- Religion and Philosophy
Why prison is illegal
Currently the United States of America hold the dubious title of having the most prisoners per capita in the world.
They hold five times as many prisoners as China does (pro rata, for China has many more people) and the numbers are rising yearly.
Since 1980 i.e. in the last thirty years, the numbers have doubled.
One in one hundred Americans is incarcerated, overall.
For black Americans the rate rises to one in ten.
Biblically prison is not allowed.
So the nation with the supposedly highest number of bible believers are actually in rebellion against what the bible tells us.
According to the bible, there are only three possible solutions to the question of retribution, and prison is not one of them. If in biblical terms an offence is committed then the judges must rectify the issue by the available methods:
- Payment of restitution and a penalty payment for the offence committed.
- If the charged is unable to pay restitution and a penalty payment for the offence committed, then they can be sold into slavery for a specific period, to the person who pays the allotted restitution and a penalty payment for the offence committed.
- If the offence warrants it, the offender must be put to death.
Now since 'we' are now a civilised people, with humanitarian systems in place, and the 'barbaric' practice of the death penalty is generally frowned upon (at least in Europe) we all profess relief that people are no longer put to death for their crimes.
Instead we incarcerate them for long periods of time in small cells with other offenders who in turn brutalise those we imprison. The strongest survive and the weaker pay the price for their survival.
This of course is considerate; in the eyes of the non prison population, who do not have to be confronted about the possibility of having executed an innocent man, and are not required to think what being banged up 24/7/365 for a number of years with the dregs of humanity may actually be like.
Justice has been served and we don't need to look too deeply into how or what is being served.
Out of sight is out of mind, and the only time they think again about those sentenced to jail is when the parole office announce their release, and the vocals begin about how they are a menace to society and should not be allowed to walk the streets.
At least not MY streets and NOT in MY neighbourhood.
Rehabilitation, forget it.
Statistics show that between 20% to 85% of released prisoners re-offend.
Ironically the lower figure is the recidivism rate for sexual offences against children, which is a surprise......whereas the 85% rate is for general crime, in this case; theft from vehicles, used by drug offenders to get their next fix.
Now I don't think for one second that we will persuade our secular society to behave in a biblical fashion, it smacks too much of admitting that God may actually know how to do things correctly, and indicates that 'our' humanitarian secular methods firstly do not fight crime, and secondly (and maybe of more concern) are not a particularly humane way of treating human beings.
Which is a great shame, for they have discovered that allowing God to run prisons actually makes life better for all concerned.
In many places in the world prisons are involving Evangelical believers in prison ministry, from simple services to full time churches running in the prisons, and prisoners are using those services, coming to faith, and seeing a real change in their lives.
In some prisons they have turned the whole prison into a body of believers, with even the guards and staff being people of faith.
Most people don't choose prison as a career choice, least ways not in the first place, though for some it becomes a familiar haven where they can be with like minded folk and have not many real concerns, once they know the ropes.
Getting away with the crime is good news for them, but getting caught is not so bad either.
So the concept of gaining privileges by showing a blossoming faith that the evangelical ministers consider genuine, is attractive to first timers and long term residents.
The simple fact is that anybody can fake faith, there are many in churches that do it weekly, and unfortunately some of them are in the pulpits.
But equally any believer who has a true infilling of the Holy Spirit, will spot (or be made aware of) a phoney in a short period of contact time.
You may be able to fool the 'career inspired' prison chaplain, but nobody fools God, and folk who actually get exposed to Christ and the Holy Spirit, get changed whether they set out to or not, you see God only commands the Holy Spirit to call someone when He knows their hearts can be made ready to receive Christ.
Don't fool around with God!
For a secular world, God is unfathomable, they simply cannot understand the power of God, nor even His existence.
Nobody who has not had a 'Holy Spirit' encounter with God can know how that changes you, how all doubts and fears disappear as you KNOW that God is real and even better than that, He loves you.
The God of all creation, the most powerful entity that exists, loves you.
Now love is normally an alien environment for a criminal to envisage, it's something missing from their early development. So finding love, unconditional love, the type that does not use and abuse you, can come as a shock, it can take a time to sink in that this is real and will not suddenly turn bad on them.
That's why Christian Evangelical ministry, can make a difference in jails, win one soul and see others listen, show one man the way out of his private hell and others will want to find the escape route themselves.
Then when they work out that they were guilty as charged, or at least if not for the offence they were imprisoned for, they realise that they are still as guilty as sin itself....but have been forgiven by the God of creation, the God of the universe, and forgiven fully, they are set free no matter what bars constrain them.
Those men and women change for good.
Too many people who are not imprisoned by the state are still in cells fo their own private making.
They sit incarcerated in cells made of plastic credit cards, personal fears and phobias, self indulgent pleasures that never satisfy their lust for more and the manipulation of others in their pursuit to remain in control, at least in their own opinion.
Even when the cell doors are flung open by Christ, many still sit in their cells for fear of stepping out, or briefly venture out into the freedom given, only to rush back into their cells as soon as darkness falls.
Our task as believers is to obey our masters commands, and our master tells us that we are to set the captives free, clothe the naked, feed the hungry and comfort the lonely.
We are to bring them to the fullness of Christ, and you can only start that process when someone realised that they are empty without Christ, and then start filling them slowly as they are prepared and ready to be filled.
Our aim is not to be kindly warders, but to make ourselves redundant, to do as the bible states, to bring people to the truth, which sets them free indeed.
So that's why the bible does not endorse prisons, God wants His people free, and free indeed, not theory.
One of the things about Gods liberation of our sins is that we can still be required to make restitution, and still be required to be a slave to He who has paid our penalty, when we realise that we cannot pay.
We may also be required to pay the ultimate cost ourselves, to die for our sins, or even the sins of others.
But the reality is that even dying seems acceptable when you have been freed indeed, and have the inner peace that surpasses all understanding which ONLY Christ can provide, and when you know that departing from this mortal and temporal coil, is to step into the eternal destiny that God created for you before you were conceived.
When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.