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My Take: Jails need Jesus
June 30th, 2011
10:57 AM ET

My Take: Jails need Jesus

Editor's note: Ronald W. Nikkel has been President of Prison Fellowship International, which cares for offenders and other people affected by crime, for 29 years. PFI is holding its World Convocation this week in Toronto.

By Ronald W. Nikkel, Special to CNN

Over the past 35 years, I’ve visited more than 1,000 prisons on every continent except Antarctica. The more time I spend in them, listening to stories of inmates and seeing the terrible impact of incarceration, the more I believe prison is the most irrational of human institutions.

It makes no sense to confine offenders in a population of other offenders and to expect a good outcome – namely, that prisoners become non-offenders by the end of their confinement.

Yet prisoners can change.

To a point, any relationship in which prisoners are loved and know they are loved can have a positive impact. But prisoners are truly transformed not because of punishment or prison but through the love and grace of Jesus expressed through the friendship and care of chaplains and volunteers. Prisoners awaken to the realization that God’s love is unconditional and that they can be forgiven.

Imprisonment, meanwhile, serves more to undo justice than it serves the cause of justice. Nearly everywhere I go as president of Prison Fellowship International, prisons are overused, overcrowded and highly overrated by politicians.

This came into sharp focus in May when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must drastically reduce its prison population because of severe overcrowding, calling conditions “incompatible with the concept of human dignity.”

Jeanne Woodford, a former state prison director and warden at San Quentin, testified in the case that such conditions “make people worse” and later told the Los Angeles Times that California incarcerates "many more prisoners than is necessary for the safety of the public."

Indeed, the excessive use of imprisonment does far more damage to society than good.

Consider the consequences in post-prison unemployment, repeat offenses and broken families. Global statistics are hard to come by, but The New York Times reported this year that two-thirds of the prisoners in the United States are arrested again within three years of their release and that unemployment rates among ex-prisoners hover in the 50-percent range within nine months or a year of release.

Children of incarcerated parents have higher rates of delinquency, mental illness and drug abuse, and lower levels of success in school and, later on, of employment.

Plus, communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis find a breeding ground in the prisons of many countries and spread into the community.

I am not suggesting the abolition of prisons. But most non-violent, non-habitual offenders would benefit far more from punishment befitting their offenses, including restitution, drug or alcohol treatment or fines.

About 40 years ago, Philip Slater wrote a critique of American culture called “The Pursuit of Loneliness,” in which he described what he called the “Toilet Assumption.” It’s the belief that social unpleasantness like criminality, once flushed out of sight, no longer exists.

Walls not only keep prisoners confined; they conveniently remove them from sight. The community believes it is safe.

But sometimes the toilet backs up.

Prison overcrowding such as has occurred in California forces society to face the unpleasantness. And although this process sometimes leads to token reforms, public attention is quickly distracted by other news.

But almost all offenders eventually leave prison. And then our unwillingness to deal with the causes of crime comes home to roost.

Prison conditions contribute to offenders’ ability and inclination to make good decisions when they are released. Repeat offender rates are high anyway, but overcrowding can drive them even higher, partly because prisons are less likely to offer rehabilitation programs that ease prisoners' re-entry into society.

But the real challenge is not overcrowding; it’s the Toilet Assumption, which makes it possible for otherwise humane societies to allow those conditions to develop. When something is out of public sight and mind, otherwise compassionate people simply do not care.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said the nations of the world will one day be judged by how they responded to those society wants to flush away: the hungry, the naked, the sick, the prisoners. In fact, God effectively says, “When you flushed them away, you flushed me as well.”

As reformer Vivien Stern points out, prisons are a mirror of society. How we treat our offenders is not just a problem of the criminal justice system; it is a problem of the community.

All too often, politicians don’t deal with the failure of prisons because the public thinks prisons work. We Christians have a responsibility as followers of Jesus to tell the truth - to counter the Toilet Assumption.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ronald W. Nikkel

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Politics • United States

soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. Rev. Rick

    I would support almost any faith-based program that might rehabilitate prisoners and reduce the recidivisim rate, but I don't believe Christianity would be, or should be, the only option. Accurate statistics are difficult to find, but the majority (greater than 50%) of the current prison population in the U.S. already self-identify with some form of Christianity. There are other religions as well including Islam, Jewish, as well as Hindu and Buddhists, but those populations are smaller by comparison. Any spritual program that would help a prisoner regain his/her self-worth, and awaken some level of compassion would be fine with me. Again, Christianity doesn't seem to be working too well to prevent a person from being incarcerated in the first place, so why not try an alternative spritual approach. Change must come from within, and forcing a religion on someone would likely yield poor results.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Letter Q in a privet bush

      You are starting to sound like Captain Obvious.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Letter Q – I certainly hope so....

