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AB953 Let Justice Flow-2018

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Amos and Social Justice

 

Amos was the earliest prophet whose words are preserved in the form of a book. He prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel somewhere between the years 760-750 B.C. Amos’ preaching took place during the mid-eighth century B. C., a few years before the prophet Hosea began his ministry.

The eighth century was a period during which a privileged few in Israel were enjoying unprecedented prosperity while most Israelites were facing dire poverty. Although Amos lived in Tekoa, a small village bordering the wilderness of Judah, his preaching to Israel provided a powerful prophetic witness for all ages because of his condemnation of the spiritual blindness of the Judean upper-class and their unjust exploitation of the poor.

Amos forged an explicit and unbreakable link between justice toward the neighbor and righteousness before God, a link that went back to the covenant at Sinai and to the ancient prophetic traditions of Israel. Amos’ ministry provides an eternal witness of God’s opposition to economic, political, and social injustice.

The words of Amos were adapted by Martin Luther King, Jr., whose famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. in August 1963 brought a new meaning to the words of Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).

Amos spoke to an oppressed society and his concern for the poor and the oppressed made him a prophet for all times. Amos is also a prophet for the twenty-first century, a time when the gap between rich and poor has never been greater.

The sources of oppression and injustice may look different today, but people’s concern for material prosperity reflects the days in which Amos lived. Amos’ message of God’s opposition to injustice, his criticism of the people’s worship of material things, and his witness of God’s special concern for the poor and oppressed, affirm that the worship of God in any age is worthless if social oppression and injustice are ignored.

Since justice and righteousness are the focus of Amos’ message, it is important to look at how the words justice and righteousness are used by the prophet. The words justice and righteousness are used together three times in two chapters of the book of Amos (Amos 5:7; 5:24; 6:12). The word justice is used once by itself (Amos 5:15).

“O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth” (Amos 5:7 RSV).

“Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:15 RSV).

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24 RSV).

“Do horses run upon rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood” (Amos 6:12 RSV).

Wormwood was an extremely bitter plant. The word was used several times in Jeremiah and in Lamentations to describe the bitterness of the calamities that befell Judah at the time of their exile to Babylon (Jeremiah 9: 15; 23:15; Lamentation 3: 15, 19). The justice that Israel’s courts dispensed to the poor was nothing but bitterness.

The oppression and injustice Amos found in the Northern Kingdom was evidence that righteousness had been thrown to the ground as something worthless by those who were in power. Righteousness no longer had any meaning for the powerful people of Israel as a requirement of the worship of God.

To Amos, “hating evil and loving good” was a simple yet powerful statement of how to establish justice “in the gate.” In a very simple language, the prophet placed principles of true justice before a group of people who could argue about legal technicalities while tolerating bribery, corruption, and greed.

The gate of the city was fortified in order to protect the city from enemies and to serve as the place where the elders of the city would gather as a legal assembly to decide cases needing adjudication. The gate was the place where the local judiciary met to determine right and wrong in legal disputes, and therefore, to decide who was innocent or guilty.

Deuteronomy 25: 1 describes this process: “Suppose two persons have a dispute and enter into litigation, and the judges decide between them, declaring one to be in the right and the other to be in the wrong.” If the judges successfully declared where the right was, then justice had been
served.

The decision of the court had a redemptive aspect for the parties involved in the litigation. The decision of the court was intended to vindicate the just party in a legal dispute. The decision was also intended to protect the social order by determining right and wrong and correcting the wrong. Thus, the decision of the court was particularly important in cases where the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien, people without power and influence, could not find redress in the community apart from the decision of the court.

When the words “justice” and “righteousness” are used in Amos, justice is the primary word since it appears first in the parallelism of the two words. Justice is the result of seeking or loving good, as in Amos 5:15. Justice is also the fruit or the result of righteousness as in Amos 6:12. Thus, according to Amos, righteousness is essential to the well-being of the community. Righteousness is essentially a relational rather than an absolute ethical idea. Righteousness has to do with the relationship between a person and God, and a relationship between members of the community. Righteousness is a relational concept; its meaning is determined by the particular social context in which it is used. Righteousness is a quality of life which is displayed by people who live up to the demands of the covenant. The righteous person does what is right to other persons involved in the relationship.

Amos proclaimed that Israel had violated the ancient traditions of Israel. The poor and oppressed were individuals who deserved the protection of the court and fair treatment by those in a position of dispensing legal decisions. The only way for this to become a reality in Israelite society was for justice to roll down like waters, and for righteousness to run like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).

Since its inception, the United States of America has struggled with developing a just criteria for immigrants seeking citizenship, particularly as it relates to people of color. The roots of this struggle lie in America’s arduous history as it relates to slavery. In 1776 as the American colonies were preparing to separate from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson wrote what has become almost a sacred document for not only Americans but for oppressed people across the globe who seek freedom, justice and an opportunity to have a better life.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence he penned the prophetic words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the fathers of America signed it, they had no idea that they would be motivating marginalized people across the world, generation after generation to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because even though the Declaration of Independence professed that all men were created equal in reality only white men were considered to be full citizens when America was born.

When America was born slaves had no rights and free people of color and women had few if any rights. Even after slavery ended people of African descent continued to experience discrimination and were denied full citizenship rights as a result of Jim Crow laws that were pervasive across the land. My former Gunnery Sergeant, Mike Phillips use to put it this way, because of the laws of the land and the hearts of the people, “If you were yellow you were mellow, if you were brown you might be able to stick around but if you were black you had to get back!”

Nevertheless, God is a God who loves the oppressed and He is the King of Justice. So the Holy Spirit empowered people like Rosa Parks, Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. who initiated, formed and led the civil rights movement, which dismantled legalized segregation in the 1960’s. Finally, descendants of African slaves had full citizenship rights in America. Police Accountability, AB953 law “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).

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~Walking Through The Pieces~

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I love the story of Abraham. I mean everything from when he lied about who his wife was to protect his own hide, to the amazing promises God gave him. But there’s a story nestled in the Genesis account that paints a powerful picture – to miss it is to miss the core message of the Bible. You can find this story in Genesis Chapter 15, verses 1-21 (but I encourage you to read a few chapters before and after as well to get it in context). In a nutshell, God reiterated His promise to Abram (for the third time) then Abram asked for a sign. So God gave Him one. First God told Abram to cut some animals in half then He put Abram to sleep and talked to him about his future. Finally, God appeared as a smoking fire and passed between the pieces of the animals.

