Don’t want prison reform in America? Crimea a river


i was in prison and you came to visit me

As Vladimir Putin completes his Ukrainian land grab on the Crimean peninsula, weeks after the Olympics at Sochi, one could make jokes about “From Russia with Love” or perhaps a new band called “Guns n Putin.” But serious history is sadly playing out on CNN nightly in our living rooms. Will any good come of it, not likely. So what about this Crimean peninsula? Being historically challenged, I dug around on the web and found some interesting facts that will link back to helping those behind bars in America

I found a book titled “The Crimean War” written by a Brit named Dr. John Sweetman, no relation, different spelling. That led me to the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale, also British, born in Florence, Italy, thus her name. She corrected horrific conditions including filth and lack of treatment received by British soldiers injured in the Crimean War (1854– 1856); according to the web site http://www.biography.com; “The no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set to work. She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling. Nightingale herself spent every waking minute caring for the soldiers. In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient. The soldiers, who were both moved and comforted by her endless supply of compassion, took to calling her ‘the Lady with the Lamp.’ Others simply called her ‘the Angel of the Crimea.’ Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.”

So who is the Florence or Frank Nightingale of our time? What organization is out there striving to correct dreadful conditions that we accept as the norm in prisons today? One might start with a check of one of the following prison ministries:

Mike Barber Ministries: http://pro-claim.tv/

Prison Fellowship: http://www.prisonfellowship.org/

Trinity Broadcast Network’s 2nd Chance: http://tbnsecondchance.org/index.php

Cross Roads Bible Institute:  www.crossroadbible.org

These are just a few of the amazing organizations out there providing hope to the hopeless.

As a nation, we must take the time to better ourselves or we’ll become soft, dysfunctional and self absorbed, bullied by nimble international street punks. Not possible? Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad in Syria, Kim Jung Un in North Korea and Hamid Karsai in Afghanistan all basically ignore and disrespect us; they see us as weak and soft. Not cool.

I have a solution. How about a hard look in the mirror for a good start, perhaps a long look at our justice system wouldn’t hurt. One could start with Corrections Corporation of America with it’s Boise Idaho prison named “gladiator school” by inmates, but that is far too narrow a focus. I would propose that the Federal government go big or go home. Follow the lead of General Motors which is presently struggling with its Chevy Cobalt scandal and a huge recall. GM has hired two high powered and very expensive law firms to conduct a thorough hard internal review as to  what went so very wrong with this car and why the corporate resistance to correct flaws. Their mandate I’m sure is to let the truth lead the review wherever it may go; provide an unvarnished report, no whitewash expected or accepted. So what if the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) manned up and followed not only GM but also Penn State which hired the Freeh Group International Solutions LLC lead by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. Cut Freeh and his associates loose on corrections in America and the BOP specifically, find out what is working and what is failing. Expect to pay top dollar but in turn expect to receive the whole truth and nothing but the truth in an unvarnished timely report.

Also, expect specific action steps from Freeh and associates, with timelines and the suggested mechanism to implement those changes. Coach Joe Paterno, deemed sacred at Penn State, was implicated in Freeh’s report on the Jerry Sandusky fiasco; nobody was off limits, that’s good. So to those with a vested interest in the status quo in American corrections, heads up. Self absorbed politicians, old school judges, federal prosecutors and BOP leadership take note, hard questions and accountability are looming if a guy like Freeh shows up; to quote Dylan, the times they are a changing.

For all those inmates stuck behind the razor wire, clinging to their faith to get through another lousy day, they deserve a second chance at the American dream; most have been discarded by society as beyond salvation and most will be released. Those British soldiers saved by Florence Nightingale decades ago got a second chance, they were not discarded; but that was only because Nightingale was a passionate clinical gunslinger and the British government wanted real change. Inmates and their families want real change as well, but do you?  Does Federal, state and local government real change? I would submit only to the extent it will cut costs and help balance budgets, that’s it. Florence Nightingale really cared, travelling in Egypt way back in the 1800’s. She wrote of being “called to God,” while a week later near Cairo she wrote in her diary; “God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.” The rest is history of course.

My wife Patty and I have skin in the game, we really care. We want change for those behind real bars and in our own small way, we are trying. Be it prayer, weekly inmate bible studies and,  grief support meetings behind the wire, or a blog advocating for believers serving time, we’re in the fight. Join the rumble for judicial reform in America. Help those who once were blind but now see clearly, but sadly are stuck behind the wire in a prison or jail near you.

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