Reflection

What Would a Just Prison System Look ...

As we reflect on Jeannie Alexander's video, "Practicing Forgiveness," this reflection can be used individually or in a group setting to think about what...

What Would a Just Prison System Look Like?

As we reflect on Jeannie Alexander's video, "Practicing Forgiveness," this reflection can be used individually or in a group setting to think about what a more just prison system could look like.


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Jeannie Alexander is not shy about sharing that the prison system in the U.S. is a form of captivity and that Christians should be working to free captives. But Jeannie is not suggesting that we do away with prisons altogether. Is there a better example of what a prison system could look like?
 

Many are pointing to Norway. Norway’s incarceration rate is just 75 per 100,000 people while the United States’ is 707 per 100,000 people. Only 20% of prisoners in Norway are re-arrested while 76.6% of prisoners in the U.S. are re-arrested within five years.
 

  • How can we help make sure that once prisoners are free, they stay free?


After prisoners serve their initial sentence, Norway’s prison system determines if the prisoner has been rehabilitated. If not, the sentence can be extended until rehabilitation is successful.
 

  • How can we know that prisoners are being rehabilitated?


Prisoners in the Norwegian system feel that they are treated like people and are allowed to live in a way that prepares them for what life will be like after release.
 

  • What would this look like in the prisons nearest to us?
     

As Erwin James puts it, Norway’s prison system is “designed to heal rather than harm and to generate hope instead of despair.”
 

  • Can we say the same about the prison system in the U.S.?
  • How can Christians, as a people called to hope and healing, transform the prison systems to reflect these values?

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