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This section of Scripture describes a common practice in those days called ‘cutting a covenant.’ Basically, when two people wanted to make a pact, a deal, or a bargain with each other, they would cut some animals into pieces and lay them apart on the ground. A space was left between them forming a sort of aisle. Each party would then state their oath(s) aloud as they walked down the aisle. The meaning of the ritual was simple: ‘May I be cut into pieces like these animals if I don’t keep my promise(s) as I’ve stated in this agreement (covenant).’ Normally there were commitments made on both sides, but not in Genesis 15. Did you catch it?

THE COVENANT WAS BETWEEN GOD AND ABRAM (ABRAM’S DESCENDANTS ARE ALSO MENTIONED) BUT ONLY GOD MADE THE COMMITMENT OF DEATH IN CASE OF A BREACH OF CONTRACT.

The Old Testament is a collection of stories that teach spiritual truths. The writers of the Bible would often take a common practice in the Ancient world and turn it on its head in order to teach the God-followers of Israel something that set Him apart from the gods of the surrounding cultures. That’s why it can be so dangerous to take the Biblical texts and stories literally. That’s why we should not try to bring ancient practices into today’s world and live by them as if they were laws. The sole purpose of Scripture is to teach us what God is like.

The story of God walking through the torn carcasses of animals is a strange one no doubt. But it speaks one of the most beautiful truths in the Bible. God always keeps his promises. God didn’t need Abram to walk through the pieces or make a bargain with Him in order for God to keep His promise. Abram only needed to know that God always keeps his promises, period.

Let’s look more closely for a moment. In verses, 1-5 God restated His earlier promise to Abram that he was going to have a child. In verse 6 Abram simply took God at His word and God equated Abram’s faith with righteousness. It is good to operate on the light God has already given us – that is a big part of how we will be judged in terms of our actions in this life. So by all means, believe what God tells you. Belief a good thing. Our beliefs govern our actions. Now understand that Abram’s belief played absolutely no part in the covenant about to take place. In other words, nothing Abram did or believed in any way impacted the promise God made to him. This is important.

The land was a separate promise from the promise to give Abram children. The land represented God’s presence with the Israelites. But God’s promise in regards to the land extended way beyond establishing the Jews in Israel. Consider why God called Abraham in the first place:

I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (emphasis mine)

GENESIS 18:18, 22:18, AND 26:4 COMPRISE GOD’S PROMISE TO ALL MANKIND: THE WORLD RENEWED.

In other words, the land – and by implication, intimacy with God in a loving relationship – was not for the Jews alone. Not by a long shot.

GOD’S END GAME HAS BEEN ALWAYS GLOBAL.

On the heels of the promises regarding the land, note that we are not told that Abram believed God, but instead that Abram asked a question: “How will I know that it will one day be mine?” What a great question! Sounds like Abram was looking for proof because this time he did not believe God. Little did Abram know he was asking the one question that concerns all of humanity. How do we know that God has a plan to bless us, to renew us, and to renew the world?

I KNOW BECAUSE SOME 4000 YEARS AGO GOD CUT A COVENANT WITH ME.

No, that’s not a typo. Shadows and types and representatives, oh my! The Bible is full of them. Abram was my  – your, our – representative in this covenant. Just like Adam represented all of mankind in the Garden of Eden, and Jesus is named the second Adam in his obedient suffering, so Abram was mankind’s representative, cutting the covenant of grace.

Now it is time to consider the location of this story within the greater historical context. Abram was an ancestor of Moses through whom the Law came. As a reminder, we are not told that Abram did anything to earn God’s promise. The covenant was purely an act of God’s grace. So, before the Law came, the covenant of grace was established. Think about it. If the covenant of grace had come after the Law, we would have reason to believe that there is something we must do for God to keep His end of the bargain. This story puts it out there on display: there is nothing for us to do (not even believe). Why? you ask. Because if we have a part now in keeping this covenant then Abram would have believed and walked through the pieces as our representative back then.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BELIEVE IT TO BE A PART OF IT.

Genesis 15:10: As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram… God put Abram to sleep so that he would have no chance of walking through those pieces. Why? Because God knew something we must all understand:

None of us will ever be able to keep covenant with God (Romans 3). We can’t even keep covenant with each other or ourselves! If there was any covenant to be made with mankind, it had to be on God’s side only. Our works and beliefs have nothing to do with God’s love for His creation or His absolute and unwavering commitment to make all things new. God Almighty cut a covenant with Abram as my representative, and now there is nothing I can do that will ever make God love me more or less than He did in that moment when He walked through the pieces! But there was a little part in the story that for many years I somehow missed. I bet you who are reading this have already seen it because it is so obvious.

One day it hit me what the pieces of those animals really were:

THE BROKEN BODY OF JESUS.

When God walked through the pieces, He knew that we were going to make a sacrifice out of His Son! “This is My body, broken for you…” Who cut the animals up? Abram did – in my place. I did it, through Abram. We did it. We cut up the sacrifice – the Romans stood in for me, for you, for us, crucifying Jesus on a cross. His Son’s death at our hands was the price God paid – in grim, gory detail – to shout out to the cosmos that love trumps all, that there is nothing we can do – not even murder – that will ever stop His love for us.

I pray that you understand – really understand – that God has no expectations of you as regards relationship with Him. He initiated it, He accomplished it, He will finish it, in your life and mine – all for the love He feels for everything and everyone He has made. Now that is Amazing Grace.

There’s something you gotta see, journey with me
It’s approximately 30 A.D.
In the land of Israel- the city of Jerusalem
But on the outside, there’s screams and loud cries
Through faith, this scene can be seen without eyes
The mean shout lies and seems to sound wise
As we inch through the crowd, we need to be cautious
A Roman execution, men on three crosses
But all the focus is on the one in the center
The gate closes behind you- no one can enter
The sight you behold is so odd, you’re stunned
The man hanging on the cross is God the Son
12 noon, it’s pitch-black because the sunshine’s lacking
Your minds can’t fathom this divine transaction
As slowly the sound becomes mostly drowned
You realize that you’re standing on holy ground

So forever will I tell
In three hours, Christ suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell

It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross
We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross
We see how You feel about sin- at the cross
Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross
It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross
We see our idolatry- at the cross
We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross
May we never take our eyes away- from the cross

We’re now in the realm of the sublime and profound
With God at the helm, it’s about to go down
The Father’s wrath precise will blast and slice
The priceless Master Christ as a sacrifice
Willingly, He’s under the curse
To be treated as if the Son was the worst scum of the earth
The scene is the craziest
Jesus being treated as if He is the shadiest atheist
How is it the Messiah is in the fiery pit
As if He was a wicked liar with twisted desires?
The One who’s sinless and just
Punished as if He was promiscuous and mischievous with vicious lust
The source of all godly pleasure
Tormented as if He was a foul investor or child molester
How could He be bruised like He was a goodie-two-shoes
who doesn’t think that she needs the good news?
He’s perfect in love and wisdom
But He’s suffering as if He constructed the corrupt justice system
We should mourn at the backdrop
Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop
What is this, kid? His gifts are infinite
But He’s hit with licks for religious hypocrites
He’s the Light, but being treated like
He’s the seedy type who likes to beat His wife
He’s treated like a rapist, treated like a slanderer
Treated like a racist or maybe a philanderer
Jesus being penalized like He had sin inside
Filled with inner pride while committing genocide
I could write for a billion years and still can’t name
All of the sins placed on the Lamb slain
But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated
The glory and the holiness of God vindicate

Closing: When evangelist John Wesley was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out, “Stop! I have something more to give you.” The surprised robber paused. “My friend,” said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here’s something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'” The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit. Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! “I owe it all to you,” said the transformed man. “Oh no, my friend,” Wesley exclaimed, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!”

Has the blood been applied to your life? Is your name written down in Heaven? Is your faith in Jesus and in Him alone?

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~Stigmas, Formerly Incarcerated, will we ever get a real reprieve to live a normal life?~

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“When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive. We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker … but as survivors. Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it. Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand. I hope to one day see a sea of people all wearing silver ribbons as a sign that they understand the secret battle, and as a celebration of the victories made each day as we individually pull ourselves up out of our foxholes to see our scars heal, and to remember what the sun looks like.” ― Jenny LawsonFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

Michelle Jones served 20 years in prison for a heinous crime: murdering her 4-year-old son. During her two decades behind bars, Ms. Jones compiled a record of accomplishment that would be remarkable even for someone who had never been locked up. She published a scholarly article on the first prisons for women in the United States. She wrote a play that will open in December in an Indianapolis theater. She led a team of incarcerated women whose efforts won the Indiana Historical Society’s prize for best research project for 2016. Not best research project by prisoners. Best project. Period.

All of this helped Ms. Jones gain admission to N.Y.U.’s doctoral program in American studies, where she started last week. But Ms. Jones’s stunning record wasn’t good enough for top administrators at Harvard University, as this paper reported on Thursday. In a rare move, they overturned the history department’s admission recommendation and rejected Ms. Jones.

Ms. Jones’s remarkable story put me in mind of a similar one — that of Reginald Dwayne Betts, the Yale Law graduate whose initial application to the Connecticut bar was recently rejected. Mr. Betts, who was convicted of carjacking in 1996 when he was 16, went on to astonishing success after his release in 2005, including publishing three books, being admitted to a Ph.D. program and being accepted to all of the nation’s top law schools. Yet as he continues to pursue admission to the bar, it’s clear that what matters most is the crime he committed as a teenager.

Cases like that of Ms. Jones and Mr. Betts come at an inflection point in the nation’s history. After 50 years of prison building, more and more Americans are expressing doubts about the harsh policies that have made this country the world’s largest jailer. At the same time, some of the people who have spent serious time in our jails have such impressive resumes that they are penetrating the world of the elite. For so long, the world of “us” never touched the world of “them” in many corners of American society. Because of people like Michelle Jones, that is changing.

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What will the gatekeepers of privilege do when confronted with gold-star applicants who have a criminal record? Harvard’s answer — you can never outlive your crime — is an affront to a first-rate candidate and brings shame on those responsible.

But Harvard’s rejection of Ms. Jones (and my university, Yale, rejected her as well, though the reasons remain unclear) is more than that. It reveals the truth about why mass punishment persists and the lie we are telling ourselves about the possibility of redemption.

Here’s the thing about harsh justice in America. More and more people criticize it, but most eagerly shift the blame for who is responsible. I saw this repeatedly in California, where I just spent a year living and teaching. I lost count of the number of conversations I had with colleagues and friends about criminal justice in which somebody bemoaned the state of affairs in “the Trump states.” I responded by bringing up the fact that California led the prison-building movement in the 1980s and ’90s, and would share stories about a visit to San Quentin prison, located just across the water from San Francisco, where I met dozens of men serving life sentences. Nobody from the Trump states put them there, or is keeping them there, I would say. That’s on California voters and their elected officials. That’s on you.

I suspect that the administrators and professors who helped block Ms. Jones’s admission are a lot like my friends in Connecticut and California. They consider themselves liberal, and they think mass incarceration is a problem. Somebody’s else’s problem. Blame the judges, prosecutors, legislators, police, probation officers, prison guards. Just not us.

But rejecting an overwhelmingly qualified candidate like Michelle Jones for no reason other than her criminal record sends a clear message from the bastion of liberalism on the banks of the Charles: If something is to be done to make America more just and merciful, somebody else is supposed to do it.

It also exposes the way that our unforgiving system of justice has touched all of our institutions. In court, judges tell people that their conviction carries a sentence of years, or probation. The truth is far more terrible. People convicted of crimes often become social outcasts for life, finding it difficult or impossible to rent an apartment, get a job, adopt children, access public benefits, serve on juries or vote.

As eager as I am to champion Ms. Jones’s cause, I do so with one crucial caveat. Michelle Jones and Reginald Dwayne Betts capture our attention because of their extraordinary accomplishments. As compelling as their stories are, we cannot let these exceptional people become the standard by which we judge somebody returning from prison. You shouldn’t need to win awards from a state historical society to gain admission to a Ph.D. program, and admission to the bar shouldn’t be reserved for those who write three books and obtain multiple degrees.

Mass incarceration and its never-ending human toll will be with us until we come to see that no crime justifies permanent civic death. N.Y.U.’s acceptance of Michelle Jones is an example of an institution leading the way toward a more forgiving nation. Harvard’s rejection of her shows just how far we still have to go.

