A Capital View, by Harry Jackson

The church must remember Jesus' mandate to show compassion toward those in prison.
I believe one of the most disturbing biblical passages is Matthew 25:41-46. In it, Jesus promises eternal punishment for those who do not serve Him by reaching out to those who are foreign, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, impoverished and even incarcerated.

For many of us, it is easy to show compassion to those who by no fault of their own find themselves in need. It's harder to find sympathy for the thieves, rapists, murderers and drug dealers in correctional facilities across the nation.

Fortunately, Christ puts no limitation on His grace. And that truth begs a question, Don't we as the church have a responsibility to advocate that prisons become places that offer opportunity for salvation and personal transformation?

In 2004 approximately 10 million people were released from city and county jails. Another 600,000 were released from state and federal prisons--that's roughly the same number of people living in the District of Columbia.

Time in prison does not always have a healing, restorative effect. Too often, inmates spend their time improving their criminal prowess. And in many cases inmates don't find freedom from the underlying drug addiction that research shows influenced some 84 percent of those incarcerated to commit their crimes.

While restorative justice is not a new concept, it received a renewed thrust in December 2003 when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dedicated the nation's first "faith-based prison," which houses some 800 inmates from 26 different faiths. As one might imagine, the efforts at Lawtey prison have drawn sharp criticism.

However, the facts show that Jesus makes a difference in the lives of inmates. A 1997 study by the University of Pennsylvania Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society found that graduates of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship were less likely to return to crime.

Providing spiritual counseling, job training and mentoring to inmates nearing the end of their sentences, the Prison Fellowship program produced graduates who were half as likely to be reincarcerated as other ex-prisoners studied.

"We're not asking the secular world to accept the faith, which is a matter of an individual relationship with God," Colson said in response to critics. "What we're asking them to do, however, is accept the consequences of that faith, which is something that can no longer be denied."

As Christians, we already know the "consequences" of our faith, which is why I believe we should support efforts that offer inmates a second chance.

In January, President Bush proposed a new prisoner re-entry initiative that would expand job training and placement services, and provide transitional housing. Last June, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Second Chance Act, which would allocate $113 million to help ex-offenders with "a continuum of housing, education, health, employment and mentoring services."

This is a great beginning, though $113 million would not go far enough to correct all the problems we face. Government is only part of the solution for curbing crime. There must be prevention before incarceration, ministry within prisons and aftercare upon release.

We also need overarching policies that will help bring social renewal. To this end, I recently crafted the Black Contract With America on Moral Values, which addresses six important areas: family reconstruction, wealth creation, education reform, prison reform, heath-care reform and African relief.

The High Impact Leadership Coalition, which introduced the contract in February, is seeking 1 million signatures in support of the document to present before elected officials. This will let them know there is broad support for prioritizing initiatives with a biblical base and forging greater partnership with faith-based groups.

We are asking Christians of every ethnicity to sign, which can be done by visiting www.him pactus.com or checking out our ad in this issue.

Whether in this way or through some other method, we must show Christ's compassion to "the least of these," including those in prison.

Harry R. Jackson Jr. is senior pastor of 3,000 member Hope Christian Church in the nation's capital. Jackson, who earned an M.B.A. from Harvard, is a popular conference speak and author of several books, including High-Impact African American Churches. He leads the High-Impact Leadership Coalition.

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

    Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

    God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

  • Cindy Jacobs

    2017: Year of the Breakthrough

    "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

  • Foot washing

    Shaking the Gates of Hell With a Basin of Water and a Towel

    "When I saw His foot, I knew He had come to take back territory the enemy had stolen from His ...

  • Growing relationship

    2017 Prophetic Word: The Supernatural Key to Growing Your Relationship With God

    It's vital that we understand what comes from God and what comes from the devil.

  • Marriage man and woman

    Why Marriage Is Not Just Between a Man and a Woman

    Marriage is a miracle. Let us treat it like one.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit