Ken (not his real name) is back in prison again, his third time. His crime, trial, and sentence didn’t even make the short articles in the back of the paper, but if it had, you would have probably looked at it and said, “Hmmph! Habitual criminal! He got what he deserves.”
I’m not suggesting that Ken didn’t deserve prison for what he did (burglarizing cars). What I am suggesting is that we, as a society, stacked the decks against his chances to be a success in the world outside prison.
Ken was a respected and successful man in prison. He earned his GED, and then he graduated from high school, gown, mortarboard, and all. He was elected the president of his dorm. He taught classes in drug and alcohol resistance. He was a peer counselor. He learned to be a mechanic, and could repair anything from a lawn mower up to the heavy equipment used in road construction.
Released from prison, he was a bum, a loser, a felon. Once, applying for a job as a tire buster, he was handed an application, and then asked if he were a felon. When he said that he was, the application was snatched back and he was told, “Get out of here!”
Ogden’s “Good Landlord” program means that he had difficulty finding housing in Ogden. Luckily, he was allowed to live with a close relative, even though that person was also a felon.
He found a job at a fast food place, but then his truck was repossessed. When he told the loan company that he wasn’t even behind in his payments, he was told, “Well, you will be. Go get a lawyer and sue us.”
Without a vehicle, he had to walk from his job to his meetings with his parole officer. When he could not get back to work in time, he was fired.
Well, he’s back in prison, where, presumably, he can be a success again.
Voting members of the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly recently approved ELCA’s social statement, on criminal justice “Hearing the Cries,” 882-25, A subsequent vote on is 11 implementing resolutions passed 891-22.
According to the September 2013 issue of The Lutheran,
these implementing resolutions
call ELCA members, congregations,
synods, social ministry organizations,
institutions, and churchwide
ministries to prayer, discernment, and
Christian education; advocacy for
Reform; hospitality to both victims
and offenders caught up in and those
committed to serving in the criminal
justice system; and more.
The resolutions charge church
wide staff with creating and
maintaining a resource database
additional liturgical resources and
(The Lutheran, www.thelutheran.org, September 2013, p. 24.)
Would any of this have helped Ken? A good job and a place to live would have been a big start towards helping Ken. He’ll be out again in a bit less than three years. Will he go back inside again?
You may read ELCA’s 12th social statement, “Hearing the Cries,” at http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/Criminal-Justice.aspx
Note: This blog also appeared as an article in The Elim Scribe, Volume 63, Issue 10, September 2013, p.9.