Tag Archives: #offenders

Relational Justice

Blameless Prison Doors

Relational Justice

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?

Relational 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.

 

Blameless State Prison Grounds
 

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.

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Re-Entry Back Into Society…

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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