Archive for the ‘Criminal Justice’ Category

A reminder of the men I visit in segregated cells

March 8, 2018

I was reminded of this quote when a book was returned to me this morning. The second sentence is, to me, very rich in meaning, very relevant.

‘Many prisoners find themselves stuck within a present that seems to go nowhere, with little to lose and little to look forward to, waiting for a future release that may never come or that, when it does, might not deliver the longed-for sense of freedom. They find themselves haunted by a past that cannot be undone and that may return obsessively to dominate the present and drain the future of hope.’

Lisa Guenther, Solitary Confinement: social death and its afterlives

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A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48

February 16, 2017

A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48 delivered during a prison communion service

We seem to be living more and more in times of division – deep division. There is a tendency, a human tendency, to group and label anyway. In scriptures we find the bad and the good, the just and the unjust, your neighbor and your enemy, the sheep and the goats.

So if we look at today’s society, we have divisions that are pretty normal. But there seems to be, now, an animosity, a distrust, a disdain, a willingness to judge rather than engage and listen.

There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground in many instances. There are those who love the Packers, but hate the Patriots, love the Cardinals but hate the Cubs, love or hate Democrats or Republicans, love or hate immigrants, refugees, people of color, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, unions, Planned Parenthood, the NRA.

But don’t we live in a pluralistic society with many philosophies, many viewpoints, and many beliefs? Brothers, that should be our strength, not a crack in our foundation. I am reminded of the strength when different entities are brought together. In biblical times, mud and straw made bricks. Today, carbon fiber-reinforced compounds are used to build jet fighters.

Why shouldn’t a society made up of many separate parts be stronger, more effective, more resilient, more growthful, and more life-giving? Sometimes what is needed is more confidence in our own principles and beliefs so that we can respond to differences with more tolerance, more patience, more humility … more love … that we may all reveal ourselves to be children of our heavenly Father.

An interview that turned out pretty well

November 4, 2014

An article that gives a peek at what I do in prison ministry.

Can’t withstand the light of day

March 26, 2014

I posted this earlier today on Facebook:

Missouri execution: another death, another grieving family. Is that what balances the scales of justice? Could it be mindless revenge instead? What are we looking for?

Five in a row … uninterrupted. Seems like we’re trying to run the table. Florida and Texas are pulling away in the race.

So, citizens of Missouri, name the man executed in November. What did he do? Then name the ones in December, January, February. What did they do?

Can’t remember? These deaths are being done in your name. Is this whole death penalty thing working for you? Are we safer? Are victims’ families happier? Has grief been dissipated? Are we more respected and admired as a state? Or do we applaud and cheer when the governor gives his “thumbs down”?

Let’s move forward. Dead-of-night and secretive taking of life that can’t withstand the light of day and accomplishes nothing awaits our collective rejection and abolishment.

Condemned

February 10, 2014

—∞—

 

When was
His
Last
Breath?
 
As a child
When the
Sexual abuse
Began?
 
Or when
No one moved
To Stop
It?
 
As it continued
With others
And he stood
Helpless?
 
Or when
He began
Beating the old woman
Who befriended him?
 
Some may say
It was on the gurney
In the blank white room
At the prison
 
When was
His
Last
Breath?

 © 2014 Thomas W. Cummins

A half smile and a nod

January 30, 2014

—∞—

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when? – Hillel

Last evening, at the offender’s request, I was a ministerial witness to his execution. There were only two witnesses for him, and I was the only one who actually knew him. During the past 13 years, we had conversed countless times as I visited the prison where he lived. My role there is as an assistant chaplain.

From what I could tell, my eyes were the only ones he made contact with as he was lying on the gurney. He gave a half smile and a nod in response to my nod.

The above quote bubbled up as I reflect on this morning after.