I am an inmate in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). For a long time, I was also a computer programmer. The sad fact is, because I am a prisoner, the State of Tennessee is afraid of me. They have actively impeded my education, and if they recognized the level of skill I actually have, they would ensure that I never touch a computer again and ship me to one of the most violent prisons to languish. I have been threatened with just that.
I know what community is. Many people in our society live in near isolation in their day-to-day lives. They have family; they know a few people at work; they attend social functions such as football games. But their sense of community is often weak, if it exists at all. A feeling of isolation even from one's nearest neighbors is all too common.
Forgiveness is a funny thing. It is easy to suggest that someone forgive someone else. However, when you or someone you love has been wronged, forgiveness is a harder pill to swallow. For a family to forgive you when you have committed a horrific act on their kin is an amazing act of love and generosity. This is the story I wish to share with you.
My hope is that in this series of personal blogs I can challenge people who say they are of the Christian faith. I want to challenge Christians who approve of our Tennessee legislature passing laws that demonize, ostracize, and oppress offenders of the law when a majority of these legislators also say they are Christian. These laws lock up the socially weak for ridiculous amounts of time without mercy, without help, and without any real chance for redemption.
In addition to keeping offenders confined, the walls and the policies of prisons are designed to keep outsiders out as well. Why? Why are the voices of prisoners suppressed? When prisoners speak out through the internet or other forms of media, it is common to hear these objections: “Those men are criminals and they deserve to be locked away in silence forever! How dare they speak about their crimes? How dare they complain? Do they want our sympathy? We won’t give it! Do they want to glorify their sins and keep on harming their victims even after we have banished them? Let them rot forever!" We hear this and weep.
And Jesus said, "A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.' And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.