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Offenders and Faith

The Bible speaks of God's concern for prisoners. What does this mean for people of faith? What do biblical teachings say about offenders' past life and expectations for the future? These articles explore the connection between offenders and faith.

Victims and victimizers
"We as society do not allow people to be victim and victimizer --- they are one or the other," said Suzanne Neuhaus, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation victims' services specialist.
Sedgwick, Peter. Rethinking sentencing: a contribution to the debate.
For all these reasons it is appropriate that another report should be commissioned by the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. Rethinking Sentencing shows how the debate on the future of sentencing will affect all our lives, from the referral panel helping young offenders make reparation to their victims to the issues of social inclusion, civic renewal and zero tolerance for antisocial behaviour. There is one chapter on prisons, but its emphasis is on how life in prison contributes to a loss of responsibility among prisoners. The report shows how churches are involved with issues of criminal justice across the country, and how such topics as punishment, reparation and healing raise profound theological questions. How we pass sentence on another through the agency of the courts and the bodies that express restorative justice is inevitably a deeply searching issue for Christians. (excerpt)
Peters, Carol Anderson. Transforming and Restorative Justice and the Churches, vol. 1: Creating Healing Environments in Prisons
Psychological and spiritual healing techniques inform the creation of healing environments in prisons that promote moral and social development in inmates, and the healing of shame, the source of much problematic behavior. (excerpt)
Kirkegaard, Hugh. Restorative Justice and the Halfway House: Where Hope and History Rhyme?
This article in Coast to Coast was first presented by the Reverend Hugh Kirkegaard as an address at the 30th anniversary annual general meeting of St. Leonard’s Society (Hamilton), on June 10, 2002. As Kirkegaard observes, restorative justice and halfway houses can easily be folded into existing justice structures. This could easily lead to the "co-option" of restorative justice and halfway houses. One of the challenges in this work, then, is to guard against the deflection of these reform efforts in the interests of "convenience." With this in mind, Kirkegaard characterizes the restorative justice work of St. Leonard’s and other like organizations in terms of a prophetic role (from the Old Testament of the Bible) in the justice and corrections systems, and he casts a restorative vision to undergird and sustain this work.
Smith, Roberta and Smith, Harold. EXODUS: A Working Image for Restorative Justice Ministry
The authors describe a restorative justice ministry - EXODUS - for inmates in the state of New York. It can lead inmates to repentance, conversion, and personal transformation. Restorative justice/prison ministries at their core are about relationships that build up the possibility for such transformation inside the walls and after the gates close behind the parolee.
Wigg-Stevenson, Natalie. An Unofficial Funeral: Imagining Restorative Justice and Reconciliation at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison.
In this article we attend to a particular liturgical event to see how imagination helps us to perceive the manifestation of God's redemptive work amidst the particularity of human lives. Our unofficial ritualizing of Harmon's funeral required numerous imaginative moments that brought about redemption, reconciliation and genuine transformation in ways that reflected Harmon's life of presence to and work among the men of Riverbend. In remembering Harmon together, we also remembered the distinctive impact he had on each of our lives, an impact that had enabled us to imagine ourselves and each other as new creations, reconciled to each other by God's power. Our imaginative liturgy performance made present to us the Harmon we had known, the Christ who had always been revealed to us in Harmon's unconditional love, and the unconditional love of that Christ among us, drawing us towards each other in love. (Excerpt).

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