When you think of offenders doing time for their crimes in state prison, what is your first reaction? Losers? Criminals? Drug addicts? Who cares?
Who ends up in our prison system anyways? Do we even care? Or does our prison system take care of that for us?
The founder of Blameless admits to once considering them all vile through her own lens of judgment and condemnation until the Lord allowed a crisis to enter into her own life to see who really exists inside this dark and dangerous dungeon. Their lives matter!
Realizing our prison system is broken and filled with the same repeat offenders, you know, the individuals who went to prison, served their time, got released, re-offended, and then goes back to prison and starts the whole process over again and again, something needs to change.
If we're all a part of each person's contribution to society, good and bad, our hearts need compassion through awareness of what an incarcerated beloved goes through.
The founder of Blameless and Forever Free Ministries knows personally who ends up in our prison system: Hurt people! Hurt people hurt others! When wounds stemming from childhood traumas or other hurts are never healed, other vices/actions often become the crutch in dealing with triggers and pain that's been holding them captive in a torturing cell of hell.
Imagine being shackled in your own cell of hell while serving time behind bars in prison. We're not forgetting the pain these prisoners have caused to others, but we're sharing being caged up like an animal without rehabilitation is only going to make wounded hearts hardened and calloused. This leads them to continue to hurt others, even inside the prison walls.
The founder knows personally what unhealed pain has caused; the tearing apart of her own family along with hurting another and their family all in the game of fighting. Tammy's own son is being released from Folsom State Prison in 2020. He has completed serving time for his crime and considers his incarceration a blessing in disguise.
But is society going to accept him back into population with open arms as he transitions or are the flaming arrows and emotional daggers going to penetrate deeper into an already wounded soul through discrimination, obstacles and judgment?
What many beloveds don't realize is what our prisoners go through once they're released and why rehabilitation is not only vital for our incarcerated, but for society as a whole. Without transformation from rehabilitation, the incarcerated will never receive the opportunity to succeed with the many obstacles they face, and society will continue to absorb the cost, monetarily and/or possibly with lives, producing more victims leading us nowhere except entangled in this vicious cycle of broken people.
Hurt People Hurt Others!
Suffering doesn't have to lead us to constant failures where frustration and bitterness develops, but it should lead us instead into creative forces for positive changes. That is transformation. It can't just take place with the offenders through long-standing punishment, society needs to play a proactive, integral role in transformation. We are all a part of the solution and need to change.
Transformation is a process, not an overnight conversion and/or purpose. Changing the way we utilize our prisons so people come out rehabilitated and not worse than what led them there in the first place is vital in building and giving hope to our prisoners.
How can we do this?
The founder of Blameless sure doesn't have all the answers, but is proactively working with the incarcerated and governmental entities and community members to help find the need behind the need and set up a plan of attack to help contribute to the lives that need help. Blameless believes not doing anything due to fear of failure is not acceptable when many lives are at stake.
With Tammy's 20 years experience in the law field, being a chaplain, serving on Folsom State Prison's Inmate Family Council along with sharing the gospel with the incarcerated and their families, Blameless is now transitioning its focus towards the rehabilitation and reentry programs for the incarcerated.
This is Blameless' contribution to help stabilize the homeless epidemic. Without rehabilitation, most offenders will end up either homeless adding to our homeless epidemic or back into crime leading to more prison time.
Public safety issues effects more than the criminal justice system. Our prison systems are working towards rehabilitation, but it's going to take continual effort and thinking outside the box. The old ways are not working.
Blameless believes relational justice must include God and His Great Love serving as the anchor for everything being built upon it will help change the way our prisons function. We will focus more on making our offenders emotionally healthier from the inside out with tools to become better than when they entered prison. This is instrumental in successful reentry before they're released.
Punishment is never going to work being the long-lasting solution. Yes, offenders need to do time for their crimes, with their punishment meeting their crime, but they should be allowed to change before they're released. And once they've done their time, they should be accepted back into society.
What good is it for society, much less the offender, to be released back into communities where incapacitation and preclusion rules?
Punishment can no longer be the sole answer. Rehabilitation needs to exist along with punishment. Rehabilitation requires love and action. The vast majority of our incarcerated are never visited and/or encouraged and supported to help facilitate healthy hearts and minds.
Many chaplains, churches and nonprofits, along with our state prison systems, are transitioning into focusing on rehabilitation and God's Great Love, but we need an army to stand on the front lines with the oppressed and fight injustice.
If deterrence worked, our prisons would be empty.
Transformation is a process. The opportunities have to outweigh the many obstacles. Transformation starts with the offender. It starts with the person taking personal responsibility for their actions and deciding to change. It's hard to take that initiative when one is not loved and/or supported. Families need to get involved along with society.
Once the offender initiates change, there has to be a conduit of power to flow to. Somewhere for healthy, positive channels and changes to progress to. This opens doors leading to restoration and reestablishing relationships with loved ones who have also been hurt by the actions of the offender causing great mental anguish along with accountability for causing the pain.
Pretty soon the offenders become paroled with huge fears looming regarding whether society is going to accept them and the many challenges in finding employment, a roof over their head, and a stable environment to help transition them back into a new world where they once left a vicious mark upon.
Transformation requires forgiveness and a process. A process that is slow and takes time. A process that requires patience to change. We need villages of community members who will believe and support with faith in being willing to see some offenders stumble and falter while pouring love and life back into them that will help pick them back up patiently to encourage and watch them succeed.
How can we keep them out of prison successfully when the opportunities don't outweigh the obstacles?
The founder of Blameless has been blessed to be a part of the justice system and be a valuable part of the Inmate Family Council at Folsom State Prison witnessing the many intricacies to what is working and what isn't and what hasn't been explored. The one obvious obstacle that was personally encountered over and over again is how hurt people hurt others. How and where these wounds developed is not as important as to what would initiate healing and transformation from the inside out; love and support.
To take it a step further and deeper, these wounded hearts take on a deeper problem when the bitter root festers and grows due to the lack of nourishment found through love and support from loved ones and friends.
How can we expect those who were incarcerated and alienated to have successful reentry back into society without a foundational piece, having a way, to build upon this positive force that drives and draws them closer to being productive members of society?
Blameless and Forever Free Ministries believes that God's Great Love is an integral force for successful transition back into society. This is one reason why Blameless is bringing on board an ex-offender from Folsom State Prison who served his time for his crime. This will not only surround him with a covering of Jesus' love, but employment, incentives and accountability. It will help him tap into his many gifts that have laid dormant through his gift of music, experiences and identification with other offenders, but walking out being accepted as a brother in Christ who walked through the valley of incarceration, and called to glorify God.
This takes more than a village and awareness to understand how rehabilitation is vital for both the offender and the victim, but society at large. We all contribute to the discrimination and we need to be willing to accept them as they're going through transformation. If we don't, all we're doing is leading them back into the criminal system and conduct that led them to be incarcerated in the first place. The cycle begins again. Forget the cost to taxpayers, lives are torn apart and forgotten.
Until next time...