      June 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • JW

      Thank you Rev Rick I agree with you. As a Christian, obviously I want others to believe what I believe, I think most people do want others to agree with them. However, we should be more concerned with the rehabilitation of these people at this point. If they are Christian and are inspired by Jesus that should be used to help them. If they are not, then other ways can be used.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  2. ColinO

    What these prisoners need...is education, not religion.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Or more rope, God likes to judge. Lets send them to their maker and be done with it.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Wonder

      Religion is the education. Morality, justice – everything is included. Religion and education cannot be separated.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Wonder – Whose religion? Any religion as long as it's your religion? Would prisoners be required to take "Creationism 101?"

      June 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Wonder

      Rev. Rick. Yes, the Christianity. What else is there?

      June 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • JW

      So Wonder if they were not Christian would you say they were not worth helping?

      June 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Wonder – Spiritually, you are deaf, dumb and blind my friend.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Wonder

      @JW, Christians are the only people who help everyone regardless. All others are oppressive.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Wonder

      Rick, you are not Christian. Must be Unitarian or something.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • JW

      Wonder I do not know how you can say you proclaim the message of Jesus and be that judgmental. I will give you a couple chapters to read in your Bible. Matthew 5-7. Read those and maybe you will have some knowledge of Jesus.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Wonder

      JW, read the rest of the Gospel as well. False Christians are worse than outright non-believers, mind you. If Christianity is not the only Way for you, stop claiming Christian. It's deception.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • JW

      You are the false Christian Wonder. You have yet to say anything on here that shows me you are a real Christian.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Wonder – I was raised Southern Baptist – but thanks for trying to "guess" at my denomination anyway. As I said, spiritually, you are deaf, dumb and blind.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Wonder

      Rick, you are NOT Southern Baptist. You are Unitarian or something worse.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Wonder – thanks for making it so easy to prove my point...again...and again....

      June 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • JW

      Wonder must be the same person as Zelda

      June 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ JW – you could be right. Wonder called me a Unitarian! I'm going to hell for sure now!

      June 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Wonder

      JW, Rick, all you need is genuine repentance and faith in Jesus for salvation. You two sound Unitarian.

      June 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • JW

      Nevermind Wonder I think you must be a joke. I will ignore you from now on.

      June 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Wonder – I stand by my story of having been raised as a Southern Baptist – I was "saved" and baptised when I was about 12-years-old. I am also an ordained minister. However over the last couple of years I have been working on my masters degree in religious studies. It required me to study biblical, and in particular, Jewish history. When I did that, I discovered that the Jews were right. Jesus fulfilled almost none of the Jewish prophesy regarding the promised messiah, and if he did, then God changed the rules in the middle of the game. Or I should say, Christians bent the rules to make them fit so Jesus would appear to be the messiah. So, I am not lying when I say I was raised as a Southern Baptist, it's just that my theology changed to fit the real facts.

      June 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh, phony heavensent. We wouldn't want to deprive you of your ropes, wips and chains.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  3. RightturnClyde

    I agreed with the author that jails and prisons are not a good solution to a problem (and gave some reasons) and I have worked in this area for more than 30 years and have my masters in this area. But the censors do not like my opinions.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • CNN Moderation Tips for the ethically challenged

      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN "awaiting moderation" filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ----–
      ar-se.....as in spa-rse, pa-rse, ar-senic, etc.
      ba-stard..as in who killed Kenny.
      bi-tch
      cl-it
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cucu-mber, etc.
      cu-nt
      do-uche
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      fa-g
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
      fu-ck......!
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      hoo-ters...hoot, hootie, and hooter is okay. More than one hooter is bad.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      ji-sm
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      or-gy
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      po-rn
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sh-it
      sl-ut
      sn-atch
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, anti-thesis (any anti-"t" word),beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  4. RightturnClyde

    This is a test .. one two three four five six seven eight nine ten

    June 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • RightturnClyde

      Anything I write (such as the words yes or no or good or bad ) is put on awaiting approval ... they do not like my conservative views .. and they want to suppress anything I might say

      June 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Learning about the filter will help. For example, the word "docu-ment" contains the letters c, u and m in succession, which is a no-no. CNN's filters are mildly retarded.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • LinCA

      If "Your comment is awaiting moderation." it won't ever be posted. There are no moderators only automated censoring. You post must have had a forbidden word in it.

