Category Archives: Youth and Young Adults

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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.
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Blessed Are the Merciful

by Mrs. Jana Minor

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful; they shall have mercy shown to them.

Prayer:

Dear God, teach us how to be merciful.

Reflection:

Did you know that:

  • 4% of the world’s population are citizens of the USA and 25% of the world’s prison population are confined in the USA.
  • We often spend much more each year to incarcerate a juvenile than it would cost to send that young person to college.
  • Our Correctional Systems are very expensive and spending tax payer money that might be better used to provide quality education for our young, better care for our mentally ill,  and help our senior citizens.

A tough-on-crime, just-find-justice attitude toward those who have committed a criminal offense have led our country to the statistics listed above.  When might acts of mercy toward the offender enable that person to become a productive member of society while providing safer communities for far less cost?

In his Ted talk, “A Prosecutor’s Vision for a Better Criminal Justice System”, Adam Foss, a prosecutor, has valuable insights.

Actions:

Listen to Mr. Foss’s TED talk here.

Ask yourself: did I ever ask how a person accused or convicted of a crime got to the point of committing that offense? Do you recognize all others as people created by God?

Research the meaning of restorative justice, a vision mirrored in Mr. Foss’s talk.

Pray for your local prosecutors’ office that they will make wise decisions that help people become constructive citizens rather than condemning them to an ever deepening life of crime.