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June 30, 2008

Mark Earley and Pat Nolan: Prison reform transcends boundaries

Earley_nyt Today the New York Times profiles PFM president Mark Earley and vice president (and Justice Fellowship head) Pat Nolan, focusing on how advocates of prison reform are crossing lines in a way that few had thought possible.

Motivated both by religious faith and a secular analysis of public policy, Mr. Earley and the fellowship’s vice president, Pat Nolan, a former California legislator, have regularly testified before Congress, written op-ed essays and given speeches on behalf of efforts to roll back mandatory-minimum sentencing, equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine, and offer nonviolent offenders treatment rather than incarceration, among other initiatives.

On the surface a redoubt of the religious right, firmly rooted in evangelical Christianity and conservative politics, the Prison Fellowship Ministries’ liberal position on such issues underscores the increasing irrelevance of such rigid categories.

The group’s role in criminal justice bears similarity to the stance taken by evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Southern California, on global warming, AIDS prevention and Third World poverty.

“What’s distinct is that we’re in an ‘Aha!’ moment now,” Mr. Earley, 53, said in a phone conversation. “The crime issue used to be such a driving wedge between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and now it’s not. In the presidential campaign this year, when have you heard crime as a wedge issue? It’s a common-ground issue, and no one would have envisioned that in the ’70s and ’80s.”

Read more.

(Image © The New York Times)

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Comments

Terrell

There is a wedge. It is just not yet visible or at least the NYT took pains to hide it. The wedge is how liberals and conservatives and evangelicals view crime and criminals. It is important for us to point out that the fundamental view of PF is that men and women are fallen and in need of transforming redemption that leads to a transformed life. PF has gotten past the liberal view that criminals are victims or that they are Rousseau's noble beasts corrupted by society. The liberal strategy to educate and level the playing field is the half measure. The NYT needs to take a closer look at the lives of the men and women transformed by the ministry of PF and consider how it makes a difference.

I had the opportunity to spend the day at Alcatraz in June and used my time to consider the Restorative Justice that PF works to implement and it was a sobering day. an exhibit they had there featured the Essay Project at San Quentin sponsored by a California institution of higher learning and I was stricken by the lack of repentance and restoration I found. The prisoners of San Quentin write some compelling material and there is a sense of regret and sorry but the recognition of a fallen nature and the need for repentance and redemption was missing.

Again, that's the wedge. The whole view of man and sin will be the divide in this issue.

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