      The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
      arse
      bastard
      bitch
      cock
      coon
      cum
      cunt
      douche
      effing
      fag
      ftw
      fuck
      homo
      horny
      jackass
      jap
      jism
      kooch
      nipple
      orgy
      pis
      porn
      poo
      prick
      rape
      sex
      shit
      slut
      snatch
      spic
      tit
      twat
      vag
      whore
      wtf

      To fix that you can break up the word by putting an extra character in, like consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").

      June 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Actually, no. It is a simple word filter that prevents posts with certain words in them, even if those words are contained within other words.

      Simply scan your text for letter combinations that might be the problem. Check for things like t-i-t or c-u-m within other words (like const-i-tuion or circ-u-mfrence).

      June 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Laughing

      or you can pretend that CNN hates your conservative drivle and get angry at the censorship of the liberal media, your call.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Laughing

      or you can pretend that CNN hates your conservative drivle and get angry at the censorship of the liberal media, your call.
      SPEAK for yourself, I know CNN plots against me.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • @HeavenSent

      If CNN wanted to block your IP address, you would not be able to post at all. They don't need to plot against you, idiot.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Paranoia Puncture

      RightturnClyde and HeavenSent,

      You have been around these blogs long enough to know about that filter. Your stuff is posted all over the place. Quit being so dense and paranoid and examine your posts carefully for those hidden words.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • JohnR

      If you were being singled out, these posts of yours wouldn't have appeared. Quit the paranoia. I have more than a few times in the past given up on trying to spot the "offending" word fragment.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • JohnR

      @LinCA Of course it's especially amusing that you have found a way to post the actually offending words here for all to see. The fragments are hard to find even when you are specifically looking for them and in no way could possibly offend even the bluest of blue noses. This filter is one of the truly stupid inventions ever foisted upon the world.

      June 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      @JohnR

      You said: "@LinCA Of course it's especially amusing that you have found a way to post the actually offending words here for all to see."

      It's quite easy. The comment board allows the use of some html text formatting tags. By inserting some into the offending word it is automatically rendered "harmless" without affecting the readability.

      Typing "consti<b></b>tution" will print as "constitution"

      June 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • JohnR

      @LinCA Cool!

      June 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  5. JW

    It is not all about converting people to Jesus. It is about helping people when they need it. If people happen to be inspired by Jesus I don't see why anyone should be upset about that.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Would you be upset by the Quran being taught if it helped people too? How about the hindu faith?

      June 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Laughing

      "It is not all about converting people to Jesus. It is about helping people when they need it. If people happen to be inspired by Jesus I don't see why anyone should be upset about that."

      I still fail to grasp how this helps people rehabilitate. What most advocates of this want is not to inspire these people to change themselves and do what jesus might have done. You can still remove religion from the equation and still teach those values. I've seen first-hand the type of talk and mission that goes into rehab with Jesus in mind. It's prosletyzing pure and simple. You might not be explicitly stateing "join us or burn" but telling a person who's spent X amount of time in prison, who's very vulnerable, that jesus will forgive them and completely absolve them of all the crimes they've committed, that's less inspiration and more conversion.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • JW

      If people are inspired to change their life and be a better person based on the Muslim or Hindu faith I would be fine with that. I know some missionaries teach that you will burn in hell if you dont accept Jesus right now. They are wrong and most Christians I have met do not like what they do.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Laughing

      @JW
      You speak of inspirationg (regardless of the type of religion) but why does religion have to be the thing that inspires rehab at all? You use these works as a way to inspire people to become better, to stop committing crime so why can't you show them works and deeds done by Ghandi, or Princess Di and remove the religious aspect? I understand that there are people in prisons who are already religious before going in and probably should be offered something that more to their liking, however I think the majority of rehab should be taken out of the hands of missionaries and put into the hands of certified professionals.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • JW

      Actually Laughing I agree with you. I think maybe they should talk to a missionary if recommended by the professional or if requested. Or perhaps the missionary could do other things for the prisoner, maybe just visit them and talk to them without preaching. Maybe they would identify more with religion if they saw the good side of it and not the preachy, in your face part of it

      June 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Laughing

      @JW to clarify, does that mean you disagree with the article then?

      June 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • JW

      I disagree with it that it says these prisoners need religion. I think that missionaries should be more focused on helping the people with what they need, whether they are helping prisoners, poor people, refugees, etc. I think that Christians should try to show people love instead of just preaching it.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      JW, "I disagree with it that it says these prisoners need religion. I think that missionaries should be more focused on helping the people with what they need, whether they are helping prisoners, poor people, refugees, etc. I think that Christians should try to show people love instead of just preaching it."

      Same applies to you with regards to showing love instead of insulting ALL Christians in the world.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • JW

      Heavensent what are you talking about?