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“The stigmatized individual is asked to act so as to imply neither that his burden is heavy nor that bearing it has made him different from us; at the same time he must keep himself at that remove from us which assures our painlessly being able to confirm this belief about him. Put differently, he is advised to reciprocate naturally with an acceptance of himself and us, an acceptance of him that we have not quite extended to him in the first place. A PHANTOM ACCEPTANCE is thus allowed to provide the base for a PHANTOM NORMALCY.” ― Erving GoffmanStigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity

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~Educate to stop Recidivism~

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“We care (about prison education), very simply, because (prisoners) get out. Almost everyone who is locked up now is going to be set free one day. If we treat prisoners like animals the whole time they are locked up, that’s what we’ll get when they’re back on the streets: wild, dangerous animals.” ― Christopher Zoukis, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons

Parole in the United States originated in the Elmira Reformatory in New York State in 1867 as an option for the early release of individuals for good behavior and a means to reduce institutional overcrowding. In the early twentieth century, it came to be viewed as a tool for intermediate sentencing in furtherance of the goal of rehabilitation. However, during the 1970s concerns regarding the integrity of indeterminate sentencing arose due to increasing crime rates, a lack of empirical knowledge regarding effective correctional interventions, insufficient allocation of resources for rehabilitative interventions, and the so-called war on drugs.

In addition, concerns were raised about inconsistent decision-making by paroling authorities that resulted in apparent unfairness and inequity in release decisions deemed arbitrary, capricious, racially biased, and resulted in unjustifiably disparate sentences. Also, studies in the 1970s (conducted by Martinson and Brody) found a paucity of convincing evidence that rehabilitation reduces recidivism.

During the 1980s incarceration came to be conceptualized as punishment (i.e., just deserts), and by the late 1980s and 1990s as a means of incapacitation and deterrence with far less concern for equity and proportionality in sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes, truth-in-sentencing, and mandatory sex offender registration laws were enacted.
Rehabilitation was discarded, often coupled with the reduction or elimination of discretionary parole release. This gets tough on crime stance resulted in an explosive growth in prison populations, rates of incarceration, and costs of construction and operation of prisons.Ironically, as sentencing models focused more and more on punishment and incapacitation, research was providing evidence of effective interventions for reducing recidivism along with the ineffectiveness of incarceration.

Along with the shift from rehabilitation to punishment, the mission of parole to support reintegration shifted to reflect the get tough on crime stance resulting in fewer releases prior to the expiration of sentences, holding individuals who were released for greater portions of their maximum sentences, and increasing rates of parole revocation and re-incarceration.

By the 1990s the United States incarcerated more persons per capita than any other country with over two million adults behind bars, amounting to an incarceration rate of about one in one hundred. At the onset of the twenty-first century, the criminal justice system faced a rising prison population serving longer terms along with significantly diminished resources for prison-based programming, increased parole and probation caseloads, and scarce resources for returning citizens. Corrections costs (nearly ninety percent of which are allocated to prisons) soared creating serious budgetary pressures and accounting for significant amounts of states’ general fund discretionary dollars. Growing numbers of returning citizens and serious fiscal crises facing many states gave rise to a burgeoning interest in reentry.

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During the 1980s and 1990s, parole release and supervision focused primarily on enforcement and surveillance, using monitoring to stress compliance with conditions of release. Increasing rates of incarceration and release have resulted in increasing numbers of persons under community supervision posing significant challenges to parole/probation agencies as resources have not kept pace with these increases. By the turn of the century, parole revocation practices came under increasing scrutiny and efforts designed to reduce the rate of parole revocations, especially for technical violations, and promote the more effective reintegration of returning citizens have become a major focus. Studies show that individuals released on parole at the discretion of a releasing authority are more likely to successfully complete their parole term without re-incarceration than individuals released through a mandatory system.

The majority of returning citizens have not experienced successful community reentry.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), two-thirds (67.5%) of individuals released from prison are rearrested within three years more than half of whom are reincarcerated. Studies have shown that returning citizens are at highest risk for recidivism during the first six months after release when almost one-third (29.9%) are rearrested. Despite public perception that people on parole are more likely to commit crimes, the vast majority do not return to prison for a new offense. Seventy percent are re-incarcerated4 due to technical parole violations (e.g., missing appointments and not maintaining employment) rather than for the commission of new crimes.

Returning citizens are faced with significant challenges to successful reentry including reuniting with family and significant others, finding jobs and housing, and remaining substance-free while avoiding high-risk situations that can trigger relapse and recidivism. More individuals are released from longer terms of incarceration and are more are likely to have health or substance abuse problems which exacerbate these challenges. In addition, limited availability of jobs, housing, and social services in a community can adversely impact successful reintegration.

Fifty-five percent of adults involved in the criminal justice system have minor children and parents who are incarcerated can owe an average of more than $20,000.00 in child support debt at the time of release. There is now a substantive and growing research base of effective correctional practices that
promote successful reentry. Strategies that can significantly reduce recidivism have been identified, including prison and community-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), substance abuse treatment, relationship enhancement skills (e.g., motivational interviewing), vocational and educational programming, and community supervision that includes a case management focus along with rewards and sanctions and linkages with appropriate treatment and service
and support providers.

In sum, the large numbers of returning citizens, a significant proportion of whom are reincarcerated, concerns regarding community safety, state fiscal crises, and increasing correctional costs, as well as research on evidence-based correctional interventions, are now driving contemporary correctional practice. These have led to a shift in focus in correctional institutions from custody and control to preparing individuals for their release starting from admission and continuing throughout community supervision and beyond. Parole’s traditional emphasis on surveillance and enforcement of conditions (i.e., identifying violations and quickly revoking parole for noncompliance) is being replaced by a focus on transition and successful reintegration.

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~We Can Turn Mass Incarceration Around~

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You Just Got Out of
Prison. Now What?

A Cycle of Poverty and Incarceration

Poverty is the largest driving force behind what the Children’s Defense Fund calls the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline.” Most of the individuals entering the criminal justice system are at a financial disadvantage; about 60 percent of intakes into the state and federal prison systems report annual incomes under $12,000. These low incomes reflect higher rates of unemployment and the unavailability of decent jobs for people who lack a college education. During the past four decades, most of the growth in lifetime risk of imprisonment was concentrated among men who had not been to college. For many of these men, prison has become a normal part of life. According to the National Research Council, among African American men born in the late 1970s and who dropped out of high school, 70 percent have served time in state or federal prison. For white and Latino men in the same cohort, the rates of imprisonment are 28 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Incarceration sharply curtails the economic prospects of individuals and the communities to which they return. In 2011, nearly 700,000 people were released from either a state or federal prison, and most faced a multitude of challenges on returning to “free” society. Parents with minor children may have accumulated years’ worth of child-support arrears or had their parental rights rescinded. With few assets besides the “gate money” provided at release (usually between $50 and $200), those who have been disconnected from friends and family face uncertain housing and homelessness.

