Category Archives: Guest Blog

A Restorative Justice Reflection on Life Without Parole for Minors

by Mrs. Jana Minor

Luke 6:36-37

Be compassionate as your God is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Prayer:

Creator God, help us value all of our youth and to abandon practices which are more harmful than helpful.

Reflection: (“21st Century Lynching” a poem by Mr. Marcos Gray, used with his written permission)

Convicted before birth…so no one really believes in my innocence…

Deemed worthless from the outset, so since they posit I wasn’t born human…my humanity could only be granted…in increments.

The black robe and gavel has taken the place of the white robe and the noose…

So as I prepare for my battles in the court room, I’m being herded like cattle.  I’ve correctly concluded that they don’t care about truth.

They want our youth to die, but to do so in slow motion occurring through years….wasted.

Since my dried tears are constantly tasted…

And my brief notion of hope behind these walls of isolation

Has barely survived here…So I must face it.

I’m being asphyxiated by the New Jim Crow’s favorite statement…

“_____boy, take the life without parole…”

Since they suppose that I wasn’t born human any way

Then this essentially means that I do not possess a soul.

This existence is choking me…my legs kick and my arms flail,

Yet it moves in slow motion…

Perpetual pain preventing progress meaning I fall into the abyss of a mental death…it’s like I’m screaming and yet choking….But there are no words or sounds being spoken.

Yet…wouldn’t death imply life?

I feel the anguish and its worse at night…

So I subsist of nothing but pain because no one cares how this system….is not right.

I’m forced to deal with a prison term, yet I’m battling to expose the judicial system’s intentions…

They placed a rope around my neck, so I choke, yet no one is willing to listen…

To the alphabets dangling around my neck saying “life without parole…

This country’s 21st Century Lynching Exhibition.

 

Mr. Gray is one of nearly 3000 prisoners in our country sentenced to life without parole for a crime convicted when they were teenagers (some as young as 13 years old).  During the 20 years he has been incarcerated he has educated himself and become a powerful writer. Do we not believe in forgiveness?  Of course, we hold people accountable, but do we really believe that young people can never change and that there is no hope of them ever becoming contributing citizens?

Action:

  • Remember an act you committed when you were young that was not responsible. Would you have wanted your whole life to be defined by that act?
  • Pray for those whose sentence will keep them imprisoned for the rest of their lives especially those who were very young when the act for which they were convicted was committed.

“REJOICE, I HAVE FOUND MY SHEEP WHICH WAS LOST”

by Mr. Kevin Fahey

Luke 15:4-7

4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for loving us and giving us your mercy.  Please help us to have mercy for those that are imprisoned. Give us a soft heart and the knowledge to know what to do to care for the imprisoned.  As we all are your lost sheep, we yearn for your call and desire you in our soul.  Help us to repent of our sins and to forgive others of their sins. Please keep the incarcerated, and us, in your mighty and awesome love and give us our daily bread.  May we all learn to be a great shepherd like you.  We ask this through Your Son, our King and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Reflection: (By Don Schwager)

Jesus’ heart of love and compassion is most clearly revealed in the way he sought out sinners and outcasts of society. No one was excluded from his gracious presence unless they chose to stay away out of jealousy or mistrust. The scribes and Pharisees took great offense at Jesus because he freely associated with sinners and treated them graciously. The Pharisees had strict regulations about how they were to keep away from sinners, lest they incur defilement. They were not to entrust money to them or have any business dealings with them, nor trust them with a secret, nor entrust orphans to their care, nor accompany them on a journey, nor give their daughter in marriage to any of their sons, nor invite them as guests or be their guests. They were shocked with the way in which Jesus freely received sinners and ate with them. Sinners, nonetheless, were drawn to Jesus to hear him speak about the mercy of God. Jesus characteristically answered the Pharisees’ charge with a parable or lesson drawn from everyday life.

What does Jesus’ story about a lost sheep tell us about God and his kingdom? Shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. The shepherd searches until what he has lost is found. His persistence pays off.  He instinctively shares his joy with the whole community. The poor are particularly good at sharing in one anothers’ sorrows and joys. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God. Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you persistently pray and seek after those you know or those in prison who have lost their way to God?

 

Action:

Read the article A Death Row Chaplain Learns to Forgive in Guideposts.

Take five minutes today to write on a sheet of paper all the people whom have offended you.  Some may be painful to think about but continue with the list.  Start a prayer to God and ask Him to give you the grace to forgive all the people on your list.  As much as you are hanging on to the pain some have cause, you must let it go and let God do the rest.  However, you must in your heart, totally forgive these individuals.  Offer the pain and joy for all those in prison.  God Bless you.