Tag Archives: #incarceration

God Sees Beyond Our Right Now…

God Sees Beyond Our Right Now

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.

Blameless and Forever Free Ministries believes God allows crises or shows us problems so we can be part of the solution.

Relevant truth for today: Where we are RIGHT NOW is not our final destination, nor is it for our incarcerated.

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.

Until next time…

Everyone Has Value!

Everyone Has Value!

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.

Blameless Respect

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Be honest…

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?

Everyone has value! 

Re-offenders lack relationships!

Until next time…

Reoffending Lacks Relationship

Blameless and Forever Free Ministries Tammy Ingram Founder Hebrews 13.3

The Incarcerated Say, “Thank You For Loving Us!”

Blameless Hebrews 13.3

The Incarcerated Say

Thank You For Loving Us!

How often do we go through life being thanked for loving another?  Especially those with differing faiths, colors and cultures? 

How about being thanked for simple, random acts of kindness that flow naturally from the love in our hearts?

Should our expectations demand acknowledgement and recognition?

I honestly never really experienced what walking out Christ’s mission, ministry and soul was like, understanding His interaction and engagement with EVERYONE, until I started pouring life into the rejected and abandoned; our homeless and incarcerated.  They’ve taught me what love means…

Blameless Warrior/Thank You

Working with the homeless and the incarcerated has emphasized how we are living in a self-serving, loved-deprived culture. 

Sadly, it’s much easier to hate and judge, using others for our own gain, yet so unfathomable to love ALL OF MANKIND through our actions when there’s no benefit to ourselves and/or acknowledgement and recognition.

When was the last time you heard the words, “Thank you for loving us”? 

Much less from those incarcerated?

Break…

My…

Heart!

I felt led to share a recent thank-you card in order to shed light to some of the lives that exist inside our prison systems. 

Admittedly, I used to judge and criticize those incarcerated until my own crisis developed with having a son incarcerated due to fighting.

But I lean in being convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are His lovers who have been called to fulfill His designed purpose (Romans 8:28 TPT).

This beautiful and touching card came from inmates at Folsom State Prison demonstrating what a little love and rehabilitation leading to redemption offers. 

They don’t know Jesus, YET…

I’m honored to be transitioning my nonprofit, Blameless and Forever Free Ministries, to stand with the oppressed and fight for injustice as an avenue to help stabilize our homeless epidemic.  Their successful re-entry back into society keeps more beloveds from adding to our homeless epidemic that is out of control. 

Every life matters!

Look at those eyes on the card!!! Talk about a gift of artistry.  Her eyes captivate me.  The twinkling radiates with life as if she’s actually looking back at me.  What a work of art!

I’m not a badass or warrior princess as some of the inmates might say, because honestly, sometimes I’m so paralyzed in fear and scared to death, I have to continue remembering I’m surrounded by angel armies!  I have a much easier time being referred to as Mama Tammy or Miss Tammy. 

I’m just walking out being obedient to whom my Father says I am, His precious daughter, that the Lord God Almighty chooses to work through as one of His vessels to pour out His Great Love!

“…The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37; Matthew 9:35-38).

Through the chiseling of my own calloused heart and loving on the homeless and the incarcerated, I’ve had my eyes opened to what God’s Great Love does to those who have been thrown out, rejected and abandoned.  They’re starving!

Maybe it’s because I understand that deep, torturing loss, through my own life crises.

What I once took somewhat for granted and expected, God’s Great Love, many are desperate for and would do anything to be led through that door.

Why shouldn’t we all be extended an invitation to engage in a relationship with our Beautiful Jesus and be loved on?  Jesus doesn’t discriminate, He invites us all.

Our world is starving for love!  And our incarcerated are no exception to that rule and need God’s Great Love!

Thank you, Beautiful Jesus, for allowing me to see society’s desperation and need for Your Great Love through your lens!  Talk about masterpieces…

Thank you, Lord, for the boldness and courage to stand with the oppressed and fight injustice.  Every life matters!  I’m beyond blessed to see Your hand and covering of Love to those who desperately need an encounter with You!

Until next time…

Do It Again, God!  Do It Again!

img_2622

Re-Entry Back Into Society…

img_1823

Re-Entry Back Into Society…

Transitioning from institutionalized thinking to independent thinking!

Hi friends and family!  I’m praying that this week our hearts will be so full of love, that we will embrace others who are completely different from us. 

I’m going to start sharing where this challenging expansion of my nonprofit is taking me, not just for accountability purposes, but sharing my fears and insecurities sojourning into areas I’m far from qualified to engage in, but have been called to.

God is doing amazing things with Blameless and Forever Free Ministries as we transition into the re-entry programs for the incarcerated.  If society doesn’t support them, they’ll become homeless and be prone to unlawful conduct.  And with 600,000 prisoners nationwide being released each year, we don’t need to add to our homeless epidemic.

