Is there a way out of crime?
A way out of crime by Tim Mitchinson in the July 12 Journal-Star offers hope and helpful ideas relevant to supporting the Kansas prison system. Recent news reports of problems from understaffing at El Dorado Correctional Facility underscore the need for our prayerful support of prison staff, prisoners, as well as efforts to reduce crime and thus reduce prison populations. While New York and Illinois can be a model for other places, expectation can be that prayers will lead to solutions perfectly suited for the needs of each individual situation. The beginning of Mitchinson’s article is below but you will need to click on the link at the end to read the entire success story for one reformed prisoner.
Good news for New York can be good news for Illinois. New York City has achieved one of the lowest crime rates the metropolis has ever seen. Last year, gang-related killings were down by almost a third from the year before. Police Commissioner James O’Neill credits a new approach for offenders: “Either be arrested or seek help for their problems, such as job training, counseling, or mentoring.” This is evidence that we can help individuals leave behind illegal and degrading ways and find a progressive and moral life.
The recent book, Place Matters: Criminology for the Twenty-First Century by David Weisburd and others, explains a shift in attention “from people to events, from those who commit crimes to the crimes themselves.” It appears that more and more law enforcement officials are discovering the effectiveness of separating the crime from the criminal. In other words, if we can learn to treat the offender and help him find a better sense of himself, we can bring healing into many lives, and decrease crime itself.
This differentiation between the individual and the sin is not a new way of thinking. As a matter of fact, it was practiced successfully over 2000 years ago by Christ Jesus who brought reformation and healing into the lives of those he met. It seems to me the reason he was called the “friend of publicans and sinners” is that where most of us would see someone as dirty, criminal or unworthy, Jesus saw a child of God and this divine understanding and love brought changes in the individual’s character and lifestyle.
The same is true today. Louis Fuentes can attest to that. Incarcerated in upstate New York for crimes committed under the influence of drugs, he desperately wanted to heal the dishonesty and addictions that had run rampant in his life.
During a prison church service, he was introduced to the idea that he had a spiritual selfhood or innate identity that was sinless – wholly separate from his criminal and behavioral history. And as he began to understand and accept this about himself, he found he could begin living from this basis as promised in the Bible verse, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5: 17).