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Remembering Chuck

By Jim Liske | Posted April 24, 2015

Liske_154It was uncanny. The prisoner standing in front of me shared my first name. Like me, he was raised on a farm in Michigan. In fact, our homes were so close together that we frequented the same ice cream parlor and hamburger joint growing up.

But that’s where the similarities stopped.

Jim, in his 60s, could have passed for 90; his brutal life, filled with alcohol and drug addiction, had prematurely aged him, and he wore an eye patch to cover the one he lost during a fight. He had more than a dozen kids by multiple women. He didn’t even know where most of them were; he told me that the two he knew about were homeless drug addicts in Seattle.

Jim, facing years of hard time, would have no hope in his life—except for one thing: he knows Jesus. Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers have come alongside him with a message of redemption, belonging, and purpose.

This week Prison Fellowship is marking the anniversary of our founder Chuck Colson’s passing. We still miss him, but it’s our privilege to get up every day and continue the work he loved. Alongside friends like you, we hold onto Chuck’s unshakeable conviction that in Jesus, there is hope for everyone wasting away behind prison bars. In dark concrete cells, in the halls of power, and in the public square, the same grace that transformed Chuck is still taking hold. Men and women like Chuck are being restored so that they, in turn, can become restorers.

Acknowledging Harm Done to Victims

By Elisabeth Boehm | Posted April 24, 2015

April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.

Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of validation.

Validation—it may seem superfluous to someone who has never been a victim of a crime, but it is crucial that victims receive formal acknowledgement that whatever injuries, harm, or damages they have sustained should not have happened, and that justice includes due consideration of their needs and rights under the law.

Validation is one of the values in Justice Fellowship’s restorative justice framework. As part of our observation of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), we are introducing the six values that should govern the way our criminal justice system prioritizes victims throughout the justice process.

Our courts and law enforcement officials need to reassure harmed parties that they have experienced injustice and it is not their fault—and those in our communities need to offer similar reassurance. Such reassurance provides validation to victims and may help facilitate healing. Victims should also receive confirmation that justice involves reparation as well as punishment for the individual who harmed them.

Positive Payback for Victims

By Elisabeth Boehm | Posted April 23, 2015

April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.

Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of restitution.

The idea of “paying back” is fundamental to justice and restoration, and it defines the fourth principle in our restorative justice framework that concerns victims.

Here are some simple examples of making restitution:

  • Julie takes a toy from her friend’s house and subsequently breaks it. Her parents help Julie count out enough money from her piggy bank to pay to replace it. After Julie apologizes for what she did, she gives the money to her friend.
  • Jason is angry at his mother for asking him to do something, so he decides to throw her favorite antique lamp on the floor in protest. Jason’s father knows that the consequences for the temper tantrum are separate from what Jason should do to make restitution for the broken antique. After addressing the tantrum, the parents discuss options for pay back with Jason. Jason’s mother agrees to accept his washing of the dishes every night for a certain number of months as a pay back, even though she knows his work won’t equal the monetary or sentimental value of the piece that he broke.

Back in the grown-up world, the principle of restitution still should apply whenever someone harms another person or property. Restorative justice upholds this principle, calling for the individual who caused harm or damage to make restitution of his or her actions to the victim in some way, if possible. It’s a vital part of holding responsible parties accountable and securing justice for victims.

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Victims Need to Know

By Elisabeth Boehm | Posted April 22, 2015

April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.

Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of information.

Information is vital to empowering victims to pursue their rights. Victims must be given clear information and current updates about the criminal justice process, the status of their case, and those involved.

Prosecutors need to inform victims of their rights—and not just with a piece of paper full of legal jargon. They need to ensure that victims understand how to exercise them.

Some legal rights are unqualified and available without any contingencies. Other legal rights are qualified. That is, they are limited, but only as necessary to protect the victim from harm or to protect the due process rights of the responsible party. For example, a victim’s right to attend trial proceedings can be limited in cases where the victim is also a witness, to prevent him or her from being influenced by the testimony of others. So this particular victim’s right is contingent his or her attendance not interfering with the due process rights of the accused.

Clearly, the legal process can get complicated! And it can get overwhelming, especially if victims are suffering trauma from what they have experienced.

In addition to information about their rights, harmed parties should receive information about criminal justice processes and updates on any events regarding the responsible party: prison transfer, escape, capture, parole, and/or release. This may help them regain a sense of safety and control over their lives.

Restorative justice calls our courts and communities to assist victims in their journeys by providing them with accurate and timely information.

A Bible on a Shelf

By Prison Fellowship | Posted April 22, 2015

By the time Eddie was 32 years old, he had done it all: drugs, gangs, violence.

It all started when he was just 6 years old. His father was shot and killed, and he witnessed his mom die in a DUI collision. At 15, he was a full-blown junkie and living on the streets.

Eddie

Eddie

“I was consumed by evil,” Eddie says.

The next 15 years were a blur of drugs, crime, and violence. Eddie’s life of crime came to an abrupt halt one night when he was arrested after he had broken into 18 cars and stolen children’s Christmas presents. He was convicted of criminal mischief in the first degree and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In his cell six months later, Eddie found himself with a razor in his hand. “I was going to end my life,” Eddie says. “I was on my knees. ‘God I need help,’ I prayed. I broke down and cried. I asked Jesus to come into my life. I accepted Christ.”

Eddie looked up and saw a Bible on the shelf.

