When seeking to improve the effectiveness of our current prison systems here in the United States, it is important to recognize the humanity of those behind bars. So says Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske in a recent op-ed article for the Huffington Post.
“We can help create more success stories—and safer communities—through policies that respect the human dignity of each life,” Liske says, “recognizing that ‘criminals’ are not a monolithic group of monsters. They are people, capable of choosing to change and contribute.”
Respecting that dignity begins at the time of trial. Liske suggests increasing the use of alternative courts—drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts—as a way of being cognizant of the needs of those the traditional justice system is ill-equipped to serve
Once in the prison system, Liske proposes a re-emphasis on rehabilitation, as opposed to simply warehousing prisoners before release. He notes the importance of volunteer organizations (like Prison Fellowship) that provide effective programming at no cost to taxpayers by focusing on the underlying causes of criminal behavior. He also commends prison officials, like Angola Prison’s Warden Burl Cain, who think outside the box in creating an environment conducive to the transformation of those incarcerated.
Finally, Liske emphasizes the importance of supporting those reentering society from prison. One key way to provide such support would be through passing the Second Chance Reauthorization Act currently being considered by Congress. The act would extend partnerships between state and local governments and non-governmental organizations to help provide programs designed to reduce recidivism and give these newly released citizens the opportunities needed to be successful.
“[T]here is no freedom without respect for the dignity of each human being,” Liske concludes. “It’s time for that respect to be enshrined in the criminal justice system, for all our sakes.”
Prison Fellowship understands the importance recognizing prisoners as human beings, created and loved by God, and capable of being transformed. And Prison Fellowship volunteers play a great role in helping to bring that transformation to fruition. To learn how you can be a part of the change taking place in the lives of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, visit www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved.