What If . . . Your Objections Were Answered
Last time, I described the work done by Lee Ozley and the staff and residents of Allendale Correctional Institute (ACI), as outlined in his book 95% What If… . The Character-based Housing Unit (CHU) is now 2 years old, and has recently expanded into its second dorm.
The vast majority of men in prison made mistakes that (honestly) any one of us could have made, if we made just a few different choices in life. But we cannot dwell on what has been done in the past, but on what we need to do now.
And what we need to do now is help provide these men (and men and women in prisons like it all across this country) the skills, encouragements, and tools they need to become constructive members of society. The burden is on us.
Programs like the CHU are proven to make a difference. The inmates (or “residents,” as they prefer) want to learn and to improve their lives. Most incarcerated men want to improve their education level, learn how to lead and respect others, and learn how to better manage their money.
With programs and educational opportunities, the prisons will have less recidivism violence, saving money on staff and housing in the long-term. Who doesn’t think that’s a good thing?
An Objection Answered
One of my original hang-ups about doing prison ministry may be one of yours, too. I used to think, “These guys messed up. They knew it was wrong, and they did it anyway. Now, they need to pay the price.”
Of course, in a sense that may be true. It may be their fault, and maybe they do deserve blame. However, God has shown me two things:
- Regardless of whether it was their fault, these men are still hurting. They live in A World of Isolation, Pain, and Suffering. They are no more or less deserving of mercy and grace than I am.
- Perhaps we as a society need to shoulder some of the responsibility. More specifically, I wonder what am I as an individual doing to help the next generation avoid this fate.
I am not trying to blame society, or to remove responsibilities from offenders. However, we need to recognize that many young men are growing up with glaring deficits and obstacles. The primary challenge facing many youth is that they are plodding through life in a Fatherless Generation.
I read a passage like Proverbs 24:30-34, which talks about the necessity of hard work. Then I look at youth who have an aversion to responsibility, and I think: “But who is teaching them the value of work?”
For a fatherless generation (which most men in prison are coming from), we have to recognize that mentoring is an effective gameplan, and that it’s time for each of us to suit up and get in the game.
Don’t take my word for why programs like this are worth it. Read chapter 8 of 95% What If… (“What Those Intimately Involved Are Saying”), and you will hear almost 30 testimonies from staff, volunteers, and inmates. One volunteer put into words exactly what I’ve experienced:
God has replaced any feelings of “judgment” that I might have had with “compassion.”
If anything can be done to improve this book, it would only have to do with a better job with editing. Numerous typos and formatting errors surprised me, but can easily be cleaned up in any future editions.
Also, this book is relatively expensive ($20) for the size, but then I learned from another source that all the proceeds would go to an on-going project to build a Worship Center at ACI. Or, one can buy the Kindle version for $3.99.
So, whether you are looking to learn more about the CHU program, or whether you want to get involved in prison ministry, or if you just want to buy a book that will help build a worship center for these appreciative men, I encourage you to buy a copy of 95% What If… .
- Prison, Manhood, and Change
- I’m Going Back to Prison. You Can Help.
- Separating Trauma from Childhood