“God spoke to me through His Word,” he says. “He showed me there was more to life than I knew.”

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A Dream Realized

By Jim Liske | Posted April 21, 2015
Jim_and_Chuck

Jim Liske (l) with Chuck Colson

When I was still a pastor in Michigan, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson came up for a visit. He attended a lunch celebrating those involved in a church-based reentry program for the formerly incarcerated. Men and women came up to thank Chuck for his work with prisoners, and as they did so, tears sprang to his eyes.

After the lunch, Chuck explained the cause of his tears me.

“Jim,” he said, “this is what I envisioned when I started Prison Fellowship—churches all across America welcoming home men and women from prison who had found Jesus.”

When he said that, I started thinking. I realized that revival for America’s churches wouldn’t come from any of the expected places; it would come when the Church began to pour herself into the care and discipleship of those the world rejects. Revival would come when we came face-to-face with Jesus in the places He told us to look for Him … among the prisoners, among the hungry, among the naked, and among all the least of these.

Over time, I left my position as a pastor to become the CEO of Prison Fellowship. It’s been an honor to take up the torch Chuck left for us with his passing three years ago. Chuck’s original vision—that the Church outside the walls would embrace and foster the Church inside the walls—continues to unfold. Congregations all across the country are catching the vision of restorative ministry to those affected by crime and incarceration. Former prisoners, whose lives have been transformed by grace, are going back into prison to share the message of redemption. Prisoners’ children, whose lives have been transformed in decades of Angel Tree ministry, are growing up into their full, God-given potential.

Just getting to see it all happen brings tears to my eyes, too.

Re-Victimization Is Not OK

By Elisabeth Boehm | Posted April 21, 2015

April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.

Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of protection.

It’s kind of obvious: After suffering property damages, physical injuries, and emotional scars—not to mention subsequent financial struggles or lack of options to move forward in the way they choose, victims should not be re-victimized.

Our criminal justice system should provide safeguards against intimidation and harassment of victims, as well as protection of their personal information. And our communities should also play a supporting role in securing such protections.

These protections accomplish two extremely important things for the cause of justice.

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Chuck’s Legacy … and Our Calling

By Steve Rempe | Posted April 21, 2015

When Charles W. “Chuck” Colson entered the Maxwell Correctional Facility in July 1974, he did so as a humbled man.  The former special prosecutor for President Richard Nixon had pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice during the ongoing Watergate scandal investigation, and was preparing to serve a one-to-three-year sentence in the Montgomery, Alabama, facility.  He went in with a Bible and a willingness to follow God wherever He led.

Chuck_Prison_Ministry_0044As it turns out, that would lead him back into prison … again, and again, and again.

It was during that seven month sentence in Alabama that Chuck heard the call to minister to prisoners and their families.  And it was this call that continually drew him back behind bars to talk with the men and women there about the promise of new life in Christ Jesus.  Sharing his own story of transformation, Chuck proclaimed this Good News with the same zeal that once earned him the nickname of “Richard Nixon’s hatchet man.”  It was a call that took him back into prison time and again, including spending every Easter with incarcerated men and women up to his passing in 2012.

Today (April 21) is the three-year anniversary of Chuck Colson’s death.  And even as we reflect on his life and celebrate the work that God accomplished through His servant Chuck, we acknowledge that there is much work left to do.

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Brother Potts

By Jim Liske | Posted April 21, 2015

Liske_154Brother Potts will never go home. Because of the crimes he has committed, he will spend the rest of his days on earth locked behind prison bars. But he is also one of the most joyful people I know. He is humble, gentle, and caring. He is an elder in the Church behind the walls, and he is a prayer warrior for the ministry.

I’ve known Brother Potts for a while now. He is incarcerated close to my home, and when we see each other, I can be sure I’ll get a back-cracking hug. When we talk, he doesn’t ask me to do anything for him—he just wants to know if God has answered his prayers for me and Prison Fellowship. When I tell him what God is doing, we weep tears of joy together.

At one time, Brother Potts was a man you might have walked across the street to avoid passing. He was a thug. But because of God’s grace restoring his life, He is now a servant who leads other men in his prison toward righteousness. Every time I see him, I think, This is why we I go into prison. This is why I pray and work and spend weeks away from my family in airports and hotels. This is what makes it all worth it.

When God restores lives, He restores them completely. He heals the pain of the past and returns people like Brother Potts to their full potential in this life, until at long last he gets to go Home.

Let’s Stop the Sidelining

By Elisabeth Boehm | Posted April 20, 2015

April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.

Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of participation.

We understand that crime shatters lives and fractures communities, so the values in our framework work together to prioritize harmed parties, hold responsible parties accountable, and cultivate community engagement in the criminal justice process.

Because each human life has been created by God, we passionately believe that each life holds inherent dignity and value. This is the reason that we must respect the lives of victims. We must recognize the hurt and damage they have suffered, and punish those responsible swiftly and appropriately. We must work to ensure that they have an active role in the criminal justice process.

While there isn’t much argument against the idea that we should respect and support victims in general, there is less consensus on how our communities and criminal justice system do that specifically.

Prison Fellowship believes that first and foremost, victims need to be given proper standing throughout the criminal justice process. This requires a fundamental shift away from the current model used by our justice system. Today, if someone commits a crime, he is taken to court, and more often than not, his trial surrounds the question of whether or not he broke a law. But the primary issue that should be considered is whether or not someone was harmed by his actions.

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