June 2016 – Visit the Imprisoned
The issue of imprisonment is a significant one in our day, especially in our country, and most especially in our local community. Of the 223 countries listed in one article, the U.S. has the 2nd highest rate of incarceration (698 per 100,000 people) of any country. The U.S. has about 4.5% of the world population, but around 22% of the world’s prisoners. More locally, Wisconsin incarcerates more black men than any other state in the union. When people are incarcerated, they are often cut off from their families and friends (often for economic reasons), and the conditions in which they are held are often deplorable.
All of this leads us to June’s work of mercy. While there is debate about who should be incarcerated and for how long, there is no debate that we, as Christians, are called to love all people, especially those who are marginalized or in the most need. The goal of incarceration is both to penalize and to reform, and there’s no doubt that the gifts of compassion, mercy and presence can go a long way toward the latter. People turn to crime for myriad reasons, and visiting those folks to let them know that they are still loved and still have dignity is a beautiful and live-giving thing (for both the visitor and the imprisoned).
If you aren’t able to make it to a prison or jail, please take the time to learn about and support several different organizations and ministries that are working to bring this mercy to life: Dismas Ministry (dismasministry.org), Bienaventurados Ministry (archmil.org/offices/Hispanic/bienaventurados-ministry.htm), or Project Return (projectreturnmilwaukee.org).