Recently, I picked up a copy of the Central Dallas Church's "Praise Reports and Prayer Concerns." The bright, golden rod sheet, printed front and back, caught my eye as I walked through the building.
Listed first under "Prayer Requests/Concerns" was a section titled "Incarcerated."
As I scanned the list of names of individuals and families, I counted 58 entries of concern and requests for prayers.
I wondered, as I read over the list, how many churches in Dallas publish a listing of all the people related to them who are locked up in a Texas jail or prison? Of course, I recognized some of the names because I know some of those listed.
While it is not true in every case, I am convinced that most of those listed by the church need something far beyond what prison life will be able to provide. Most are incarcerated because of some drug-related offense. These men and women need treatment, training, counsel and lots of support.
Texas sends too many people away and brings too few back with the life-change hoped for when the verdicts were handed out.
What would happen if we shifted funds away from prison expense toward therapy and life skills enhancement, along with "hard skills" training? I believe that we would achieve a better outcome in the lives of thousands of men and women.
Other states are proving my theory correct. Arizona, California, New York, to name just a few, have taken aggressive, legislative steps that mandate therapy as an alternative to incarceration.
The annual cost savings per inmate are staggering.
Even more, the results in the lives of those in need of redirection and help are very impressive.
As I read over the prayer list from church again today, I can't help but think that along with prayer for those locked up, we need to add actions that press for judicial and criminal reform in terms of how we respond to people who violate the law in non-violent, but self-destructive ways.
Our present approach is not working. And, in the process, it is damaging lives and killing entire communities in the inner city.