      June 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Artist

      JW

      Heavensent what are you talking about?

      ----–
      Note: HeavenSent already has a judgemental and hateful mindset. She does not focus on what you are saying rather how she can twist something so she can slide in what she wants to say. What she posted has nothing to do with what you posted...however in her mind she has found the link to what she wants to say. She is twisted.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • JW

      I was gonna say I am a Christian so why would I say I hate all Christians. I was trying to explain how Christians should act based on the teachings of Jesus.

      June 30, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  6. Wonder

    I'm not sure how long or how well a society with so many broken families can sustain itself. Problems of prison mirrors the problems of the society.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      I don't think we can lay the blame solely on broken families. After all, broken families, in and of themselves, are a symptom of a greater problem.

      It is when we combine broken families and poverty, when we expect a single mother to be able to raise her three kids on minimum wage, forcing her to work three jobs just to keep food on the table, which in turn forces her to leave her kids with no supervision, which in turn leads to those kids getting into trouble...this is the cycle. Not enough birth control, not enough jobs that pay a livable wage, not enough affordable child care, not enough education.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > I'm not sure how long or how well a society with so many broken families can sustain itself. Problems of prison mirrors the problems of the society.

      Atheist households are less broken (lower divorce rates, lower teen pregnancy rates, etc) and their members are less likely to commit crime then their Christian counterparts per person.

      Everyone should become atheist.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Wonder

      Both of you are wrong. People need change in hearts. Americans claim to be Christian when they are not. Only the weekly church attenders must be counted as Christian. The wrong statistics are forged by some atheists.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Wonder, church attendance does nothing to measure the heart.

      Many go to church every single sunday, and yet through the week they are vile, evil, hateful human beings. Many people spout scripture and tell you they are Christian in one breath and denigrate their fellow human beings in another. This does not make them good people.

      My heart changed when I left Christianity and discovered compassion and love.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Wonder

      @My-, you have quit too soon. Christians have been the most loving, clean, well-disciplined, compassionate, good-looking and intelligent people to me.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • JohnR

      Sending people to jail for non-violent crimes (notably drug related) is what breaks a lot of families in the first place. The US is an amazingly benight nation in many ways.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @wonder,

      I quit nothing. I followed my heart out of a hateful, hurtful religion and found peace.

      June 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  7. True Friend

    All Zelda on this page are not the original Christian Zelda. I guess he likes the name. Sick.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Zelda

      True Friend you are the fake by your own words

      June 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • True Friend

      I am so sick of you. Go to hell.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • AnudderVunn

      I am sick of the fake Zeldas as well. But no need for hell –just quit acting like a toxic troll.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • JW

      I think I will start pushing the Report Abuse on Zelda and see if it works.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • The Original

      Above True Friend is a fake.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Hon. Anon.

      BG, your attempts to get lulz are pathetic.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  8. Reality

    It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks. Said destruction followed by construction will add jobs and decrease the crime rate and thereby help reduce the jail population.

    And by the way, jails are supposed to be horrible places. We should make them even worse than they are today as an added incentive not to commit a crime.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Margaret

      They are already as horrible as we can make them without falling into the trap of acting like an oppressive Third-World country.
      And we have to treat them humanely, otherwise why bother to put them in jail at all? Why not just execute them? Because we need to rehabilitate them so they don't commit more crimes the second they are released!
      Of course, if you'd like to join them, feel free to commit any crime at all if you think jail or prison is so great. You'll have a first-hand experience for once instead of living vicariously through your constant cut-and-paste jobs.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Reality

      As we "thu-mp" along with rational thinking, conclusions and reiteration to counter the millennia of false and flawed religious history and theology!!!------––

      For posting on all the cell walls of prisons:

      SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:
      THERE NEVER WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR

      SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:
      THERE WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY

      SAVING 15.5 MILLION ORTHODOX FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:
      ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.

      Added details upon request.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      I think we need to get past this stupid and childish concept of "revenge punishment" that jails seem to mean to people. It should be places of rehabilitation. Not places where you're made to suffer.

      What good does it do to make someone suffer who's caused harm? The harm is not undone.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      @Bobinator
      Exactly. The attempt to "bring about a state of (perfect) justice" is never going to succeed, especially by an arbitrary system of sentencing.
      Mr Nikkel said "I believe prison is the most irrational of human insti'tutions." Why would the introduction of yet another irrational element improve the situation ?
      The "utilitarian" usefulness of a deity concept does not make it necessarily valid. Nikkel has not demonstrated there are no other alternatives.

