The USA is truly an incredible place to live, and yet it is not perfect. One of the things that needs to change is the penal system. We are a country based on freedom, and yet ironically, we are one of the most incarcerated people in the world.
Corrections (which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole) cost around $74 billion in 2007 according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2016, the Prison Policy Initiative estimated that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 323.1 million.
Jack Nicholson had a memorable line in the movie A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” We have a problem and it is not going to change without fixing the root issue. We seem to be very efficient in punishing people but not so good at helping rehabilitate them and addressing the cause.
A Bureau of Justice Statistic study found inmates released from state prisons have a five-year re-arrest rate of 76.6%. A USSC study calculated comparable federal prisoners released have a 44.7% re-arrest rate after five years. How is that even possible? Those are grim figures that should wake you up whether you are in prison or you are free. Our prisons have revolving doors.
I don’t have any quick fixes, but simple observations. People in jail or prison need to know that somebody cares about them. Well, if you are reading this, I am that somebody. I care, my wife cares, and God cares. There are many people outside the walls who care for you (even if you don’t know them).
What can we do as a society to change this problem?
- Fix the family. Broken homes often are a statistic associated with incarceration. Having a stable family unit is a step in the right direction.
- Racism has to be addressed. We all bleed red, yet for some reason there are those who look at people different from them as somehow less than them.
- People who are free should never take their freedom for granted. It can be taken away in a heartbeat with one stupid mistake (as I am sure many who are behind bars can attest to).
- Stay in touch with the people you know who have been incarcerated and let them know you love them and are there for them. Do what you can to help them, encourage them, and just be there for them.
- Help those who are released to find meaningful employment. If they can’t find a job, what do you think is likely to happen?
- We all need heart surgery. Everyone has the same issue. Make sure you have a right relationship with God first and foremost, then work on loving others, regardless of how they look or what they have done.
- Forgive everyone. Yes, we have to reap the consequences of our actions, but everyone deserves to be forgiven and given another chance. Forgive everyone, including yourself. Give people the opportunity to succeed. Failure is only fatal if we give up on life itself.
- There is a proverb that says: Evil company corrupts. That holds true whether you are free or not. The people that you hang out with on a regular basis are inevitably a reflection of who you are. Choose your friends wisely.
I hope you don’t just read this and forget about it. We each have to do our part to change society for the better. I am asking everyone who reads this to do what they can…the best that they can to make this country an even better place to live for us and future generations.
“Gimme a break, will ya?” Have you ever felt that way? You just want to get a break and the cards you’ve been dealt are not going to win any games. Breakthroughs are tricky because we never know when they are going to come our way. All we know is that we will only break through if we are willing to push through.
Life is an incredible adventure, but it can be exhausting if you are just constantly focused on a breakthrough. Learn a valuable lesson and you will experience a lot less stress and gain the peace that has eluded you.
The lesson is this: enjoy the journey. Some people are so focused on the destination or goal that they miss all the blessings along the way. When we lose the joy of the journey, we can lose our way and miss our breakthrough altogether.
I had to take a LYFT ride the other day. The driver was a young single mom. She had 3 kids and was struggling to make ends meet. We had a long ride together, so I got to know a lot about her.
As I told her who I was, I shared my faith with her and encouraged her to draw close to God as she looked for her breakthrough. I asked her if I could pray for her and if there was anything specific she needed. Tears welled up in her eyes and she told me she had some health problems and needed healing.
I prayed for her and then left her with this: we had a “divine appointment.” She thought she was picking up someone who needed a ride, and I thought I was just getting from point A to point B. God had different plans. He sent me to her to encourage and pray for her.
She was the one who got the LIFT. God sends us divine appointments every day. We just have to ask for them, and then be ready to go with the flow. You will learn to see the opportunities to help people all along the way to your breakthrough. That is the secret to joy and peace on the journey.
For this blog, SOS has a dual meaning. Of course, everyone knows it is the international signal for “Help,” but there is another meaning that I want you to consider. I call it “Stuck On Stupid.” They kind of go hand in hand, don’t they?
When I ask you if you have ever known anyone that was SOS, you could probably produce a long list fairly quickly. Here is the catch: Is YOUR name on the list? Have you ever been SOS?
I think most of us would have to admit that we have had our moments of insanity and wondered after the fact how we could have been so stupid. They say that “You can’t fix stupid.” I disagree. You may be Stuck On Stupid, but you can get unstuck if you are willing to change.
SOS people tend to have this in common:
- They don’t listen when people with common sense are telling them to change.
- They don’t learn from their mistakes.
- They don’t believe that they CAN change.
- They often are frustrated and angry people.
If you want to know how to get unstuck for that “friend,” it is pretty simple:
- Admit you need help and be willing to consider the advice from those that love and care for you. Just make sure the one giving you advice is not SOS.
- Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. Figure out how to get a better outcome. It is a lot less painful for you and everyone else. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn.
- Change is possible if you are willing to change. Be willing to take the risk. All change involves an element of risk, but the risk of not changing might very well be your worst nightmare.
- Manage your emotions. It is never OK to go off on others. Get therapy if necessary.
SOS people need help. Perhaps you will be the one to rescue them. Just understand that if they are SOS, they may resist your best efforts. Don’t take it personal. Love them, encourage them, and pray for them. Let God be the one to get their attention.
Air Force Special Operations Combat Controller Jack Fanning is a hero. He survived five tours in Afghanistan. Then the unthinkable happened: his parachute failed and left him paralyzed from the neck down. Here is the amazing thing: he is not bitter. He is not blaming God. His attitude is: There is a reason for everything. He believes it was allowed to happen so he could help other Veterans who are disabled. Since he truly knows their pain, they listen to Jack.
I don’t know how I would react to such a tragedy and I pray I never have to find out, but I do know that when life smacks you in the face you have two choices:
- You can lay there and die, or
- You can get up and try.
Here are some takeaways from his testimony:
- Be thankful for what you have, because it could be taken from you at any moment.
- Faith in God will help you though the darkest hours you face.
- Your faith will sustain you; lack of it will restrain you.
- There is nothing good that comes out of remaining angry over what happened. Bitterness is a deep root that can destroy you if you let it. Get rid of the root.
- Bad things can happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. Life is not fair, so don’t be surprised by it.
- Whatever happens to you, find a way to get the focus on others. Regardless of how you feel at the moment, it is never just about you.
- You have to believe in yourself. When the tragedy happens, your true character is revealed. When you get squeezed, what comes out? I have to admit that I am sometimes embarrassed at how I react to things. I am working on responding vs reacting.
- Some storms you know are coming and some you don’t. Prepare for both.
- There is life after a tragedy. Jack still shoots, hunts, scuba dives, and even jumps out of airplanes.
Jack Fanning is the real deal.
If you would like to support his organization or just learn more, go to: