Facing Fears in the Justice System
The following story was shared with us by Adriana,* a participant of Outrageous Justice®, Prison Fellowship's small-group study designed to awaken Christians to the need for justice that restores. Names have been changed for privacy.
When my nephew Dustin* faced serious criminal charges and a possible prison sentence, it tore at the seams of my heart. He is like a son to me—and I have four kids of my own.
My sister, Dustin's mom, sank into a deep depression. Meanwhile, our mom was just completely overwhelmed. We quickly realized we didn’t know much about the legal system to begin with.
I began seeking help by searching for resources on the criminal justice system. Prison Fellowship® was the first organization that surfaced in my research. Then, I requested the Outrageous Justice small-group study and completed the entire thing.
SEARCHING FOR RESOURCES
Developed by Prison Fellowship's subject matter experts, Outrageous Justice is a free small-group study that explores the criminal justice system through a biblical lens, current events, and personal stories. Small groups discover hands-on ways to pursue justice, hope, and restoration in their communities.
Through the study, I learned about justice that restores. Justice is not as simple as, "If you do the crime, you do the time." Some sentences are disproportionate for the crime; some people don't get the help they truly need.
I learned that when justice really restores, it not only helps to heal people like Dustin but also the community. There is a place in the justice system for punishment and restoration. The whole study was a real learning experience for me, and for my family as well.
Through Outrageous Justice, I received an invitation to join a private Facebook page. There I found helpful advice, lasting friendships, and prayer partners.
One person I met through that group had served 10 years in prison. He and his wife called me. First, they prayed with me and comforted me. Then, they walked with me through Dustin’s whole incarceration.
In my lowest moments, I needed somebody who understood. I didn't have any other friends who could fathom what it’s like to have somebody that you love incarcerated. You feel so out of control. And these people rallied around me, called me, prayed with me, cried with me.
I really felt that community of support from people who had walked in my shoes.
TESTIMONIES OF HOPE
After that, I signed up for anything Prison Fellowship could offer to support families. Not only to help me but to help me help Dustin. Throughout his incarceration, I spoke with him weekly while he was in jail. I wanted to encourage him, but I didn't always know how to help him through this journey.
Prison Fellowship became a safe place for me. I found a community that nurtured me during a dark time. Reading testimonies on Facebook and on the website uplifted me. I would get the emails of all these stories of people who had gone to prison and not only survived it but thrived because of it. It restored them. These stories really grew a sense of hope in me.
This experience with Dustin and Outrageous Justice helped me to view people differently. I feel so passionate to help promote awareness and to advocate for justice that restores the victims and the person who committed the crime. I think that's our best solution.
And God used this situation in such an incredible way to show me, in the depths of my pain, that He was capable. He could carry Dustin and take care of him.
God provided me with resources, with caring people. I want to share that support with others who are hurting.
JUSTICE THAT RESTORES
Our God is an amazing Redeemer, and He wastes nothing. After waiting for more than a year, our family finally has an answer to prayer. Today, Dustin is home, and he will get the help he needs.
Dustin was sentenced to 15 years of probation with mandatory counseling and surveillance. The judge counted his year in county jail as time served. The judge believed prison time would harm Dustin's chances of rehabilitation.
This decision gave Dustin a second chance. I am now a believer in justice that restores, especially after going through the Outrageous Justice study. I’m praying that our family's experience helps Dustin and his mom to see God’s handiwork. I believe His plan is to restore Dustin—and all of us.
Prison Fellowship will always have a special place in my heart and be a wonderful part of our story. I could not have navigated this unfamiliar terrain without the support of Prison Fellowship and the wonderful people that I met along the way. It truly helped in knowing that I wasn't alone in this journey.
*Name has been changed.
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