Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"broken things that we. . . just need to scrap!"

Prisons aren't working in this nation. 

I observe the results of the work of the penitentiary system every day here in inner city Dallas.  Young men by the thousands (and disproportionately black) find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system to no good end in most cases. 

Prisons don't seem to reform.  They certainly don't educate or equip or transfer saleable skills, at least not the legal variety. 

In general, prisons need to be completely re-thought, redesigned and re-imagined.

I'm thinking of prisons today because I received in the mail just now another letter from a new friend I've been writing. 

He is in prison in Texas. 

Incarcerated at age 19, he's been locked up for 13 years.

He spends his days in a one-man cell. . .

. . .on death row.

The circumstances of his crime don't seem to indicate the death penalty, but that is not the point here.

In his letter my friend spoke of another inmate and then he went on to talk about his life inside.  I'll let you read a part of it here:

"I've a good friend--brother, actually--here who I'll speak with you more of him later.  He's one of the few people since being here whom I've bonded to in a genuine way.  He's a rare character and I'm lucky to have him part of my life--as I sometimes think that it's been our friendship that's saved me at times from going insane.  It's so amazing that we are placed in these cages w/the notion that we have nothing to offer the world and we are virtually these broken things that we as a society just need to scrap!"

The death penalty has always seemed abhorrent.  My new friendship personalizes it for me.  We should abolish the imposition of capital punishment in this state and nation as soon as possible.  My friend deserves better. 

I love what The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church has to say on the death penalty:

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. . . .  When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person's life ends. . . . we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes (Section 164 G, page 137).


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