      June 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, let's hope that your luck holds out throughout your life and you never come face to face with the destruction of an anti-social personality that cares less about you or others. If you should be subject to a criminal mentality, please write back with your thoughts of having dealt with one.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      @Artist
      for the survey : <18 wet behind ears. <95 young

      July 2, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  9. Laughing

    Incredible, I read this article and its hard not to agree with many of these points. The prison system obviously needs help and reform and there is merit to his "toilet theory" I guess. What I fail to grasp is how Jesus will solve any of this? Are you telling me that if we would only let missionaries in to prisons to convert offenders then society would get better? The whole premis of this article is iffy at best. The real problem is actually the amount of religion (both islam and christianty) that's already present in the prison system that needs to be removed. It's disgusting out religious people go after these newly released prisoners at their most vulnerable, promising them everything they want with jesus and luring them into the trap of religion.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • LinCA

      What is there not to get? To christians, Jesus is the answer to everything. No problem isn't solved by simply believing in him. Global warming? Jesus will fix that. AIDS? Ditto. Same sex marriage? You get my drift.

      It's convenient. It prevent you from having to think about a rational solution.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Zelda

      LinCA

      What is there not to get? To christians, Jesus is the answer to everything. No problem isn't solved by simply believing in him. Global warming? Jesus will fix that. AIDS? Ditto. Same se x marriage? You get my drift.

      It's convenient. It prevent you from having to think about a rational solution.

      – Jesus is the a n s w e r for la z y s h e e p

      June 30, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Laughing

      Sadly that's too true. It's so sad when a christian truly believes that jesus is going to answer them, they search for a sign, any sign at all, and either find it when a small coincidence happens, hallucinations or they console themselves when jesus doesn't answer them by saying, "well I guess it wasn't gods plan" and leave it at that. jesus is NEVER held accountable for his failures and yet always receives praise for stuff he didn't do.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Not only do prisoners need to learn what Jesus teaches, all you heathens on this site that don't believe in Him should learn the beauty that he teaches. But, that's asking to much for a those that dwell on the carnal level of life.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Heathens on the site or simply stupid, blind and deaf. They will perish in the lake of fire forever.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Laughing

      @HeavenSent What is it exactly they need to learn from jesus? Intolerance? bigotry? Yeah, all christians say that Jesus preached love and all that garbage but look at what his words have led to, women are fighting just to have a say what they can and can't do with their own bodies, gay people are treated as sub-human. Instead of telling criminals that all is forgiven if they tell a 2,000 year old telepathically that they believe in him, why not actually get real rehabilitation programs started?

      June 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • JW

      The issues of abortion and same-se-x marriage were not related to anything Jesus said. I know some radical Christians may try to say that, but he did not speak directly on those issues.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Wonder

      JW, Jesus would NEVER have approved killing babies or s-e-x-ual perversions. Read the Gospel.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • JW

      I did not say he would approve of it. I have read the Gospel thoroughly thank you very much.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • JW

      Wonder if you show me a verse that says "women shall not have abortions" I will admit I am wrong. My point is that the Christian fundamentalist groups are not doing the work of Jesus. They twist what he says to fit their own agenda.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Wonder

      JW, Jesus said those who make children stumble deserves execution. And a child-killer? You can imagine the rest.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • JW

      Does that mean that Jesus would approve of murdering abortion doctors, or the Phelps family murdering abortion doctors. I am not saying Jesus would approve of abortion. It is the way we handle these situations is what he would not approve. Jesus never preached in a violent or abusive manner.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Wonder

      JW, be a thinker. We have government to handle the criminals. Christians appeal to the law. Stop thinking about this weird little church; Americans are obssessed with it. Jesus threw out theives from the Temple. JW, I don't think you really comprehended the Bible or I doubt you are an authentic Christian. You're too ignorant on Jesus.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • JW

      Wonder you have said nothing to show that you understand the Gospel of Jesus at all. Taking a couple of stories out of concept does not prove that you understand the message of Jesus. Dont tell me I dont know the Gospel because I think I know it better than you. Didnt Jesus say not to judge? Yet you are judging me and saying I am not a Christian. Read your Gospel again because you didnt understand it the first time.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Laughing, “@HeavenSent What is it exactly they need to learn from jesus? Intolerance? bigotry? Yeah, all christians say that Jesus preached love and all that garbage but look at what his words have led to, women are fighting just to have a say what they can and can't do with their own bodies, gay people are treated as sub-human. Instead of telling criminals that all is forgiven if they tell a 2,000 year old telepathically that they believe in him, why not actually get real rehabilitation programs started?”

      Laughing, Jesus teaches righteous living. You only believe He teaches intolerance depending on what unrighteousness you do not want to relinquish in your own life. If you didn’t have these conflicts, you wouldn’t constantly point out half read scriptures in past posts.

