Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pope Francis Weighs In On Criminal Justice Issues

Pope Francis has called fort the abolition of the death penalty, as well as life sentences, saying "[a] life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed." The Pope went on to say that it is "impossible to imagine" that states are incapable of developing more humane alternatives that respect human dignity. The Pope explained that sentences of death and life imprisonment are based on violence and revenge, which are irreconcilable to church teaching. He likened these harsh sentences to torture. He also expressed concern over pre-trial detention, pursuant to which people who are presumed innocent and possibly have not even been charged with a crime are nevertheless subject to penal conditions. The Pope added that we cannot simply punish our way out of all our problems.

To read the full article, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Process

If we're actors in life's play, who's doing the casting?
Maybe it's a bad joke, but who's doing the laughing?
Me if you're asking. Ignorance is bliss and I'm lacking education
Now add poverty to my pot of sensory deprivation
Guess I'm in the Joy/Bad Luck Club, sans elation
The "process" is a process that ends in probation
Or parole hopefully if you're incarcerated, felonism awaiting us
'Free' world living segregated like a prison bus
The unjust and the righteous they look just like us
Made in His image, I guess he's vain just like us
Cancer and a conscience are expensive, so pay your tax
It'll cost you your life and a refund can't pay it back
Now, run and tell that to Congress or whoever will listen
Tell them we're disenfranchised and lack that pot to piss in
We need pot for recreation and recreation for fat kids
You know the process is impeded when rich white kids do bids
You could lose your lid just pondering the "What have-you's"
Manipulate the statistics until the numbers grab you
Or until some homeless guys stabs you
Then, you're like "Me, too! I'm the victim!"
Send a hobo through the wringer and I bet it'll
fix him

by Vox

Thursday, October 23, 2014


The spirit came upon me strong, so I speak about it
Even though I woke up weak about it
So, I meditate out of it by going inside 'self'
Who else is going to help? I'm hopeless, feeling crazy
So I'm screaming JESUS, SAVE ME!
But nobody's yelling back, so I got a pack
Now, I'm selling crack to pay my tithes
Looking for truth within the lies
Looking to the skies for answers, but the stars ain't speaking
My third eye is blinking, so my mind keeps seeking
Finding Nothing certain
While they tell me to pay no attention to the man behind
the curtain
Yeah, the system is workin' and God's great economy is hurtin'
As depletion intensifies our demise is lurkin'
Unless we collectively WAKE UP!
Open your eyes and SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT!
Against conglomerates and corporations that sell us these
nightmarish dreams
Against entities that employ us unwittingly to participate
in their dastardly schemes
We've been turned into a team of TAKERS
Numerous generations of fakers
We don't know who WE be
Siri and the TV give WE our identity
So instead of me being me,
I googled "How Can I Get Free?"

by Vox

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Barrier to Progress

Following orders. That is what the wardens, captains, unit managers, corporals, and counselors are all doing. They are following the orders given to them by Tennessee Department of Correction Assistant Commissioner Tony Parker. Parker serves directly under Department Commissioner Derek Schofield. Schofield put Parker in charge of implementing oppressive strategies that impact inmates and staff alike. Together, the two men have attempted to completely overhaul the prison system in Tennessee and the ways it has functioned over the years. The problem underlying the Schofield/Parker approach is the unsupported assumption that the old way of doing things is wrong, and their new way is correct. Given this assumption, the duo has implemented counter-intuitive, ineffective policies at institutions across the state, which despite their futility, are becoming the norm. For example, Schofield and Parker have destabilized prisoners by severely restricting their privileges and movement, (movement meaning day-to-day venturing outside of housing units in order to participate in life-giving activities, classes, program, and ministries that orient inmates toward mental and emotional stability, connecting with outside society, and internal positive change). Their passion is to create an atmosphere of punishment of the bodies and souls of inmates.

In order for these oppressive strategies to succeed, Tony Parker has to have subordinates who will play their roles and unquestioningly obey his orders. When he was put in his position, he forced his arcane agenda upon susceptible subordinates and threatened their jobs and careers if they did not tow the line. Many TDOC employees from guards to wardens refused and either quit or retired.

Schofield and Parker created enforcers, which they termed the "Strike Force Unit." The unit was created to keep an eye on inmates and staff alike, and it ensures that Parker is perceived as more than merely the Assistant Commissioner. He wants to be viewed as a totalitarian. He and his minions have wielded influence long enough that they have become the role they play within the prison system. Inmates have always played a role. But under the Schofield/Parker regime, we are viewed by the administration and guards as sub-human, deserving harsh punishment no matter how much time we have done, no matter how long we have gone without a disciplinary write-up, no matter how many positive changes we have made in our lives, no matter how significant the transformation we have experienced.

Although TDOC once encouraged cooperation between prison staff and inmates, Parker now encourages a wide gulf between the two groups. The vast divide allows for much antagonism, unfairness, inequality, and discrimination to take place. Inmates are left feeling victimized by the staff, who personify the oppressive guidelines and procedures, and staff can either abide by the policies or risk their jobs by resisting.

Social psychologist Stanley Milgram developed an electric-shock experiment that mirrors the dynamic between role-playing prison officials and guards and the inmates. As in the experiment, prison staff who go along with Schofield/Parker policies are essentially prodding inmates, even when they have done nothing wrong. They occupy the role of punisher, and they unquestioningly administer the punishment because they have been told to do so, and they have come to believe that this is the right thing to do. They have buckled under the pressure that Parker has put on them, a pressure he no doubt believes is in the best interest of the people of Tennessee.

As a matter of fact, the only result is terrible damage to the psyche of all inmates. While TDOC tells the public that it is contributing to a decrease in recidivism, they are actually impeding inmates' attempts at rehabilitation. Schofield and Parker are interfering with the ability of inmates to heal their souls and minds and move toward wholeness. Parker and his subordinates believe that inmates are unworthy of such healing. Before Schofield and Parker, many inmates like me fought for years to make positive changes, to improve as people, and experience transformation. But these men have created obstacles to such progress, which punishes inmates many times over, leaving them to wonder why even try?

by David

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Christians and the Death Penalty

"[T]he kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Matt. 18:23-35).

If we take Jesus' parable seriously, we should receive the lesson that if we have been shown grace and forgiveness of our wrongs, we should not turn around and insist on retribution and punishment of the wrongs of others. Yet many confessing Christians who claim to believe that their sins have been forgiven by God in His infinite mercy, tend to be some of the most vengeful, violent, punitive people on earth when it comes to dealing with the sins of others. What sense does this make?

To put a finer point on it, if I believe that I was properly subject to the death penalty for breaking God's laws, and that I was spared only by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus, how can I possibly support the death penalty? How can I, as a redeemed sinner, support an institution that cuts against the concept of redemption? If I have been spared, what right to I have to support another person being condemned?

However, Tennessee, a state in which you cannot throw a rock without hitting a church building, stubbornly clings to the death penalty. It seems that quite a few self-professed Christian politicians and citizens have not given much consideration to the implications of some of the most basic tenets of their faith. According to the Man himself, a condemned person who has been showed mercy is in a poor position to insist on harsh punishment for another condemned person. If the story Christians claim to believe has any relevance in today's world, it is to the death penalty debate. God himself was executed for the sake of all people. Henceforth, no one need pay for their sins with their life because the debt has been forgiven. It is time for our practice to harmonize with our beliefs.