Prison State

I feel like the PBS Frontline special, “Prison State,” captures my experience very well. The young woman, Demetria, is every youth I have encountered. The best point that the special makes is:

“We need to distinguish who we are mad at and who we are afraid of.”

If we rehabilitated the folks we are “mad” at, we would slash the rate of imprisonment. Are we really afraid of a non-violent drug user? A youth who habitually is truant?

The stories are just tragic. Generations of imprisonment. We complain that the families are “broken” and that is where the fault lies, but we created the broken families through a process of institutional racism that locked up fathers starting generations ago.

The sins of society are visited on the children.

To watch the special, go here:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2365235229/

Source: "No Place for Kids," Annie E. Casey Foundation
Source: “No Place for Kids,” Annie E. Casey Foundation
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One Small Fact about Incarceration

For some reason this publishes in black font on a black page, so I’m republishing!

Just in case you wanted to know:

The US imprisons African Americans at the rate of 5.5 to 1 while Washington state is at 6.5 to 1. Overall, the white population in Washington outnumbers the African American population at the rate of 20:1. For the United States, 16:3. So Washington, while having a lower minority population, imprisons their minorities at a higher rate.

The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition

Just in case you wanted to know:
The US imprisons African Americans at the rate of 5.5 to 1 while Washington state is at 6.5 to 1. Overall, the white population in Washington outnumbers the African American population at the rate of 20:1. For the United States, 16:3. So Washington, while having a lower minority population, imprisons their minorities at a higher rate.

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You Can Do It: A Good Friday Homily

Delivered at Liberation UCC in Seattle on 4/18/2014-Good Friday.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour, the disciple received her as his own. -John 19:26-27, translation, mine

What if every time we left a vulnerable, grieving member of our family behind, we turned to another beloved and said, “Please, receive my family as your family.” But we are not taught to do this! Our culture has us holding our chin up! Standing on our own two feet! You should learn to be self-reliant!

Have you heard these messages? “You can do it if you try!”

Recently, as in Tuesday, I heard similar words come from a youth’s mouth. He is 15, from a marginalized area in Seattle, and struggling in detention. He and I were talking about what his next steps were and what his dreams of life were. He described a future where he could have a house that his family lived in—his mother and brothers and where he could have a game room and a workout room. Maybe, it would be a game room – slash – workout room—that was negotiable.

Taking that as his vision for his life, we talked about accomplishments that would enable him to achieve his vision of a cared for, stable, ordinary family and house. He expressed the thought that he should get a job now while his rent was free so he could save all his money and buy a house when he was 18. He could do it! All by himself! All he needed was a job at the Boys and Girls Club that pays $600 per month and he’s good. He can do it if he tries. It is all in his hands.

Never mind that he has a criminal record. Never mind that he can’t do math or science and probably will not be able to graduate high school. Never mind that he has nobody in his community to help him—I asked. None of that matters. He has bought the cultural ideal of independence and self-reliance.

The question is, what comes next? What will happen when this youth cannot get a bank loan, a full time job, or a GED? He will blame himself, not the systems that have failed him. And in blaming himself, he will be filled with shame and sadness.

In these words of Christ, we could hear not a nice moment of care-taking between beloved disciple and mother, but a command of how we should care for one another, especially those who are vulnerable. These words of Christ call out to us to receive our vulnerable youth, those affected by incarceration, gangs, and substance abuse.

What difference would it make to a vulnerable youth to have some behold them! See them! Love them! Receive them!

Interestingly, another possibility examining the word for “receive” in Greek elaben is the word “catch.” Doesn’t that really bring a different feeling to this? We are not only being called to receive the vulnerable among us, but to catch them. Provide a safety net that will enable them to grow into all that they were created to be.

Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son—and you—behold your mother.”

What if we said, What if we said, “People, behold your children—and you—behold your people.” What a difference it would make.

Amen? Amen!

Rev. Terri Stewart

Being a Remembrancer

I found this to be spot on!

“Prison Chaplain — a ‘remembrancer’
In such a context, I think, the easy distinction between ministry that is unquestioningly supportive and one that is prophetically transforming does not actually make a great deal of sense. It’s true that, because of the isolation of people from their usual support systems, confrontation, and the explicit call to repentance or change, are not likely to be helpful, to say the least; they may have short term effect — but only as another way of offering a new and ‘safe’ identity in a strange land. But a ministry that asks no questions will not, as I’ve said, bring people nearer to what will genuinely feed or sustain them. The notion that seems to me to capture what most matters here is that of a ministry of ‘reminding’. The chaplain, to use an old fashioned word, is a ‘remembrancer’. Central to a ministry conceived in these terms is the patience to explore the vulnerability that underlies the pressure towards reinventing yourself in the way that new institutions encourage. Central also is the willingness to work with someone to bring to light a vital sense of what in fact has made them the person they are, what still shapes reactions and expressed instincts.”

http://www.justicereflections.org.uk/pdf-files/jr7.pdf

Can you keep watch?

April 17-18

-17th from 9:00 p.m. to the 18th at noon

“Could you not keep watch with me even one hour?” Matthew 26:40

Youth-Chaplaincy-Coalition and Faith Action Network (FAN) invite you to a virtual and placed prayer and meditation vigil raising consciousness for youth affected by incarceration, racism, and gun violence.

Event link: Here.

DETAILS

Anyone and everyone can participate in the vigil! This event has purposely been scheduled during Holy Week in the Christian Tradition and this vigil is open to all people of all faiths (or of no particular faith) who wish to raise consciousness for youth affected by incarceration, racism, and gun violence.

The VIRTUAL vigil begins at 9:00 pm PST on Maundy Thursday, April 17 and continues through the night until NOON PST on Long Friday, April 18.

The PLACED vigil will be observed in silence from 6 am – Noon on Long Friday, April 18 in the Chapel at Epiphany Parish Seattle. Information from the Washington Alliance for Responsible Gun Ownership, FAN, The Church Council of Greater Seattle, and YCC will be available at Epiphany. If you would like to share silent prayer and meditation in community please join us in Epiphany’s Chapel.

IF you want your NAME and/or a Prayer or Message included on a prayer chain we’re creating to bring with us to Juvie in May to show the youth visually how many folks were and are keeping watch with them, please RSVP yes and/or post a comment. We will add a link to the chain with your first name on it.

We’ve invited almost 800 people to participate – wouldn’t it be awesome if we had hundreds of links in our chain showing the youth how connected we are? Please SHARE the invitation with everyone and anyone you think would keep watch with youth affected by incarceration, racism, and gun violence. We will share photos of the prayer chain after the retreats in May.

If you would like to see prayers, readings, and images posted by YCC on the hour throughout vigil please like the the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition FB page.

Once you sign up you don’t need to do anything, but pray or meditate. If you’re moved toward action beyond this vigil – may it be so.

With deep gratitude for your witness and love,

Emily Linderman, Chaplain Intern
& The Rev. Terri Stewart, Founder and Director
The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition

keepingwatch