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Opinion

Prison fellowship changes lives

By Sen. Cam Ward

Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes only when we get outside of our own little bubble and experience something different can we truly appreciate all the challenges the world can offer. If we choose to hide our faces from uncomfortable subjects, it can lead to a much more narrow view of the world.

As a member of the National Faith and Justice Fellowship of the Prison Fellowship, I recently attended our Board of Directors meeting in Washington, D.C. This diverse group of United States Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and State Legislators gathered to discuss new ideas about how to help bring more Christian-based principles into our criminal justice system. The meeting was timely, as it coincided with the annual National Day of Prayer.

When we think of fellowship and prayer, it often seems contradictory to the criminal justice system. Someone goes to prison because they did something wrong in the crime they committed. The Bible even says in Isaiah 61:8 that God loves justice. Punishment is at the very foundation of our system of justice in the United States. Still, as I sat through this meeting, I could not help but think about the various parts of the Bible that admonish us to pray for everyone, even those who have gone down the wrong path in life. It is easy to pray for good people; however, it is a tougher soul searching experience to pray for those who have done terrible things in their lives.

In the United States today, 98 percent of those sentenced to prison eventually finish their terms and are released. That equates to roughly 700,000 people a year who leave the system and return to society. Thousands of Christian leaders throughout the nation visit prisons, talk with families, and comfort the victims of crimes. Listening to the stories that these leaders have shared with others, I am convinced that this compassion and fellowship has lifted the lives and outlook for many people who will have to move ahead despite their previous actions or experiences in life.

I applaud those who offer to bring light and hope to all of those who struggle in life. Both victims and offenders are children of God and those engaged in prison fellowship demonstrate this everyday. While the criminal justice system should be allowed to provide swift and certain justice, we should also continue to pray for all of our fellowmen.

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