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By Nancy Bacon

Thoughts on 'Incarceration Nations'

From the Pastor’s Desk


September 15, 2018

Every year the Kern County Libraries recommend one book for all residents to read and discuss around the county. This year’s recommended book is “Incarceration Nations” by Baz Dreisinger. Given the number of prisons in Kern County, the way that incarceration affects societies and the questionable effectiveness of “rehabilitation,” this book is well chosen for discussion.

Dreisinger’s writes from her experiences as a teacher and as the founding director of the Prison-to-College Pipeline program at John Jay College in New York. She has visited prisons around the world observing differences that could encourage better policies and she will be speaking at CSUB on Oct. 30.

Most people do not see beyond the bars of our massive incarceration system, which has grown tremendously in the United States since the war on drugs began in the 1970s. Tax paying citizens fund these prisons, yet we tend to avoid seeing what we are buying.

There are moral, economic and practical reasons to consider how prisons affect the people who live and work in them. Christians are morally challenged by Jesus to visit people who are imprisoned and to show compassion. Economically, there are strong positive correlations between growing income inequality and incarceration rates in various countries, including our own. The enormous amount of money required to fund our prisons can not be used for other things, like needed improvements to state infrastructures and schools. Furthermore, human bodies become commodities that increase revenues at for-profit detention facilities. Do we want to be a part of that?

Practically, Dreisinger writes that prisons are “schools of crime” which return people to communities where crime rates can be predicted to increase. Why do we continue to chose a system of “correction” that doesn’t work? What would it take for us to consider other models that might be more effective for our communities?

After visiting prisons in Rwanda, a place violently torn apart by genocide, a puzzled Dreisinger asked a correctional officer how he could play football with prisoners that may have murdered his loved ones. The officer answered her, “There is a word called - how do you say? - forgiveness.”

Forgiveness - what a thought. Christians are instructed to practice this strange behavior, but are we stingy with it? Can we learn something from victims of crime and their paths to healing and restoration?

My church will host one of the book discussions, at 100 East E Street, on Thursday, Sept. 20 at noon. Bring a brown bag lunch and your thoughts about the book!

Peace be with you,

Pastor Nancy

About Tehachapi Community Church, UCC:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here!

The Tehachapi Community Church, UCC is an open and welcoming community of faith that believes that each person, created in the image of God, holds a piece of the truth. Therefore we respect each person’s unique spiritual journey. We invite you to experience the difference that religious freedom in a caring community can make in that journey.

We are located at 100 East E St., in Tehachapi. Worship and Sunday School are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Please join us for coffee and fellowship at our Friendship Hall after worship (approximately 11:30 a.m.).

All are welcome.


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