Posts Tagged ‘Slave Trade’

People look back on history and shake their heads in revulsion. How could one man, Hitler, have ordered the holocaustextermination of the Jewish people? Why did most of his country go along with such a madman? How did it happen that people captured human beings in Africa and sold them in North American marketplaces? How could they tear a mother from her children, a woman from her husband?

How could people do these things?

Yet the time will come when our descendants will abhor what we have done. “You did what with people who broke your laws?  You put them in cages and left them there for years?”

It is my belief that a Christian cannot support the idea of prison. It’s evil, it’s a sin. If one sits down and reads any chapter of the New Testament, then closes the book, that person cannot say that prisons are a good idea.

Muslims respect the dignity of people as does every religion I’ve ever heard about. First Nation’s people have given us restorative justicethe principles of restorative justice, which respect both victim and offender. Beyond the religious perspective, any true humanitarian must denounce the concept of imprisonment.

What can a person of conscience do about prison?

  • Get involved with your local prison or jail. It won’t be easy. The Correctional Service of Canada says on one hand that it wants volunteers, but on the other hand it makes it very hard to do so.
  • Insist that the proper Christian message reach prison. A lot of prison religion is namby-pamby, about acceptance of one’s circumstances, rather than liberation.
  • Help a person who’s just getting out of jail. The system spits a person out without providing the help they need. Cynics say the prison really wants the person back, because that means more jobs. Help him or her get a job and stay off drugs. Provide them with new friends, instead of the old crowd who will drag them back into crime.
  • Visit someone in prison. Send them a Christmas basket. You would be surprised how many men and women have no visitors, no one to care about them. (see Matthew 25:36)
  • A creative parish in New York State has opened its own halfway house, a model for any church.
  • Watch legislation. Write letters. Drug addiction is more a medical problem than it is a criminal problem. Don’t let the media circus legislate for our country.

Images courtesy of:

  • history1900s.about.com
  • krjustice.com
Prison Bars

Photo by Vectorportal via Flickr

Slavery. Fathers, mothers ripped from their children. People thrown in the bottom of slave ships where many of them died. Transported from Africa to America. Prodded and displayed for sale in markets.

Today we look in horror at what our ancestors did. How could human beings do those things to other people?

I fear, however, that our descendents will look back at our era and say the same things:

They put their law-breakers in cages? They had these things called prisons, fenced in spaces where there weren’t any trees. They ripped the identity out of the people, told them in countless ways that they were evil. Some of the law-breakers they executed. And these people of the 21st century claimed to be educated.

I can hear it now. A descendent of mine. She studies my history. What did he do? Did he support this evil by paying for it? Yes he did. He paid his taxes.

So I take a very small step. I’m going to write a blog on prison reform. Who am I? I’ve been teaching creative writing in prison for 23 years. My heart aches with what I see.

What do I believe? Yes, a very small minority of those currently locked up in prison have to stay there, at least until they change. But most men and women need something besides prison. They need rehabilitation. Our current prisons are warehouses for human beings – and they are crime schools.

I don’t know all the answers. I’d like to hear your views. But we must start. Our descendents are watching.

What do you think about prison?