Preston Shipp is a former prosecutor who is now a criminal justice reform advocate. He has been featured on the Huffington Post and you can watch a documentary about his life on YouTube called “Redemption of the Prosecutor.”
I first met Preston at the recent Theology and Peace Conference, where he spoke about his experience of “waking up” to the injustice of the American justice system. His speech was challenging and inspiring. I knew I wanted to talk more with Preston, so I invited him to be on the RavenCast. You can hear his story by clicking on the MP3 or watching the video below.
Salvation is not just a matter of what happens to me after I die, but that like Paul says, in Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. There are so many places in this world where we need reconciliation – we have 2.3 million people in this country locked away from us, that the system has said, “These people can’t be reconciled they need to be separated and isolated.” And so for me experiencing salvation is about being reconciled, seeing just how alike we are.
Criminal Justice Reform
Children have dramatic potential to change from a dark past.
Solution is to have other person’s well-being at the top of our priority list. Right now our top priority is not their well-being, but punishment.
We need to get away from this punishment driven system and focus instead on investing in people’s healing and well-being.
A justice that focusses on healing, restoration, and transformation means that the needs of the victim and the person who inflicted harm are front and center.
We sacrifice people to our spirit of vengeance.
We need to invest in education, emotional healing, relationships that are going to be trustworthy and nurturing. And when that happens, you start to see dramatic change.
Scandinavians are closing their prisons because they don’t have anyone to put in them. But if someone does commit a crime, they are separated, but the countries invest in them to heal them as fast as possible. That’s success. But for the US, success is incarcerating people for as long as possible. And we claim that as justice.
The criminal justice system is not based on objectivity, but on vengeance.
We live in a culture of anger and fear. Donald Trump is the manifestation of our collective anger and fear. Fear of immigrants, refugees, police, prisoners, Latinos, Muslims… The church needs a different response because the most frequent command in scripture is to “not be afraid.”
Racism – statistically, black people are more likely to be arrested for the same crime and found guilty and sentenced to longer terms of incarceration.
You can’t talk about forgiveness and redemption on Sunday at church and then go be an agent of retribution and vengeance Monday through Friday. You can’t claim mercy for yourself, but then deny it for everybody else.
If God can’t forgive apart from the death penalty, then why would we be any different? It’s terribly important for us to confront this bad theology that says that God can’t forgive until he killed somebody. Our theologians have their hands full trying to deconstruct that narrative and prop up something new and more life giving in its place.
Things we can do:
Visit people in prison.
Become pen pals with people in prison.
Read the book, “And the Criminals with Him.”
Read the blog “Prodigal Sons.”
The more we can listen to prisoners and anybody who finds themselves marginalized – that’s what the ministry of Jesus was about.
Read scripture somewhere different and with people who are different. If you read Scripture in a prison, you will find things you have never seen before.