      True criminals belong where they are. I learned first hand what destruction sociopaths/psychopaths/anti-social personalities can do to a person’s life and not give it a second thought to the damage they have done.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent, "Heathens on the site or simply stupid, blind and deaf. They will perish in the lake of fire forever.
      June 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |"

      I hope you are aware that you have serious ego issues!

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Seriously....

      "I learned first hand what destruction sociopaths/psychopaths/anti-social personalities can do to a person’s life and not give it a second thought to the damage they have done."

      To bad you didn't really take the statement to heart if you had you would realize all the prejudicial and bigotry shown towards gays has had the same impact especially in denying the their civil rights..

      June 30, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Artist

      HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent, "Heathens on the site or simply stupid, blind and deaf. I hope you are aware that you have serious ego issues!

      Amen.

      ------–
      Please note what you are saying and saying to yourself. 2 things:
      .
      1.You are insecure about being old
      .
      2. You have a misconception of yourself and view of others. You ego has brought you to a point you cannot even objectively look at yourself. You don't even know how you truly act. You have truly become delusional.
      .

      June 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Artist. I love getting older. The more life I live, the more comfortable with myself I am. Needless to say, it's difficult to speak seriously with young folks as yourself that haven't lived what you seem to believe without having actual experience.

      As far as not agreeing with any of my posts. Point out which one of my posts infuriates you. I'm sure we can discuss any issue you may have with what I have written deleting any of phony heavensent's posts.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Artist

      HeaveSent, please clarify at what age span when someone is considered young/wet behind the ears? >30? >40? >50? >60? >70?.

      June 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  10. myweightinwords

    We need real reform, a complete reworking of the criminal justice system, not more religion.

    We need to address the causes of criminal behavior. We need easier/cheaper access to birth control, and better education. We need to jobs that will actually support families. We need to treat addiction like the disease it is. Legalize and regulate marijuana. Legalize and regulate the s-ex trade. Tax both of these to fund better prisons. We need psychological evaluation of prisoners and separation based on the results of that evaluation. Secure away those who can not be rehabilitated, and enroll the rest in programs with a track record for successful rehab. Treat the diseases, mental and addiction, provide the prisoner leaving the system with the tools to NOT return to crime.

    Just slapping religion over the top isn't going to solve anything.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Laughing

      You read my mind (and got there first!)

      June 30, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Ted M.

      Very well said!

      June 30, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • HeavenSent

      myweight, Jesus teaches the righteous way to live life.

      So much for your knowledge about Him.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @HeavenSent,

      Jesus teaches nothing. He's been dead for 2000 years.

      The words attributed to him have some merit, but they are used to subjugate and abuse by the self righteous. Lets fix the problems, not just put a magic bandaid on them and hope they get better.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      myweightinwords

      @HeavenSent,

      Jesus teaches nothing. He's been dead for 2000 years.

      The words attributed to him have some merit, but they are used to subjugate and abuse by the self righteous. Lets fix the problems, not just put a magic bandaid on them and hope they get better
      /
      You are wrong. My wo oden Jesus teaches a lot.
      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • CRAIG

      Unless the heart of a man is truly changed, all of the worlds rehabilitation is worthless. It only bandaids , the heart must change. only God can truly change a mans heart. love

      June 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      myweightinwords, "Jesus teaches nothing. He's been dead for 2000 years.

      The words attributed to him have some merit, but they are used to subjugate and abuse by the self righteous. Lets fix the problems, not just put a magic bandaid on them and hope they get better."

      The phony heavensent is alive and well and purposely answers with negative responses. My response is:

      Jesus teaches all that we need to know to live a righteous life. It's whether folks are willing to comprehend and apply His wisdom to their lives is the issue. It's easy to not live up to His truth. It takes courage to live the way He teaches.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  11. True Friend

    Christian missionaries are truly like the Lord Jesus. They always search out the most needy in the entire world and saved us, losing their own lives in the process of rescuing others. The greatest con-tri-bu-tion of the Western Civilization is its Christian missionaries who lit the light in the whole world with the salvation, education, healing and hope.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  12. True Friend

    CNN, if you could feature the people living in streets and garbage dumps all around the world, it'll be your merit along with your free-slaves campaigns.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • tallulah13

      They could just focus on the people living in the streets in America. There are plenty. The city I live in has a very large homeless population, getter larger every day as people lose their homes and jobs. People in America don't need Jesus. They need a government willing to work together to create jobs.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • True Friend

      @Tall-13, how nice in America. Being homeless in USA is a luxury. In many parts of the world it means certain death. Stop relying or blaming the US government and work!

