Since I was 8 years old, I have gone behind prison walls. First to visit relatives that were incarcerated. In my later years, as a Christian volunteer to sing and study the bible with men and women inmates in North and South Carolina with an organization called, “Return Ministries”. By God’s will, I was offered a position with one of the largest jail centers in the U.S. working in the administrative area for the Warden. Yes, I have seen a lot of inmates in my time, visiting, talking, praying, singing, praying and learning what it is like to survive such a dark place.
A few years ago, the Lord opened up the door for me to write this column about homelessness in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Since November 2010, I have written about homelessness, the cycles, causes and needs of this population, many who have been in out of jails and prisons, sometimes due to local laws (“nuisance laws”, like going to the bathroom outside because…they live on the streets) that incarcerated persons who really need a place to sleep indoors. My heart has wept as I think about the riches in the great country held by so many and the disparity that exists with so many poor persons, or persons who landed in the valley of life and ended up living on the street.
From time to time, I need to write about getting a reality check in our conscience. You know I am a Christian if you have read my column. Unashamed. I love everybody, but I don’t agree or like everything. That is also my prerogative – this is America. I have the right to serve the Lord and to give His answer to a dying world – that so needs a touch from God through Jesus Christ. That’s why I write and that’s why I support organizations that fight for justice and the rights of persons who cannot speak for themselves.
Today I write about the 2,300,000 Americans under custodial protection (prison, jail, parole or probation). Per Prison Fellowship (www.prisonfellowship.org), “2 out of the 3 people released from prison or jail, will re-offend”. Many times this is because of lack of support systems, jobs, church support and aid and systemic organizations that do not understand that though they supply services, persons coming from incarceration (and others) need assistance to navigate through systems to get their life back to some normalcy.
I am appealing to justice writers, speakers, non-profits, judges, churches and persons with Christ passion to love the prisoner since “He also was a prisoner, wrongly convicted and put to death” by a cruel system of injustice (Roman government), to help persons in prison in need of support. Financial and volunteer support is so needed. Re-entry programs are ever needed as more persons who are coming out of institutions need further rehabilitation, love, care, a second (or 3rd or 4th chance….endless chances like we have been given endless chances) to start over again. God help us to see others more than we see ourselves.
Prison Fellowship, started by the late Charles “Chuck” Colson of the Watergate scandal who is now with Jesus, is an awesome expression of God’s Power and Love to transform lives from the inside out. We need this…more now than ever.
Go to www.prisonfellowship.org and make a donation today. Also check out another organization I believe is doing God’s work to set free the wrongfully convicted, Innocence Project (www.innocenceproject.com). So far, 309 persons who were wrongfully convicted and spent decades behind bars, have been set free by the power of God and the work of this organization. Don’t get it twisted to use a popular cultural euphemism: “God loves the prisoner”!
Another precious ministry for women coming out drug addiction and prostitution is New Life for Girls, (www.newlifeforgirls.org). You can do something. Then do it. With God’s help.