1. Given the RIGHT SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES, anyone is capable of doing ANYTHING. Good people do stupid and/or horrible things and wind up in prison.
2. People whom we perceive to be "different" from ourselves are actually much more LIKE ourselves than we are comfortable knowing and/or admitting.
3. The ghetto is a culture that is as foreign as living in another country. They have their own way of thinking, their own set of values, their own way of speaking, their own way of "being in the world". Most people in the ghetto are as ignorant about what it takes to live a "conventional life" in mainstream society, as those in mainstream society are to the reasons it is so difficult for them to change. The issues are very complex and have many layers. Fact is...we ALL need to change some!!
4. People in the ghetto are as intimidated by mainstream society as mainstream society is by them.
5. Fear is the most overwhelming emotion experienced by someone in jail.
6. "There is so much more to a person than the single worst thing they've ever done." -- Sister Helen Prejean
7. "Jail House Religion" is something most all of us practice sometimes. Who among us has not begged and tried to bargain with God when faced with an overwhelming crisis?
8. Without God's healing grace, shame is a lethal toxin of the soul.
9. Listening, NOT lecturing, is the most important approach in dealing with people who are incarcerated.
(Or anybody, really!)
10. The integrity of our judicial system is DEEPLY contaminated by politics.
11. Cops are not ALWAYS the good guys.
12. While our present juvenile system (in Indiana) is woefully inadequate to deal with violent juvenile offenders, putting them in the adult system is also not the "right" solution. We need a third tier of the Dept. of Correction to deal with violent juvenile offenders.
13. The 3 most stressful times for an inmate are a) right after they get locked up, b) right before they go to court, and c) if they have had to do time, right before they are released.
14. Politicians and the media exploit and elevate fear to paralyzing levels, effectively prohibiting the public from being able to think rationally and proactively (rather than reactively) to find effective solutions for our cities' crime problems. Rallies, protests, marches, committees, commissions, and programs are fruitless without the aspect of developing RELATIONSHIPS with thse people to mentor and motivate them into a more fruitful and productive lifestyle. But everybody is too afraid to get involved on such personal levels. While certain levels of caution are realistic, reasonable and necessary, the vast majority of people are so paralyzed with fear that they won't even consider trying to reach out.
15. While it is often difficult , or even impossible for most of us to comprehend how someone could bring themselves to do unspeakably horrible things, criminals are NOT animals! They are human beings, created in the image of God, just like you and me, WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT. So when we see a story on the news about a heinous crime, our question, as Christians, SHOULD be, "Just how big are you, God? Jesus, did you shed enough blood to cover EVEN THIS?" Should you conclude that God IS, indeed, big enough to deal with this thing...then what should your attitude be toward that person? (I'm not saying they shouldn't go to prison, I'm talking about our own personal attitudes toward these people...and yes, I've struggled here too...many times!)...Matt 24:11-12, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."
16. It is an interesting proposition that because of the depth of God's unfathomable grace, REPENTANT people who have murdered, maimed, raped and robbed will be found in heaven, while some of the rest of us could be left out due to our own UNREPENTANT, cold, dismissive, condescending, hateful attitudes.
17. Hope is the greatest need for someone who is incarcerated.
18. Sincere, godly love and compassion is the best tool to reach someone. If your motives are not pure and genuine, they will sniff you out in a heartbeat!
19. Sometimes there are simply no good or satisfying answers to the questions of "Why?" or "How could you?" For those who have been victimized by crime, it is an excruciating process to come to terms with this truth. Sadly, some never get there.
20. Integrity is everything!! In dealing with people on both sides of the bars!!
21. God can use anybody!!
22. People often mistakenly think that the act of extending love, compassion and forgiveness to someone equates condoning their behavior and pretending like nothing ever happened. But JESUS couldn't even pretend like nothing ever happened! There was a price to be paid...our redemption cost Him alot!!
23. Forgiveness is not really possible until the sin is looked at squarely, and there is a choice to begin the process of moving past it. Sometimes this comes rather easily...sometimes is seems impossible. Sometimes it's a one time act. Sometimes it is a choice that needs that needs to be made again...and again and again...maybe day by day or even hour by hour...
24. In our criminal courts, there is no quest for truth. It is a contest between a prosecutor and a defense attorney based on who can put the best spin on what evidence they have. It's a sad reality that I hope you never have to experience...especially if you can't afford a good attorney! Innocent people DO go to prison and guilty people DO go free!
25. I am always aware that I have never, to this date, been a victim of a crime. I've never been assaulted or robbed or raped...no one (not already involved in criminal activity) who is close to me has ever been murdered. I only hope and pray that should that insidious thing ever happen to me...God will give me the strength and courage and grace to remember everything I've said here.