      June 30, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Zelda

      True Friend

      @Tall-13, how nice in America. Being homeless in USA is a luxury. In many parts of the world it means certain death. Stop relying or blaming the US government and work!
      – If they do not live then it was not God's will. God's will is perfect even in death.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • myweightinwords

      @Tallulah,

      Working together to create jobs and fiscal stability would be a wonderful thing, wouldn't it? We need congress to stop behaving like three year olds in a sandbox fighting over who gets the red bucket.

      @True Friend...homelessness is a luxury? What planet are you from? I walk the streets of San Francisco and Portland in the late evening, watching people bed down in doorways with tarps for blankets and folded up newspapers for pillows, wearing every piece of clothing they own to try to stay warm, hoping that no one will steal whatever meager belongings they still have while they sleep. Many of them have mental illnesses. Many of them were once successful people who have lost everything in this economy. Luxury? Maybe you need a dictionary.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • True Friend

      Maybe you need Jesus. You Americans are so stupid.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • tallulah13

      This is not an article about poverty in the world in general. This is a story about the American prison system, so I address the problems Americans face.

      Right now we have a government so rife with corruption that our economy is failing. This leads to homelessness, crime and poverty. Yes, I expect our government officials, who are employed by the American people, to do the job for which they were hired. This means they should be less worried about Jesus and more worried about creating the jobs which will keep people out of jail.

      By the way, I do have a job. My complaint is only personal in that I actually care about the fate of my fellow Americans.

      Also, by your logic, all those people you feel so bad for living in garbage heaps and streets around the world should "just work". Yes, I get that there are varying degrees in poverty, but homeless people die here, too. Children go hungry and live on the streets here, too. I guess you just can't spare any compassion for Americans.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • The Original

      The third True Friend is a fake.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  13. tallulah13

    I think our society needs more fiscal equality, more educational opportunity and more readily available birth control methods. Ignorance, poverty and over-population are factors in criminal behavior. Add this to the rather foolish trend in recent years of teaching children that they should be respected without having to earn that respect, and you have a recipe for crime.

    It wouldn't hurt to have improved morality and less criminal behavior in the ranks of our politicians, many of whom already 'have' jesus. Sadly, our 'leaders' seem to care more about their own personal fortunes than they do about the fortunes of America.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • HeavenSent

      tallulah13, just because a politician pretends to know Jesus, doesn't make it true. Therefore, those liars are just like every other heathen in the world that don't believe and abide in His truth.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus hates heathens
      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I love it when christians decide who is and isn't a christian. That's the beauty of christianity. It's completely a matter of interpretation.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • JohnR

      Fiscal egalitarianism has worked like a charm in Zimbabwe, eh? What we need is more economic opportunity and fewer idiotic laws like the drug laws that trip people up and send their lives into a death spiral of unemployability. There are real problems associated with drug use, but they are properly construed and approached as medical, psychological and social issues, not police matters.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  14. True Friend

    CNN, thank you so much this article! CNN, please talk to these kind of people, true Christian missionaries, to solve the world problems. Please feature the condition of prisons around the world. Christian missionaries know the best, then and now and always.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • tallulah13

      Adelina, is that you?

      June 30, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Bellevue Calling True Friend! Your Huggy Jacket Is Ready!

      Christian missionaries will solve the world's problems . . . Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

      They had their chance. It was called The DARK Ages.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • True Friend

      @Tall-13, I started out as Justina. Stupid atheists hijacked all my user names. It seems only Sharia Law can fix your stupidity. Then get rescued by Christian missionaries again from your darkest evil idiocy, atheists.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Zelda

      tallulah13

      Adelina, is that you?

      Yes and also Zelda. Would you like to join me on my knees arms and mouth wide open for Jesus?

      June 30, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • LinCA

      @tallulah13.

      True Friend is Justina, Frederica, Friend, Adeline, Christian Adeline, Adelina and FairGarden (and probably a few others).

      On June 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm, FairGarden said:
      "I do not let facts get in the way. Just believe in Jesus."

