"I was certified as an adult when I was 17 years old and have been locked up for the last 15 years," Robert writes from the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Lino Lakes.
The Book of Philemon is too often overlooked when reading through the New Testament. A mere 25 verses long, the short letter by the Apostle Paul to a wealthy leader of the Church in Colossae is easy to flip past when searching for Hebrews, James, or Revelation.
“As a country we are really good at punishment.” So says Danielle Sared, director of the Common Justice program at the Vera Institute of Justice. “It’s passive, it doesn’t require people to act or think. It certainly doesn’t require them to change.
With recent events in places like Ferguson, Baltimore, and Cleveland, it is not surprising that the relationship between law enforcement officers and citizens in many urban areas is at a low point. Mistrust, fear, and resentment from all sides have raised tensions, with criminal acts and threats of violence turning neighborhoods into potential war zones.
There are certain sounds that most of us associate with prisons: the metal clank of a cell door closing, the thud of heavy-booted corrections officers walking the corridors, the voices of angry prisoners echoing against the bare cement walls.
What you might not expect, however, are four-part vocal harmonies.
In moments of challenge, you and I have two options: We can yield to anxiety, or we can choose thanksgiving. We can rejoice in our secure spiritual inheritance. We can rest in God’s promises of provision. We can trust the One who holds us in the palms of His nail-scarred hands.
For some students at DePaul University, going to class involves more than just walking into into a lecture hall with a cup of coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. There are background checks to be made, interviews to be conducted, and copious amounts of paperwork that must be completed before these students are able to even enter the classroom.
Earlier today, Pope Francis arrived in Washington, D.C. to begin a week-long visit to the United States. In addition to visits to the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the 9-11 Memorial in New York City, Pope Francis will also visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia.
Roberto and I had never met before, but neither that—nor the prison regulations against physical contact with visitors—kept him from giving me a bone-crushing hug.
“I’m so thankful you are here,” Roberto said, towering over me while a grin stretched across his face.
I sat recently with a state-level corrections leader who had made time in his busy schedule to have lunch. He was feeling the need for prayer. Though he is a man with an impressive career of leadership, he is new to his job and new to the entire field of corrections.