Upon release from prison, returning citizens have few opportunities for work that will be satisfying and provide a living wage. The National Research Council reports that up to one-half of former prisoners remain jobless for up to a year after their release. Barriers to employment associated with having a criminal record include restrictions on licenses in certain professions and the loss of personal and professional contacts while incarcerated. People of color with a criminal record have a particularly difficult time finding a job, especially one that enables them to invest in their futures, in part because of the stigma that attaches to a record. Blacks without criminal histories experience job callback rates closely matching those of whites with a felony conviction.The National Research Council report suggests that “pervasive contact with the criminal justice system has consequences for racial stratification that extend well beyond individuals behind bars.”

Mass incarceration also has a significant impact on U.S. poverty rates. Had it not been for the dramatic rise in incarceration rates between 1980 and 2004, researchers estimate that the poverty rate would have fallen by about 2.8 percentage points, instead of dropping by only 0.3 percentage points. This translates into several million fewer people living in poverty.

Systems of Disinvestment Have Led to Increased Incarceration

Many people affected by the criminal justice system grew up in communities with schools and other public institutions that failed them. As states were dramatically increasing funding for corrections, they were simultaneously cutting or not raising funding for social and government services targeting poverty, such as public assistance, transportation, and education. State spending per prisoner is three times that per public school student, and prison costs exceed spending on higher education in some states. These patterns exemplify the pattern of disinvestment contributing to mass incarceration. Communities of color have borne the brunt of this emphasis on incarceration at the expense of education. Researchers have documented vastly disproportionate incarceration and criminalization of people of color, particularly black men. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for more than 60 percent of those imprisoned. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that one-third of male African-American children born in 2001 can expect to serve time in prison at some point in their lives, compared to 17.2 percent of Hispanics and 5.9 percent of whites; 5.6 percent of black women born in 2001 are likely to go to prison at some point in their lives, but only 0.9 percent of white women and 2.2 percent of Hispanic women.

At the same time, disinvestment in education, particularly in low-income communities of color, has reduced social mobility and limited access to the social capital needed to revitalize those communities. Incarceration’s reach has now grown too big to ignore, with stratification researchers characterizing incarceration as a powerful engine of social inequality.

Mass incarceration has, in the words of Todd Clear in Imprisoning Communities, “made disadvantaged communities worse.” Patrick Sharkey, in Stuck in Place, for example, links the high rates of incarceration with concentrated poverty and marginalization, racial stigmatization, and lack of investment and resources that are fundamental both for the positive development of children and the mobility of adults. The Justice Mapping Center has mapped the concentration of incarceration rates in disadvantaged communities all around the country: millions of dollars per neighborhood are spent to imprison residents of these communities.

We Can Turn This Around: The Transformative Potential of Investing in Individuals, Families, and Communities

The struggles people face when returning home, including returning to the same context that led to prison, increase the chance that they will give up on the struggle to achieve long-term financial stability through lawful means. But a movement to reverse this tide has emerged. Driven largely by directly affected communities and supported by the contributions of the academic community, this movement links the need for fundamental reform of the criminal justice system with the need for change in the public policies that have underinvested in low-income communities of color and over invested in the criminal justice system. These advocacy organizations and networks include the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, JustLeadershipUSA, and the New York Reentry Education Network. They are joined by a surprising convergence of public figures across the political spectrum, including Tony-winning composers, political conservatives, and President Obama.

Through this work, we have seen the transformative power of investing in people and communities. By investment, we mean both building financial stability and increasing capacity through education, social capital, and meaningful employment so people can provide adequately for themselves and their families. These forms of investment kindle hope among the formerly incarcerated (many of whom did not believe they even had a future) and enable positive contributions to families and communities. Providing resources, support, and capacity enables people affected by incarceration to invest in their futures and to become actively engaged in the effort to rebuild their communities.

Education is a key component of this investment strategy. Just as lack of educational opportunity increases the likelihood of poverty and incarceration, access to high-quality education plays a critical role in facilitating mobility. One study showed that almost all soon-to-be-released prisoners reported needing more education (94 percent) and job training (82 percent), while the need for a driver’s license (83 percent) ranked higher than the need for employment (80 percent). The link between lack of education and recidivism is strong. A bachelor’s degree reduces the likelihood of returning to prison to 5.6 percent, in contrast to 66 percent for those without a BA. For those with a master’s degree, the recidivism rate drops to less than 1 percent.

Programs such as College and Community Fellowship (CCF) have proved successful in supporting the formerly incarcerated as they move along the path to higher education. CCF supports women affected by the criminal justice system in pursuing a college degree by enveloping them and their families in support services while they complete their degree. CCF was the first reentry-based organization to use postsecondary education as its core strategy for moving women out of marginalized subsistence and into mainstream society. In addition to achieving an extremely low recidivism rate, these programs give people a sense of hope, a belief in the future, and a willingness to invest in themselves, their families, and their communities.

Early in its history, CCF noticed that students needed to build their financial capability to succeed in college and beyond. They found that their students held many misconceptions about financial management and lacked confidence to control their financial lives. These insights triggered a series of efforts to help students address their financial needs.

CCF first introduced a student debt and financial aid counseling program and later added credit counseling services. In 2013, CCF joined The Financial Clinic’s New Ground Initiative, a capacity-building initiative that helps New York City reentry programs embed financial development in their services. The New Ground Initiative focuses on improving the lives of formerly incarcerated individuals through a combination of financial development strategies that help build financial security and improve financial mobility. The New Ground Initiative trained all counselors working with students at CCF to integrate “financial development” strategies into their conversations and build financial awareness and training into all services. The Financial Clinic’s approach invites all staff to begin with their own personal financial security as a way to build this capacity.

Financial training provides CCF’s students with the tools they need to make sound financial choices and build assets. In one year of the New Ground Initiative, CCF pulled credit reports for 100 percent of participants and organized debt for more than 150 participants, including student loan debt. CCF staff worked with program participants to address defaulted student loans, pay down credit card debt, and increase credit scores. CCF also sets goals with 100 percent of participants and works with them to open bank accounts and develop spending and savings plans. By embedding financial development into their existing services, CCF is better able to provide their students with the tools they need to succeed and ensure the sustainability of financial development practices as a central part of CCF’s service delivery model.

CCF’s work with students also uncovered an important advocacy issue. For-profit colleges were using predatory practices to target individuals with records. Deterring these practices is now part of The Financial Clinic’s policy agenda.

