I have always believed that St. James was right when he says in the Bible: “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)
Faith and works are the two sides of the same coin – anyone who calls themselves a Christian must have both.
Christians have just observed Easter, and for Christians, Easter is a time for renewing their faith and thinking about new ways to live this faith out in the real world. In a town like Leavenworth with several large prisons, one way to practice one's Christian faith is to do what Christ told us to do – visit and minister to those in prison.
Not everyone has the time to become deeply involved in prison ministry, but for those who are drawn to such a ministry, let me mention something that can be done that does not take a lot of time and would be immensely helpful to those in prison.
Recently I saw on his Facebook page that our newly-elected City Commissioner Jermaine Wilson has gone back to the prison where he was incarcerated for three years to talk to the inmates about the success he has achieved in the time since his release from prison. I applaud him most strongly for having done so. Having done prison ministry for 25 years, one of the most common questions I get from inmates is: “Will people on the outside be willing to give me a second chance when I get out?” The fact that Mr. Wilson was able to get elected to our city commission shows that a lot of people are willing to give those who have been in prison a second chance.
For those individuals in the community who would like to help out people in prison, let me suggest that if you know anyone who has been an inmate, and who has turned their lives around since getting out, tell their story to someone in Leavenworth who is active in prison ministry so that they can share it with those in prison.
I am well aware that in our high-crime society, ministering to those in prison is a ministry that many people see as apologizing for the crimes committed by inmates. And as a professor of political science, I am well aware of how popular it is for politicians to proclaim: “Lock them up and throw away the key.” However, there is a crucial reality that must be faced here: 95 percent of those in prison today are going to be released at some point. If efforts are not made to get these men and women to turn their lives around, it is virtually certain that once released, they will again victimize innocent people. All of us have a stake in getting as many as possible of those now in prison to turn away from their past.
Ernest Evans is a Leavenworth Times columnist.