“Punishing The Innocent”

“At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”                2 Corinthians 7:11b  ESV

“We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”         Hilary Clinton

I have refrained from commenting recently as I have posted Diane’s stories. Certainly not due to any lack of impact those posts have had on me as I have read, edited, and formatted them. Quite the opposite, in fact, as that impact has been real and – at various times – tearful, joyful, heart-wrenching, soul-searching, thought-provoking, and memory-stirring.

My mind has traveled back through time to the days of my own incarceration, and I am grateful to Diane for this. Some who read these words might find it odd that I would welcome being reminded of the time I spent in prison, but that time, for me, was a time of monumental personal growth. Mind you, not all who go to prison perceive it that way.

I am grateful to God as well, because it was He who saw fit to have our paths intersect at this point in our lives.

Additionally, I am grateful because Diane’s story reminds me to try to do something to demonstrate to society that “America’s Culture Of Incarceration” has evolved into ineffective policy that punishes more innocent people than guilty, and I am not referring to those behind bars who may be innocent. Rather, I am talking about those who are left behind when a father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, or daughter is removed from society and locked away to keep society ‘safe’.

When Hilary Clinton said, “We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society”, I am pretty certain she was thinking something other than what I am going to suggest, but what she said is absolutely correct when interpreted the way I interpret it. “America’s Culture Of Incarceration” locks away individuals for tremendously long periods of time and for an ever-increasing variety of reasons. In its current state, our criminal justice system is focused entirely on the individual perpetrating the crime with little thought given to the greater number of lives negatively impacted by locking someone away for 5, 10, or twenty years. In its current state, that “culture” punishes far more innocent bystanders in far more devastating ways than the inconvenience of incarceration does the actual individual society thinks is being punished.

I quote from Diane’s last post: “One bad decision changed everything for so many people. I still can’t get over how this has affected every aspect of our life and the lives of SO many people around us. It is beyond my comprehension that the repercussions of one bad decision can devastate things so completely.”

In my four years of incarceration at Oakdale FCI, I encountered a mere handful of individuals who actually struggled with the fact that they were incarcerated. The vast majority of those in prison adapt quickly to the life that stretches before them. It may be disturbing or unsettling for family members and loved ones of those in prison (and society as whole for that matter) to consider the following, but prison, rather than teaching the burden of responsibility, removes it. Once we have resigned ourselves to our environment, prison life quickly becomes a matter of routine which is mostly unencumbered with the burdens and responsibilities of life. No bill-paying, no car repairs, no kids to worry about, no real job to go to. There is very little to think about beyond what is on the menu for the next meal, what is on TV, or what time will be spent in the library or in the ‘yard’.

Life is very simple, indeed.

For Diane, her step-son, her mother-in-law, and countless others, this simplicity does not exist. They are innocent of wrong-doing, but our ‘culture’ punishes them, and many, many others because, as Diane pointed out, “Life goes on.” The bills have to be paid, the car has to be repaired, the kids have to be cared for, and jobs must be performed without regard for the fact that “this has affected every aspect of our life and the lives of SO many people around us.”

In considering how we punish individuals who violate the rules and regulations of our society, we really should insist that those who are elected to make intelligent and informed decisions on our behalf are following Hilary Clinton’s unintended advice and “start thinking about what is best for society.” We must take the focus off of what we falsely perceive to be punishment for the guilty individual, and put it on the collateral damage caused by punishing those who are innocent.

There is a better way to change lives in a positive way. Destroying innocent lives in an effort to punish the guilty is not the way. May God be our guide and the guide of our leaders, and may we all push for major changes in “America’s Culture Of Incarceration”.

I applaud Diane’s willingness to share her heart, and her pain. It is my prayer that her willingness to do so will move others to stop punishing the innocent in the name of ‘justice’.

I thank you all for your time and ask that you all reach out to Diane and encourage her.

May God bless us all and keep us safe.

2 thoughts on ““Punishing The Innocent”

  1. Diane S.

    Your posts leave me speachless & tearful. Thank you for all that you do, this site and allowing me to be a part of it. This is a wonderful article

    Like

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