As we move into a more progressive bipartisan era of criminal justice policy, we must not relegate those who have been affected by criminal punishment to the economic margins. We must find ways to increase their chances of success by providing reintegration services that offer more than transitional housing, transitional employment, and stopgap medical services. We have the opportunity to embrace a public policy agenda that builds on the successes of programs like CCF.

The climate of public policy reform in the criminal justice sphere has taken on new energy in the past few years. An investment-oriented strategy would build postsecondary education and financial capability services into the design of reforms aimed at reducing incarceration and facilitating successful reintegration. Too often, reentry programs and policies aimed at providing a “second chance” have neglected education, particularly post secondary education, as a core component of funding, program design, and accountability measures.

Building financial capability should also be a mainstay of criminal justice and educational initiatives. Promising policy directions include President Obama’s announcement in July 2015 of an Experimental Sites Initiative, restoring Pell grants for groups of incarcerated students around the country. This initiative was spurred, in part, by the leadership of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, a national nonpartisan group advocating for access to higher education inside prisons. This kind of investment enables the United States to reduce incarceration and equip individuals, families, and communities with the tool to rebuild their lives and realize their potential.

So many people come out with so many good intentions. And every door is slammed on them… When you’re told no at the employment line, when you’re told no trying to get back to your family, or you’re told no because this community is unaccepting of you — you try to figure out where you belong. And for many, sometimes it becomes rough and you resort to that old stuff.
— College and Community Fellowship student

I can’t tell you how many formerly incarcerated people or poor people or people of color wouldn’t… invest a dollar to get $150 because you have to believe you’re going to be here at 65 to want to put away even a dollar for your future.
— Formerly incarcerated leader

On Quest for Democracy Day at the capitol in Sacramento, April 27, 2015, 250 people split up into 30 teams to visit legislators’ offices to advocate for legislation relevant to formerly incarcerated people and their communities.

Our Formerly Incarcerated Quest for Democracy (Q4D) Day continues to grow and evolve. This year we had over 250 committed people, many of whom were returning from previous years’ Q4D. We had around 30 teams of people advocating on legislation relevant to formerly incarcerated people and our communities.

Grassroots co-sponsors got a chance to educate community members about their bills. And Sen. Holly Mitchell as well as Assemblymembers Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Autumn Burke addressed participants. See the box below showing all the bills we were there to endorse.

It’s important to recognize the larger context of our quest: It is the drive for greater recognition of a class of people for whom democracy looks a lot different. We don’t have a guaranteed right to vote – if we move to another state we could easily lose it. We’re still struggling for the fundamental rights of citizenship, such as the right to sit on juries.

MY Shoes!!!!!

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Well for one, the 13th amendment to the constitution of the US which abolished slavery – did not abolish slavery for those convicted of a crime.

Angela Davis
Writing about this is so painful. My wife and I walk in these shoes and thank God for His faithfulness toward us while enduring. Living this plight of life is like making bricks without the straw and still expected to produce the quota. How does one provide for themselves or their family if contingencies have been put into place to thwart any forward progress of positive living? My fellow “Felons” take my word for it God can deliver us in His time. Stay in position as Daniel and the three Hebrew Boys did. This is our journey not our destination. Get into the posture of faith and determination. Put God first and keep praying and submitting applications. Ask for leading and network positively. You will be successful!!!


Should convicted felons be given a second chance? Barack Obama thinks so, and he thinks the tax payers should have to foot the bill. He made his view on this issue more than evident during a town hall meeting in Elyria, Ohio on January 22nd. Here is a excerpt from this Ohio town hall meeting, where a 29 year old felon who has never had a job in his life asks Obama if he will help felons get a job:

Obama’s EEOC: We’ll Sue You If You Don’t Hire Criminals

The Obama administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it should be a federal crime to refuse to hire ex-convicts — and threatens to sue businesses that don’t employ criminals.

In April the EEOC unveiled its “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records,” which declares that “criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin.”

The impetus for this “guidance” is that black men are nearly seven times more likely than white men to serve time in prison, and therefore refusals to hire convicts disproportionally impact blacks, according to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by James Bovard, a libertarian author and lecturer whose books include “Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen.”

Most businesses perform background checks on potential employees, but the EEOC frowns on these checks and “creates legal tripwires that could spark federal lawsuits,” Bovard observes.

An EEOC commissioner who opposed the new policy, Constance Baker, said in April that the new guidelines will scare businesses from conducting background checks.

Reason: If a check does disclose a criminal offense, the EEOC expects a firm to do an “individual assessment” that will have to prove that the company has a “business necessity” not to hire the ex-convict. If the firm does not do the intricate assessment, it could be found guilty of “race discrimination” if it hires a law-abiding applicant over one with convictions.

Bovard points out that the “biggest bombshell” in the new guidelines is that businesses complying with state or local laws requiring background checks can still be sued by the EEOC.

That came to light when the EEOC took action against G4S Secure Solutions, which provides guards for nuclear power plants and other sensitive sites, for refusing to hire a twice-convicted thief as a security guard — even though Pennsylvania state law forbids hiring people with felony convictions as security officers.

Bovard quotes Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association: “State and federal courts will allow potentially devastating tort lawsuits against businesses that hire felons who commit crimes at the workplace or in customers’ homes. Yet the EEOC is threatening to launch lawsuits if they do not hire those same felons.”

Bovard concludes: “Americans can treat ex-offenders humanely without giving them legal advantages over similar individuals without criminal records.”

49 months ago
Hello everyone – please don’t feel like you are going through this alone. I am a felon. It’s been 21 yrs since my conviction and I have been home 14 yrs coming in May. I had worked for a Fortune 500 company up until last month – when I was laid off with another 100 people due to the economy. I was making more money then my PO, but now I’m not making anything. I have filled out approximately 60+ applications – which I know I more then qualified but I haven’t rec’d not one call back. We all know why they don’t call back. It’s like OMG – they have been in prison – they are bad bad people. I hate we are judged by the felons who come home and screw up again. Not all of us are like that. There are a handful of us – who are really trying to make the best life we can for ourselves and our family. If we could only create an organization that would actually help us felons – that would be awesome, but we are talking about society – and we aren’t going to get any breaks regardless. If anyone hears of someone willing to take a chance, please drop me a line. I am a single mother, with mortgage, car note etc, and of course don’t qualify for state assistance because my house and vehicle appraises out too much…. Go figure… Thanks for reading and GOOD LUCK to everyone…..

55 months ago

I made a mistake and paid for it but im poor if I go fill out an app. im praying they call me to work.I have expereince in all kinds of trades but Im still on a computer searching for a good job why is that.

