Currently there are two bills before the Pennsylvania General Assembly regarding parole for lifers. They are House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 942. There is not much support for these bills. In order for either one to get passed they would need much more support. Ironically, churches don’t seem to be supporting these bills. Why? Should Christians support parole for worthy lifers?
In the Bible prisoners have played key roles in God’s work. Paul spent a lot of time in prison. He said “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself” (Heb. 13:1), and “Remember my chains” (Col. 4:18). Jesus was also a prisoner and takes it personally when we don’t help prisoners: “I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.” They replied: “Lord, when did we see you…in prison and not help you?” And He answered: “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me. And they will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:43-46). That’s serious stuff. No ambiguity there. Christians have an obligation to help worthy prisoners.
Christ died for all, not just for people with clear criminal records. God is still in the business of forgiveness. He is still working in the hearts and minds of prisoners. His love, compassion, and mercy haven’t diminished. He has transformed the lives of many lifers who would be valuable assets in their communities. Many are now worthy of consideration for parole! God has not given up on us, and neither should society. Lifers should have an opportunity to demonstrate the good work God has done in their lives.
It also makes sense financially to support parole for many lifers. It costs millions of dollars to house one prisoner for life. In Pennsylvania there are more than 5100 lifers, which adds up to billions of dollars to house them. It costs about $3500 per year to supervise someone on parole. The cost to house a prisoner over thirty-five years of age is over $70,000 annually. Aging prisoners with medical issues cost even more. This is a heavy taxpayer burden that could be relieved by giving lifers parole eligibility. Paroling one lifer would save taxpayers $66,500 per year ($70,000 – $3500). In addition, the lifers would be working and paying their fair share of taxes.
Therefore, I believe that Christians should support parole for worthy lifers. What do you think? Please contact your outside church and Christian friends and tell them about H.B. 135 and S.B. 942. Get the discussion going. If they support parole for lifers ask them to contact their state representatives and senators to ask for support for these bills.
Thank you for prayerfully considering this issue. I encourage everyone to read their Bibles, meditate on the Word, and answer this question for themselves. Please submit your comments to our website: www.PrisonMentoring.com
You can also send your comments and encouragement to David Mandeville in a plain white envelope with a return address in the top left corner (or you can use ours: Prison Mentoring, Box 310, Hilltown, PA 18927) You must put his name and DOC Number on the first line of the address:
David Mandeville DN7632 1000 Follies Road Dallas, PA 18612
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ministry partner, Ed Spencer, wrote the following commentary on this article:
This article was written by an inmate in the Pennsylvania department of Corrections. He is a “lifer”. I would like to share some insights to add to his article. The fact is that most people don’t know, and few care about, the plight of these inmates. The reality is, not all inmates are bad people! Not all inmates are career criminals. In the state of Pennsylvania there are approximately 5100 inmates serving Life behind bars. About 10% of them were teenagers when they committed the crime. Pennsylvania has the highest population in the nation for JLWOP’s. (Juvenile Life With Out Parole)
For many of these guys, their crime was one a onetime offense spurred on by teenage poor judgment, raging teen hormones, raging teen anger, failure to realize and understand the true consequences, and sometimes a product of abuse and culture. They exhibit poor judgment and often fail to really understand the consequences of their actions. These are facts that science has proven true for all teenagers. Even the Supreme Court agrees, and has ruled that teenagers (and up to age 25) have undeveloped parts of the brain that are responsible for adult judgment and for understanding the true consequences of their actions. That does not give them a pass, but I do believe this should be taken into consideration. Do we just throw them out with the trash?
Many of the guys that we mentor through our groups, “Prison Mentoring” and “Fourth World Ministries” are devout and solid Christians; heavily involved in the Prison Chapel, Prison Inside Ministries, and their Missions Programs… which reach outside of the “Fourth World” institutions they inhabit. They are amazing disciples of Christ!
David Mandeville, the author of this article, is just one example of many worthy men whose life has been transformed and rehabilitated through their journey with Christ. They are the “unseen” and “forgotten “Christians…lets support them—they are our brothers in Christ!