I’ll be breaking up my writings into smaller chunks after this one since there are areas I, myself, never gave much thought to and can be perceived as quite overwhelming. 

Words alone won’t impact people, but the power of God that is manifested through our lives does.

Is everyone really welcomed in today’s society?  How we respond to the oppressed, our incarcerated and homeless, is a perfect heart check.  It’s one thing to say everyone is welcome, but it’s another to support it with actions.

Upon release, the incarcerated walk out through the pearly gates overwhelmed.  Freedom at last!  But a whole new foreign world rushes in.  Fantasies never detected the strong sting of transition.  Focus is scattered.  Between the nervous kind of energy and the adrenaline flooding from their systems, each pump and beat resembles more of a prison break than a release date.

It takes bravery to feel and experience this fear while keeping self-controlled.  It’s the hardest thing anyone could do, especially without a support system!

The typical offender is released from prison with nothing but a new state identification card, a $250 debit card, a bus ticket, and the clothes on their back.  This is how our incarcerated re-enter society. 

One minute everything is institutionalized thinking and controlled and suddenly it’s independently dependent on thyself.  Change is hard.  If that’s not hard enough, try existing again being branded with the big “F” as in “Felon.” 

Blameless Words That Restore

Connections provide the spark that is needed for the journey back to a vital and dignified life.

Welcoming our returning citizens (incarcerated) back into community takes preparation. With 2/3 of all inmates ending up back in prison within three years of their release dates, we need to start investing in them before they leave their institutions and thereafter. 

Investing in people and human dignity, we will reap the rewards of a safer and sound community for ourselves.

If we take the time to teach them how to take care of themselves, they’ll be able to take care of themselves, their family and their communities.

That’s rehabilitation, right?

We mustn’t forget that our incarcerated are branded for life.  They are handicapped.  That is their new reality also. 

With 25 percent of the population having arrest records, that means there are more people with arrest records than college degrees.

That is a mind-blowing concept to me.  We wonder why the world is the way it is today.  It’s too easy to hate and hard to love!  This is both sobering and motivating.

Another interesting statistic is, why do so many people end up back in prison?

I have a criminal record!

No, I don’t personally have a criminal record.  I do have a son that does.  And according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, with having 2.3 million people incarcerated annually along with over 4.7 million on some form of parole or probation, every family has at least one beloved in need of extra grace. 

Shocking statistics, but one in every four Americans has an arrest record.  That’s a staggering statistic.

What does a person with an arrest record look like?

Speaking of my son, he’s smart, handsome with blue eyes and blonde hair and loves his mother and daughter to eternity.  He’s an amazing father.  His heart is full of compassion and he’s working on completing his degree. 

He made a mistake in getting into a fight and is doing time for his crime.  Once released, he will have his mother outside those pearly gates to surround him with love, support and help guiding him back into society being a productive member. 

Why do people return to prison?  For one, their criminal record discriminates them from essential matters that we take for granted, like housing and employment.

Successful reentry requires compassion, patience and forgiveness.

A typical three-year sentence costs taxpayers over $100,000 of investment dollars into their rehabilitation.  But where is this “rehabilitation” when one only knows institutionalized thinking and demands?

Statistics show one in five walking into prison is a result of not being convicted of a new crime, but for violating extra rules of their parole or probation that you and I could commit, without a criminal history or record, that otherwise would not be considered an offense. 

Violations could be something as minimal as missing a court date, a parole or therapy appointment, not having a stable job or housing, or even not paying fines.

Our prison system is very good at punishing people, but rehabilitation is lacking.  The real reason a person ended up in prison goes largely untreated.

Most ex-offenders leave the state prison facility with more problems than what brought them there in the first place; their pre-incarceration issues. 

Having said that, where do they start?  They are overwhelmed.  Every decision in every hour of their days incarcerated were managed and dictated by others while being incarcerated.  Their own personal decision-making skills atrophy.  They’re not used to thinking, every hour is already determined day in, day out.

How can we expect them to make better decisions and choices when everything is up against them? 

Without the tools taught during a successful transition back into society, the ugly process of incarceration starts all over again.

Many return homeless, indigent, with no place to go, no job, and no specialized training.

For those that do have a place to go to, whereas not to be homeless, some go back to the same environments that caused them the problems in the first place. 

I’ve seen firsthand what happens when an addict goes back to living with an addict.  They’re back in the dysfunction that caused their incarceration. 

Oooops, I’ll stop here.  I hope you’ll come back and hear more.

Generous hearts meet the offenders right where they’re at because they know one day that they will become our neighbors…

Until next time…

Blameless Teach Generosity