greater than myself reminds me to maintain the rights of the oppressed that Psalm 82:3–4 expresses. This passion was birthed by a personal crisis which led to a bigger cause.
We need to prioritize what matters. It’s not so much about the events or the many circumstances of life, but our response to them. Our incarcerated haven’t responded appropriately and when they get out of prison after serving time for their crime, they will repeat if we do not intervene and start rehabilitating them while incarcerated.
The most important thing I pray our hearts remember, once our returning citizens are back into society, we need to be prepared to disciple them, encourage them and surround them with love while walking alongside of them. Being prepared to help, not discriminate, will ensure safer communities and society assets.
When you’re surrounded for years with only other incarcerated beloveds and their criminal conduct, we wonder why our recidivism rates are so high!
Our prisoners need rehabilitation leading to transformation while they’re doing time for their crimes. Long-standing punishment without restoration is why two out of three offenders return back to state prison within three years after being released.
Hurt People Hurt Others!
Society will continue to pay with more crime, lives and homelessness if we do not step in and do more by intervening and moving them towards restoration, reintegration and redemption!
Embracing that today’s offender will be tomorrow’s neighbor supports the very core and mission of Blameless and Forever Free Ministries which is organized to reduce the recidivism rate, expand community safety and awareness, and disrupt the cycle of re-offending.
We need to do more! Introducing our incarcerated to Jesus by pouring His Great Love into their lives covers them with grace and motivation leading to transformation and a smoother transition back into society.
Reentry programs and the love of Jesus are a powerful tool for successful transitioning and are desperately needed in our prisons today. Otherwise, our incarcerated who have never dealt with what brought them to prison in the first place will be shackled with what they have picked up during their prison term: additional criminal conduct, habits and unhealthy behaviors that are being brought back into and infecting society.
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3).
Long-standing punishment has gotten us nowhere except for high recidivism rates. It’s time we start meeting and embracing our prisoners right where they’re at and pouring the love of Jesus into their lives. Their lives do matter!
When you think of offenders doing time for their crimes in state prison, what is your initial response? Losers? Criminals? Drug addicts? Who cares?
Who ends up in our prison system anyways? Do we even care? Or does our prison system take care of that for us?
Being honest, I admit to being hypocritical; once considering them all vile through my own lens of judgment and condemnation until the Lord allowed a crisis to enter my own life to see who really exists inside this dark and dangerous dungeon.
Their precious lives matter!
Realizing our prison system is broken and filled with the same repeat offenders, you know, the individuals who went to prison, served their time, got released, re-offended, and then goes back to prison and starts the whole process again; something needs to change.
If we’re all a part of each person’s contribution to society, good or bad, our hearts need compassion through awareness of what an incarcerated beloved goes through.
Being the founder of Blameless and Forever Free Ministries, I know personally who ends up in our prison system: Hurt people! Hurt people hurt others! When wounds stemming from childhood traumas or other hurts are never healed, other vices/actions often become the crutch in dealing with triggers and pain that’s been holding them captive in a torturing cell of hell.
Imagine being shackled in your own cell of hell while serving time behind bars in prison. We’re not negating the pain these prisoners have caused to others, but we’re sharing being caged up like an animal without rehabilitation is only going to make wounded hearts hardened and calloused. This leads them to continue to hurt others, even inside the prison walls.
I’ve experienced personally what unhealed pain has caused; the tearing apart of my own family along with hurting another and their family all in the name of fighting. My son is being released from Folsom State Prison this year. He has completed serving time for his crime and considers his incarceration a blessing in disguise.
But is society going to accept him back into population with open arms as he transitions or are the flaming arrows and emotional daggers going to penetrate deeper into an already wounded soul through discrimination, obstacles and judgment?
What many beloveds don’t realize is what our prisoners go through once they’re released and why rehabilitation is not only vital for our incarcerated, but for society as a whole.
Without transformation from rehabilitation, the incarcerated will never receive the opportunity to succeed with the many obstacles they face, and society will continue to absorb the cost, monetarily and/or possibly with lives, producing more victims leading us nowhere except entangled in this vicious cycle of broken people.
Suffering doesn’t have to lead us to constant failures where frustration and bitterness develops, but it should lead us instead into creative forces for positive changes. That is transformation. It can’t take place with just the offenders solely through long-standing punishment, society needs to play a proactive, integral role in transformation. We are all a part of the solution and need to change.
Transformation is a process, not an overnight conversion and/or purpose. Changing the way we utilize our prisons so people come out rehabilitated and not worse than what led them there in the first place is vital in building and giving hope to our prisoners.
How can we do this?
Being the founder of Blameless, I sure don’t have all the answers, but I’m proactively working with the incarcerated and governmental entities and community members to help find the need behind the need and set up a plan of attack to help contribute to the lives that need help. Blameless believes not doing anything due to fear of failure is not acceptable when many lives are at stake.
