It sounds like the setup for a new action film. Early in the morning on August 11, a bus transporting 50 prisoners from a worksite crashed into an overturned semi trailer on a remote Arizona freeway. The bus careened into the road median, the driver seriously hurt.
As the wildfires raging through much of California continue to stretch the abilities and resources of professional firefighters, assistance is coming from an unexpected source—men in the California corrections system.
Nearly 4,000 prisoners have joined forces with roughly 6,000 firefighting professionals in an attempt to tame the fires that have burned 117,960 acres so far, and threaten thousands of homes and businesses.
“My name is Carlos,” the letter begins. “I am 44 years old, a husband and father who is incarcerated, and has been for going on 9 years.”
Carlos is one of thousands of men and women who have been a part of Prison Fellowship’s in-prison programs.
When Ann Lownin first considered volunteering with Prison Fellowship, she admits to being a little nervous.
“At first I thought it was going to be intimidating, but it is not intimidating at all,” Lowin says. “It is so rewarding, and I have met some of the most special people.”
As an actress in the “golden age” of Hollywood, few had a more impressive résumé than Coleen Gray. She rose to national prominence in the late 1940s, starring in classic films like Kiss of Death, Kansas City Confidential, Red River, and The Killing.
When someone says “leadership,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? For some, the first image of a leader is a captain of industry—a visionary like Steve Jobs who has changed the world with innovation and an indomitable spirit.
For the last 14 years, there have been no yard events at Salinas Valley State Prison in California. Previous activities at the facility had resulted in violent acts, including a stabbing near the performance stage, and convinced prison officials to forgo any such programming for the safety of both performers and prisoners.
When asked how many prisoners he hopes to ultimately reach with the program, Ludeman simply responds, “Millions.”
In 1993, a teenager named Oshea Israel shot and killed 20-year-old Laramiun Byrd at a party both were attending in Minneapolis. Israel was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for second-degree murder, while the mother of the victim was sentenced to life without her only child.
For all the contentious, divisive issues that have recently dominated national headlines, there is one policy issue that continues to receive broad, bipartisan support—the need for meaningful sentencing and corrections reforms in the United States. And with new efforts by President Obama to highlight the need for changes, the time may be right for a significant transformation in how we view prisons and the men and women inside them.
It’s altogether too easy for those of us with little or no connection to prison to dismiss and ignore the men and women behind bars. Content to live our own lives, we are quick to conclude that the incarcerated “got what they had coming to them,” and to write them off as inconsequential.
For many prisoners, the challenges and difficulties that come with incarceration don’t end when they leave prison for the outside world. Free from the monotonous routine and structured environment of prison, these men and women are thrown into a world that is unfamiliar, with little (if any) support structure, few contacts that will do anything other than lead them to reoffending, and bearing a “scarlet letter” that makes it virtually impossible to establish themselves as productive members of society.
On August 26, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program sponsored the seventh-annual Angel Tree Football Clinic at Stanford for at-risk youth. The camp served nearly 300 boys ages 7 to 13 from northern and central California, many who have a parent behind bars.
Prison Fellowship and Tyndale House Publishers are partnering to provide Bibles to children participating in the Angel Tree program this Christmas season – and YOU can help make sure these kids receive the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Participating Christian bookstores and retail partners will be offering shoppers the opportunity to purchase a special “You Are Loved” Bible (New Living Translation) that will be provided to boys and girls aged 7 to 15 on behalf of their incarcerated parent or parents.