Tim Mitchinson writes of a prison inmate finding his way out of crime to a productive life by understanding his true spiritual identity. As Tim says, “This inner voice [of Christ] speaks to everyone, telling us of our worth and essential goodness as a child of God.” Tim’s blog was first published in Illinois’ Daily Herald on June 29, 2017.
Good news for New York can be good news for Illinois. New York City has achieved one of the lowest crime rates the metropolis has ever seen. Last year, gang-related killings were down by almost a third from the year before. Police Commissioner James O’Neill credits a new approach for offenders: “Either be arrested or seek help for their problems, such as job training, counseling, or mentoring.” This is evidence that we can help individuals leave behind illegal and degrading ways and find a progressive and moral life.
The recent book, Place Matters: Criminology for the Twenty-First Century by David Weisburd and others, explains a shift in attention “from people to events, from those who commit crimes to the crimes themselves.” It appears that more and more law enforcement officials are discovering the effectiveness of separating the crime from the criminal. In other words, if we can learn to treat the offender and help him find a better sense of himself, we can bring healing into many lives, and decrease crime itself.
This differentiation between the individual and the sin is not a new way of thinking. As a matter of fact, it was practiced successfully over 2000 years ago by Christ Jesus who brought reformation and healing into the lives of those he met. It seems to me the reason he was called the “friend of publicans and sinners” is that where most of us would see someone as dirty, criminal or unworthy, Jesus saw a child of God and this divine understanding and love brought changes in the individual’s character and lifestyle.
The same is true today. Louis Fuentes can attest to that. Incarcerated in upstate New York for crimes committed under the influence of drugs, he desperately wanted to heal the dishonesty and addictions that had run rampant in his life.