The Pens of Prisoners
by Dan Seagren
Posted: July 27, 2008
The title of this Senior Moment has a double meaning…
Another senior moment occurs for salty seniors who are concerned over the incredible mushrooming, overcrowded prisons due to so many who are incarcerated. What do we do? Build more and more jails, prisons and penal institutions of all kinds? Do we lessen charges on the less malicious criminals? Do we resort to more parolees? Do we diminish the amenities to make prisons less comfortable? Should we attempt to reduce recidivism (habitual relapse into crime)?
These are legitimate questions among others under consideration. Of course, we should be working more on the outside creating better home life, developing more responsible parents, weakening temptations that foster potential criminality, minimizing criminal motivators such as drugs, alcohol and other demanding habits. This certainly would help along with better criminal detection and prevention measures.
The title of this Senior Moment has a double meaning. Jails are often considered pens, based supposedly on penitentiaries. But we are not concerned here about the nature of the physical conditions of jails and prisons, reformatories or half-way houses. We are instead talking about the pens and pencils (even typewriters or computers) of prisoners who have something worth writing about.
There are many excellent organizations reaching out to the incarcerated and recidivism has in many instances been greatly reduced because the number of repeat offenders is astounding. One of these institutions is the Crossroad Bible Institute which is doing a commendable job of working with inmates. There are Bible lessons incorporated with a personal touch through discreet letter writing by dedicated instructors. Not a few of these are seniors. They have found that those who elect to enroll in the Crossroad program and complete the curriculum (or at least a good share of it) are much less likely to return to prison when released.
Quarterly, Crossroad publishes a tiny booklet called Crossroad Connection Journal. It contains original poetry and art work by prisoners from all over the country. It is not only inspirational but informational. We get a glimpse of individuals who have found a faith which has set them free spiritually. Here is a glimpse of some of these prisoner poets:
In the name of Jesus, I thank God for CBI . . .CBI has changed my life. James G., NY
On these two bended knees to my God I prayed, Turn not Your face from this wretched soul.
And I am so thankful, oh so thankful That He smiled on me that blessed day. Gregory H., CA
Alone one night in shame an despair I look for help, but no one was there.
No future but prison, no past, just pain. I looked in the mirror, my tears, they rain.
By justice condemned, in jail to die. My only hope God’s mercy, for His grace I did cry
When seasons come and holidays pass, In jail with Jesus my hope does last. Hurchel H. , MS
Stretching, forming, pinching—a debt we cannot pay. Lumpy, bumpy, gritty—what He makes we have no say. Tugging, grinding, pounding—He makes whatever He may. Rolling, spinning,
twisting—He is busy all the day. Edging, shaping, molding—which way will it sway? Heating, baking, cooling—decisions of the day. Trimming, designing, painting, trust. It will be OK. God is the Potter, we are the clay. José Louis S., TN
Is there hope? Yes, there is. It will take a lot of work, compassion, rehabilitation and follow-up upon release. All this can be done but without a spiritual dimension in place, history has only sad results to report. We can be thankful for these Christian agencies with a proven record of reducing recidivism by reclaiming lives worth redeeming. They are worth supporting.
Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.• E-mail the author (su.nergaesnad@brabnad*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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