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bob in San Antonio, Texas

54 months ago
Hey your not alone.I’ve been trying to get a job for awhile now and they won’t hire an ex-felon,my offense happened over 30 years ago,most state have you EVER! been convicted of a felony.I don’t think it’s right,but,what can you do?

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sam in San Antonio, Texas

54 months ago
i made a mistake as well, but i have made a complete turn around by going back to school and obtaining my bachelor’s degree this december(20080. All i need know is for someone to give me a chance to apply my skills and showcase the knowledge i have obtain. Any takers… respond at sammaldo100@yahoo.com

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Eric in San Antonio, Texas
53 months ago
I’M GOING THROUGH SAME THING AND I AM ON PROBATION I JUST FINISHED SCHOOLING FOR (HVAC) ALOT OF COMPANIES WON’T TAKE ME CAUSE I GUESS THE FACT OF THAT I WILL BE ENTERING HOMES AND IT WASNT EVEN FOR ROBBERY OR ANYTHING BUT I TELL YOU THIS MUCH PUT YOUR TRUST IN GOD AND READ BIBLE AND PRAY ASK GOD TO TRANSFORM YOUR WAYS AND TO COME IN TO YOUR HEART THEN THE REST WILL BE GIVEN UNTO YOU AND ALL IS GOD’S TIMING NOT OURS! EVEREYTHING IN OUR LIFE IS MEANT TO BUILD US NOT TO BREAK US GOD IS AWESOME LET HIM HAPPEN TO YOU!YOU COULD PROBABLY TRY SELF CONTRACTORS MAYBE THEY WILL GIVE YOU A SHOT.DON’T GIVE UP THE DEVIL IS A LIAR!
WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!
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jh in San Antonio, Texas

53 months ago
[QUOTE who=I made a mistake 13 years ago got a break working with family doing home health care. I recieved two years experience . looking for another job even with two yrs. exp. has got me nowhere.No one will hire me due to my past. It brings me down. I tell myself the wonder alot people like me turn back to crime. they feel there is no other choice. wrong dont give up.I havnt I have children and living behind bars will really get me nowhere.Im still without work . freedom and my family is worth waiting and stuggling for a job .is worth it all. our day will happen and it will be worth it all.

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redsfn7576 in Columbus, Ohio

53 months ago
Well none of you are alone. I am a convicted felon. Its been tweleve years and it sill haunts me. I have over 8 years in the trucking industry no acc. no tickets. I’ve been out of work for a month and a half. I cant find a job anywhere because of my past mistakes. Its not fair and seems like no one gives a squat.

The above statements are from Indeed job search engine. The frustration is overwhelming for those who wear these shoes of disenfranchisement from earning a living.

The stigma associated with being an ex-felon in America is unlike anything a person can comprehend unless they walk in the shoes of ex-felons. People get ill everyday but they somehow recover and are able to seek opportunity and they are made whole. Ex-felons on the other hand suffer for a lifetime for decisions that they made in the spur of the moment. Some people understand the dynamics associated with persons who struggle daily to regain their respect and dignity in their communities because they were previously convicted of a felony. Then there are those who believe that once a person has been convicted of a felony they should be treated as felons and denied opportunities for the rest of their lives. We have programs in every state that offers assistance to ex-felons being released from prison, yet, every time ex-felons complete applications for employment, they are constantly reminded that some things never change.

In America ex-felons carry the stigma of being convicted for life. A conviction is like the metaphorical scarlet letter. When people see you they see your conviction because many folks in America will never let you forget that you committed a crime.

Today we are beginning to witness a paradigm shift in how ex-felons are treated. Unfortunately it is not because of the reasons that we would think. Ex-felons are treated different now because of the economy. Many states, counties and cities are receiving fewer funds for housing prisoners and have released prisoners who in times past they deemed posed threats to society. Decisions such as these makes rational people think about whether these people actually ever posed a threat to society in the first place.

According to the research, there are approximately 2.8 million ex-felons currently locked up in jails and prisons in the U.S. African American make up approximately 47% of the inmate population in the U.S. yet they account for only 12.7 % of the population in the U. S. African Americans are disproportionately represented in every state in the U.S. This means that their percentage in the prison population is greater than their percentage in the state’s general population. Sixty (60%) of the one million people who are released from prison return to prison within 3 years many of them much quicker!

Today Ex-felons are visible in every facet of life. America and Americans are becoming more tolerant of ex-felons in sports, media, education, military and areas in which felons benefit organizations but corporate America and political entities continue to maintain a strict stance against ex-felons. However, there are states such as Louisiana who allow ex-felons to run for public office after being released from probation or parole for fifteen years.

Ex-felons have a much lower rate of recidivating when they are released to stable living environment and caring families. Without these two safety nets most ex-felons are DOA-Doomed on Arrival. Ex-felons who are released from prison and acquire gainful employment, have the support of their love ones, and are connected to a higher power are much more likely to stay out of prison longer and in many cases never return.

No ex-felon should be punished for life. Once ex-felons are released from prison they should be treated like any other citizen. Corporations who do not hire ex-felons based on their criminal records only, in my opinion should not be supported by the ex-felons or their families. In some recent research in which I surveyed 100 of the largest corporations in Texas, many of the HR Departments responded to the questions of Do your corporation hire ex-felons by saying that each decision is made on a case by case basis. That was a common response from employers. In my book “Why Are So Many Black Folks In Jail”, I constantly remind readers that if corporations refuse to hire qualified ex-felons solely based on the fact that they committed a crime in their past not taking into account that they have paid their debt to society, then “if they don’t hire we don’t buy”. The best way to get people’s attention is to affect their wallets and pocketbooks! Ex-felons have much more power than they think, if they harness and organize their power!

One of the strongest predictors of ex-felon success on the streets lies with their religious beliefs while in the penitentiary. We know that many people believe that felons have nothing else to turn to when they are in jail so that try God. Many folks refer to this as jailhouse religion. In a survey of characteristics of successful ex-felons, 78% reported that they attended church and religious services on a weekly basis while in prison. Sixty-seven percent (67%) were serving a first or second sentence in a penal institution, (62%) were serving time for drug and property offenses. Many of these felons had previous charges but had come to the conclusion that they did not want to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Most ex-felons say that their greatest desire upon release is to be given a fair chance to succeed in America. When businesses close their doors to ex-felons and private and public entities refuse to allow ex-felons a chance to work, what other recourse do they have other than selling dope, robbing folks, carjacking, burglary etc.? If we are going to hold ex-felons accountable for pulling themselves up by their own boot straps, we have to provide them with some boots and some straps. Ex-felons love their families, lives, children etc. and many of them want to live the American Dream but America in many cases have written them off as nobodies and relegated them to the back waters of society. The American Dream for many ex-felons has become the American Nightmare!

