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.