With my 20 years experience in the law field, being a chaplain, serving on Folsom State Prison’s Inmate Family Council along with sharing the gospel with the incarcerated and their families, Blameless is now transitioning its focus towards the rehabilitation side and reentry programs for the incarcerated.
This is Blameless’ contribution to help stabilize the homeless epidemic. Without rehabilitation, most offenders will end up either homeless adding to our homeless epidemic or back into crime leading to more prison time.
Public safety issues effect more than just the criminal justice system. Our prison systems are working towards rehabilitation, but it’s going to take continual effort with changes thinking outside the box. The old ways are not working.
I believe relational justice must include God and His Great Love serving as the anchor for everything built upon it and will change the way our prisons function. We will focus on making our offenders emotionally healthier from the inside out with tools to become better than when they entered prison. This is instrumental in successful reentry before they’re released.
Punishment is never going to work being the long-lasting solution. Yes, offenders need to do time for their crimes, with their punishment meeting their crime, but they should be allowed to change before they’re released. And once they’ve done their time, they should be accepted back into society.
What good is it for society, much less the offender, to be released back into communities where incapacitation and preclusion rules?
Punishment can no longer be the sole answer. Rehabilitation needs to exist along with punishment. Rehabilitation requires love and action. The vast majority of our incarcerated are never visited and/or encouraged and supported to help facilitate healthy hearts and minds.
Many chaplains, churches and nonprofits, along with our state prison systems, are transitioning into focusing on rehabilitation and God’s Great Love, but we need an army to stand on the front lines with the oppressed and fight injustice.
If deterrence worked, our prisons would be empty.
Transformation is a process. The opportunities have to outweigh the many obstacles. Transformation starts with the offender. It starts with the offender taking personal responsibility for their actions and deciding to change. It’s hard to take that initiative when one is not loved and/or supported. Families need to get involved along with society.
Who do you think ends up in our state prison facilities? Do we actually even care who’s occupying space in our prison system or does the state prison itself take care of that for us?
What if your son, a brother, your father, your mother or even your husband was there, would you care?
Or would you hide behind your own veil of shame?
We’re all tired. We’re all trying to survive…
Everyone’s drinking a bit just to take the edge off of it. Everyone’s smoking. Wired, yet tired. Even popping a pill or two to just do. We’re all tired. Everyone’s at the end of the rope without any hope!
We’re all distracted. Doing everything we can just to keep calm…
Just to keep it together.
Everyone’s high just to get by!!!
Everyone’s terrified hiding behind their pride!
We all mess up and we all need forgiveness.
Every failed relationship needs another to try again.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Now imagine it being known and exposed to all who dare to look, kind of like living with it taped to both your forehead and back.
How would you feel being completely exposed???
Probably would have to get high just to get by.
Maybe even rob the mob and sob…
How we survive prison is a life-long commitment…
Prisoners survive most sentences. Sooner or later, they return to the long-awaited outside world.
But is it really what they had hoped for, even fantasized about?
Nobody thinks about how they’re going to be discriminated against, even tagged with the big “F” as in felon precluding them from getting a decent job, a car, a roof over their head or even vote.
No one told them that they would have to live making minimum wage just to work. How can you possibly save enough money to get a car to drive to work, much less support a family with a roof over your head?
Nobody ever said you’d end up becoming a working homeless person just to survive in a world that is full of hate and condemnation.
You did the time for your crime, but now you’re forced to live on a dime!
With sobering statistics showing that two out of every three incarcerated return back to State Prison within three years, as a society we are all imprisoned by their incarceration. Once they are released and walk through those pearly gates, these beloveds must live by a completely foreign set of values and rules.
They have lived under the governance of institutionalized thinking being caged up like animals, but since we’re so good at punishing and not rehabilitating, prisoners forget quickly into their imprisonment how to critically think and function because it was all figured out for them being incarcerated.
Being institutionalized told them when to wake, pee, eat, shower, exercise, work, etc.
Kind of like a herd of sheep in their protective pens.
But this institutionalized thinking never permitted them to deal with the issues that led the prisoners to commit the crimes that incarcerated them in the first place. Now they’ve been forced to suppress that pain and have developed more issues from being incarcerated.
And we throw them back into reality with a whole new world that jeers their every move with spears of judgment, hate, ridicule, condemnation, discrimination and a lack of acceptance?
Not to mention, if they didn’t have an outpouring of love from family and friends who supported them with love and visitation during their incarceration, how can we expect them to successfully reenter society?
How can we make changes in our thinking and help our incarcerated reintegrate, rehabilitate ushering them into redemption to stay out of prison for the rest of their lives?
God commands us to stand with the oppressed and fight injustice, so…
One major weakness I find being a chaplain, transitioning Blameless and Forever Free Ministries towards the reentry side for our prisoners along with having served on the Inmate Family Council at Folsom State Prison, not even a tenth of all prisoners have contact visitation with loved ones and friends.
And without any love and support, we expect them to have successful transition back into society?