Sunday, March 01, 2009



The other day I drove up California Highway 43 from Shafter to Hanford. I had a meeting to attend at the 1st Christian Reformed Church in Hanford and a couple of guys from New Hope were riding with me. It was dark by the time we drove home. As we traveled south we approached the town of Corcoran and I pointed to two areas along the highway that were very brightly lit and asked about them. The guys told me they were two state prisons. To make a long story a little shorter, our 63 mile drive revealed seven state prisons all lit up like Disneyland!

This discovery led to an interesting conversation. California has over 2 million people incarcerated. The United States has more people in prisons than any other country in the world. And the system doesn’t seem to be working. The percentage of recidivism is frightening. The prisons are overcrowded. Crime within the prisons is rampant. The cost is a drain on our economy. (My buddies in the car had a lot to say about how much the guards are paid and the power of their union!) I was informed that in California it costs the taxpayers almost $60,000 per prisoner per year to keep them locked up. The guys bemoaned the fact that we couldn’t seem to come up with a better way of dealing with a large percentage of the criminals who were being held for non-violent crimes.

Tonight I read Leviticus 6:1-7. God instructed Moses about what was to be done with people who deceive, steal, lie about property, swear falsely, etc. When they are found guilty they must return what was stolen or extorted, or what was entrusted to them, or lost property that was found, or what they swore falsely about. They are to make restitution in full and add a fifth of the value to the restitution. Additionally, in order to be forgiven and allowed back into the community, they have to bring a sacrifice to the priests.

What an excellent plan! Instead of keeping such criminals in prison, why not make sure they have paying jobs so they can make restitution? When restitution is made then they can become full, valued citizens of the community again! It seems counterproductive to put a young man in prison for stealing something. More than likely he will become a hardened man or a gang member or a more skillful criminal. We have enough wise people who could come up with a good plan for making something like this work. It would dramatically thin out the prisons’ populations and radically cut down on the high percentage of recidivism.


At 9:56 AM, Anonymous shaggy said...

I love the way you think Dave.

Arguably it is about retribution, not restitution or rehabilitation. Punish them.

There is a man I know very well who spent 30 days in the county on a contempt of court charge. His punishment, 30 days or $1000 fine. Seeing how he had $118 to his name, 30 days was the sentence. He then used his one call to have a church buddy contact his other retired church brother, who was currently employing him for home repairs and owed him $350. Would he loan him $650, which he would work off, seeing how the work was incomplete and get him out of jail? No. WTF!?

You see, this man had sinned in a fairly public way prior to this current sin. So the thought was helping was akin to aiding and abetting. Helping with the Lord's punishment was in order.

What was the charge? Arrears in Child Support.

It cost $40 a night to house him in the county. Which they billed him for. Sounds alot like debtors prison to me.

So he was punished and it was felt he would learn his lesson.

A lesson was learned alright.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...


I'm not exactly sure who your are but thanks for stopping by here. Strangely, your story sounds familiar to me. I'm not positive but it seems VERY familiar. Should I know you?

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous shaggy said...

This story just dramatizes the need to bestow the mercy of Christ on broken men and women who otherwise would make good, given real alternatives to their predicament, rather than punish because we can. Are we capable of forgiving, as Christ forgives, without exacting a pound of flesh first?

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Thanks, Shaggy, well said.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Moxymama said...

Hi Dave,
So it appears I mixed up some of my husband's family. The uncle I was referring to is a minister in Joshua Tree, Robert Whaley. His grandparents lived in Shafter and Tulare until their deaths. Uncles on his mother's side still live there (hence my confusion) but they are not ministers. His grandmother Anna Neufeld still resides there (until this week when she is being moved out to AZ.) Small world nonetheless!

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Moxymama said...

Sure, no problem. That's interesting that the church is so huge there. My husband left the Mennonite church about 7 years ago and we now attend a Lutheran church. His father though is currently a Mennonite minister in Phoenix, AZ but his church is VERY small (maybe 30 members) and struggling.

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Troy Gentz said...

good stuff again - shaggy has so really good things too- I get real nervous of people handing out the Lords punishment like that on Shaggy's friend - Like Shaggy was saying a lesson was learned - may those who know mercy give out mercy with great generosity


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