There are approximately 25, million ex-felons in the U.S. and every year approximately 1,000,000 new people are convicted of a felony. Ex-felons have power that they do not realize that they have. Ex-felons can decide the outcome of many local, state and national elections. Just like gays, women and African Americans united and wielded their power at the voting booth; ex-felons in the not too distant future will resolve to use their power also. When any group unite and go to the voting booth, politicians immediately recognize them and the power that they wield.

Until America is ready to bring all people to the table and find out what is needed in all communities to reduce crime, America will continue to build prisons and jails and incarcerate people for crimes which could really be avoided. The three greatest predictors of crime are one’s environment, economics and genetics. Yes, I said genetics. Unlike Lombroso, I do not believe that people have criminal genes but I do believe that some people from particular families and cultures are predisposed to a greater extent to commit certain types of crimes. In my theory “Enviroecogenetics” I explain the rationale for these statements. Until we address the education issues surrounding poor people and the extreme poverty faced by poor people, we are not even tapping the surface in regards to reducing crime and recidivism. A lack of education produces poverty and poverty breeds crime and criminals go to jail and so the cycle goes. Many of my colleagues might disagree with this statement, but I believe that the one greatest predictor of crime is education. As Horace Mann stated many year ago, Education is the great equalizer.

Finally, there are many ex-felons whose only wish is to be given another chance. A chance to get a good education, a chance to work, and a chance to have their voting rights restored a chance to learn a skill, a chance to get another opportunity. My message to ex-felons is to never give up. Just because you lose a battle in your life it doesn’t mean that you have lost the war.

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Remember Your Faith While In Hostile WorkPlace

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In America, courts have interpreted harassment in the workplace to mean speech or conduct based on “race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or, in some jurisdictions, sexual orientation, political affiliation, citizenship status, marital status, or personal appearance” of the person complaining or of a reasonable person.

Policies are many, Principles are few, Policies will change, Principles never do.

John C. Maxwell

stock-photo-16548756-twin-businessman-pointing

In today’s society it is more than likely that we are going to be faced with working in a hostile environment, that is not conducive with our Christian walk. Fortunately God has given us examples in his word of how to overcome these hostile environments and continue to do His work. One particular story that I would like us to look at today is the life’s of Joseph and David. We will be looking at several different points on how to overcome these situations.

READ: Genesis 39:1-12

First we see that God Anoints You in Trouble. Joseph had been thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery. From this God was able to raise Him up and make him a great man of worth to Potiphar (Verse 4). He was liked and trusted so much as a slave that he was given free rein around the house to do what he saw fit. We can see that through times of trouble and trial that we will face while working, God will be able to bless us and strengthen us as we work for Him. We must remember that God never leaves our side and is always there for His children.

Second, we need to remember to Do Your Job Well, But Remember the Mission and don’t expect to be Appreciated.

If we READ Matthew 28:19-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

We are called to win souls and fight the spiritual battle over darkness. We are not to go to work looking for: Friendship, Emotional Support, Social Activities, or Counseling. If we seek to be appreciated by the world and co-workers we will only be let down time and time again. We need to go to work for two reasons only: Work and Pay. We should look to Christ and our fellow Christians for the things that work doesn’t supply. We are to look to God for our riches and blessings.

Third, Don’t Let Your Environment Get Inside of You. Daily we need to set our feet on the foundation of Christ and equip ourselves with the armor of God to protect ourselves from the world. Joseph was surrounded by temptation and idolatrous ways, but He had remembered how God had carried him through the rougher times and was going to do only the things that would please Him. If, Joseph would have failed to the temptations of Potiphar’s wife he would have been no better then the other slaves. We must remember though, that just letting a leak of water into our boat and not paying attention to it, will eventually lead to flooding our boat and sinking it. Just a little sin of the world getting into our lives will slowly start to pull us away from God’s will.

Fourth, to overcome this hostile environment we must increase Our Capacity to Work With Different Personalities. We must not enter into the work place with a closed mind on personalities. God will bless you through people that you don’t ever like. Don’t limit yourself to certain people you work with. God didn’t limit his ministry to the devote Jews, but walked among the tax collectors and prostitutes to minister to them. Every area is full of honest and dishonest people; we must be diverse enough to overcome it.

Fifth, we must know that Where You Are Doesn’t Define Where You Are Going. “Send me your son David who is tending to the flock.”

READ 2 Samuel 2:4, “Then the men of Judah came and there anointed David King over the house of Judah.”

David went from being a sheepherder to being the King of God’s promised land. We must have HOPE and keep our eye on the final prize. Remember that we are alive, because He is not done using us yet. Saul was trying to kill David, but God did not let it happen, because God had our plans for David. Do not roll over and play dead.

Sixth, Don’t Pledge Allegiance with the Cliches in Your Work Environment. You can’t be in the cliche and lead them toward a Christ like life, while being in the cliche. Christ did not limit himself to any one cliche in order to minister to them all. God wants to rescue us from worldly people, and have us cling to Him. God cannot enlarge our spiritual life, if we limit ourselves to one particular area. God has specifically told us that we are not going to separate from the world.

Seventh, Always Keep Your Song Near You. This is that intimate place in your soul that you have solely devoted to God.

READ – Psalm 146:2, “I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

As long as your focus is on God and you are constantly worshiping Him in all that we do, you will not be able to be broken down. As the day goes on from start to finish, keep your song in your soul, and allow God to brighten your environment. Nothing will be able to take from this spiritual high place.

We too often look for resources to solve and fight our spiritual battles in the world and forget that all the resources we need are already in us and provided by God.

The greatest witness on the job is to be personally pleasant and undeniably productive. Unfortunately, we grow up feeling obligated to share our faith rather than to allow people to observe it by our professional integrity.

Christians should not use the workplace for vocal and blatant evangelism—as happens so much in the name of God, from politics to picketing. (If God were so inclined, I believe He could sue most Christians for false representation.) The real witness to Christ is love, peace, contentment, etc. These inaudible attributes—coupled with excellent work ethics and fulfilled promises to staff members, employees, or consumers—speak volumes. Maturity require it to be exuded coupled with discipline. Be graceful and remember to have a devoted prayer life and devotion time.