Over 2 million men and women 60% of which are non-violent offenders, 35% with no priors are incarnated in over 1,700 prisons throughout the country. Most convictions carrying 11-year minimum sentences. The chance of “recidivism” or returning to prison is over 50% within the first 5 years of release. These figures are very discouraging in a nation that boasts of individual freedom. Mass incarceration impacts families and communities for decades having generational implications.
Most individuals incarnated have no skills and limited education to support themselves and their families. Combining these with a felony conviction is almost a guarantee of NO employment opportunities in any field. All of these make reentry into society as a productive individual almost impossible.
As a Christian these figures bother me, especially since we boast of being a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. Searching for Christ likeness in our actions with regard to education and criminal justice reform, I found a few.
Code. Org is one program that addresses our public school to prison pipeline by providing skills necessary to compete in the 21 st century. A non- profit sponsored by Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other software companies partnering to teach computer coding. Its motto “Every student in every school should have the opportunity of learning Computer Science”; from K – 12 stressing diversity and expanding access to students and individuals. Envisioning computer science being taught like any other required subjects such as algebra or biology. Teaching computer skills that will provide not just information and knowledge but teaching a platform that can be used to develop technology.
Another program I found was The Last Mile, a computer coding program taught in San Quentin prison, training inmates in an industry that has, at present, 500,000 vacancies with high paying tech salaries. One of its founders Christ Redditz said , “He was so impressed by the men’s level of business knowledge and desire to learn”, he nurtured the idea of creating a Technology Accelerator inside the prison. This program should reduce the rate of recidivism or return to prison by giving inmates skills to compete in an in-demand field upon release.
As Christians, I believe we can put feet to our prayers by advocating for educational programs in our communities that break the cycle of poverty. And prison reform that gives inmates training in demand fields that pay livable wages; allowing men and women to not only experience the freedom Christ brings through salvation but also the freedom of being productive citizens capable of caring for themselves and their families.
I would love to have some feedback and if you know of any programs in your community that is making a difference let me know.