"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." - Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
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.
Momma was sobbing as she told me that my sister was dead. I sat in the Chaplain's office in a daze. She was murdered while her daughter was in her lap. I was twenty-eight years old, and I had been in prison for a decade. The perpetrator received a six-year sentence, which he expired in less than thirty-eight months. My family was divided over this travesty of injustice, and some of my brothers contemplated revenge. It was the strangest feeling I had experienced in all of my years as a young adult. I was housed at one of the most violent prisons in the State of Tennessee, and I had become a victim of crime.
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.