      See: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/14/top-evangelical-to-anthony-weiner-try-jesus/comment-page-16/#comment-497518

      June 30, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • True Friend

      Above Zelda is a fake. @LinCA, that's a fake FairGarden, not me. Maybe you wrote that. You atheists are sick stalkers.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Zelda

      True Friend

      Above Zelda is a fake. @LinCA, that's a fake FairGarden, not me. Maybe you wrote that. You atheists are sick stalkers.
      -wow you are deceiving and you call yourself a Christian. How many log ins do you have HeavenSent? This Zelda is real for I am typing this. Your Zelda was always a fake. You are pathetic you know that.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • True Friend

      False Zelda, I'm not HevenSent. You are really a sick person.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • AnudderVunn

      False Zelda, do not assume you were the only one pretending to be Zelda. I remember chiming in a time or two long ago.
      Maybe that post was mine. I cannot remember. Why the obsession with this woman? She has earned the right to post after all your abuse (and my little bits), so give her a break already and argue with her instead of ad homineming her to death.
      I'm really getting tired of seeing all that stuff you keep doing to her names. -AV

      June 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bellevue Calling True Friend! Your Huggy Jacket Is Ready!, what are you laughing about? You're part of the problem!

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You always change your name, but you never change your message. I am not stalking you. It just seems deceptive to me that you change your name so much. I don't know why you don't keep a name, because it's very clear which messages are from you and which are from people using the same name. It's like 3rd grade. If you ignore those who mock you, eventually they lose interest and go away.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Zelda

      She hasn't learned this yet. I can't return to the playground until she learns this. However I like the name Zelda and might keep it.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • The Original

      @Tall-13, it's impossible to keep a name when 10 villains stalk after you. Tall-13, you're a teenager, aren't you? You're so stupid.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Zelda, I only use one handle. The phony heavensent uses as many handles as she can steal. I do not write under other handles.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  15. LinCA

    My take: Without Jesus we would need far fewer jails.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • HeavenSent

      LinCA, correction. Without knowing and abiding in what Jesus teaches is the reason folks end up in prison.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • LinCA

      Legalization of abortion in the US (Roe v. Wade) was directly responsible for 50% of the drop in crime in the late 80s and early 90s. Unwanted children are much more likely to become criminals. Christian opposition to safe and legal abortion is therefor causing a need for more prisons.

      Contraception, and education in the proper use of it, is the best known method to prevent unwanted pregnancies as the result of intercourse. Unwanted children are much more likely to become criminals. Christian opposition to contraception is therefor causing a need for more prisons.

      Inciting hate against gays and lesbians in the name of religion causes more people to resort to violence against gays and lesbians. More prisons are needed to house these violent offenders.

      Criminalization of homosexuality based on religious beliefs causes gays and lesbians to be imprisoned. Christian opposition to homosexuality is therefor causing the need for more prisons.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Zelda

      Actually not ab id ing by ba sic laws pu ts people in prison. Dr if two od jesus has nothing to do with our laws.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Adelina

      Zelda is od but I lov her.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Our laws are taken from Jesus' truth. If anyone doesn't comprehend this, no wonder our world is in such a mess.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  16. Father Shaun

    I am always glad to see a call for real reform of our hellish prison system!
    For too long have the "tough on crime" demagogues kept everyone in the dark about the consequences of throwing away our youths and adults who make criminal mistakes. There was a burst of reform in the seventies, but it quickly died out with the new War on Drugs during the Reagan Administration.
    Now we have a bigger percentage of our population in jails and prisons than any other country in the world.
    And not much in the way of rehabilitation, either.
    Our society has become a throwaway society where everyone is consigned to the trash heap of history because so many believe that anyone who breaks the law is worthless and incorrigible.
    Of course they could not be more wrong.
    It's time for our country to ease off of the people who have not committed any violent crimes, for starters, and allow them to be eased back into the society that still doesn't understand how to treat young people.
    They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes much less to condemn them when the hard hearts of the people sprout lengthier prison terms for non-violent crimes.
    Thank you for helping those young people to find some rehabilitation. They need our compassion, not our condemnation.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • HeavenSent

      GMAB Shaun, there are more white collar criminals out in the world that should be behind bars but get a slap on the wrist and are allowed by the courts to go along their criminal ways.

      I'm speaking from experience.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Put all criminals in a fire and let them burn alive. That's what god would do, anyway. The bible says so. If it's bad enough for god, it's the right choice for us.

      June 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony heavensent, I'm logging off soon after I answer a few legit posts. You can have free will doing your damage for the rest of the evening.

      Amen.

      June 30, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  17. Get these guys out of here

    Prison Fellowship. Founded by Charles Colson of Watergate fame.

    And such a nice alternative being offered – no prison, just a bit of Jesus instead. Yeah, that will work.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  18. Reform the Justice System

    I think you'd better come up with a better name than "The Toilet Assumption" there, me bucko...

    June 30, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  19. I love straight lines but wow

    From the article: "In fact, God effectively says, “When you flushed them away, you flushed me as well.”"

    Well, now...

    June 30, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  20. Wakka wakka

    First

    June 30, 2011 at 11:00 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.