Sandy C. Freese


Back in high school a group of students met at stoner's corner on a daily basis. The corner was adjacent to school and that's where they would smoke pot to prepare for the day ahead. The stoners I'm discussing in this blog are a different breed. They are the individuals who believe that because they haven't fallen into situations that have led to incarceration, they have the right to judge those who have. They do not believe in rehabilitation or restoration. They are pious and unwilling to consider the plight of incarcerated citizens and the suffering of their families. They see punishment as the only way to deal with these criminals.

I don't often bring the bible into my blogs, but if you read the New Testament book of John, chapter 8, you will read of a woman who was found to have committed adultery. She was taken before Jesus. The crowd surrounding her believed that she should be stoned to death. After asking the opinion of Jesus, he stooped down and began to write on the ground with his finger. They continued to ask. Finally he said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone." He then stooped again and wrote on the ground. One by one the crowd dissipated, leaving only Jesus and the adulteress. He then turned to her and said, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" Her response, " No man, Lord." Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more."

Let me share with you another shining example of forgiveness. I received a phone call from an individual that lives in New Jersey several months ago. Alfredo Delgado asked for my assistance with the release of Carlos Ortiz, the man who took the lives of Alfredo's sister, nephew, and brother in law in a drunk driving accident. I asked Alfredo where his sense of forgiveness came from and if Carlos knew he had been forgiven. We began to correspond via email and spoke numerous times on the phone. After our initial conversation, Alfredo reached out to Carlos to assure him that his family had not only forgiven him, but would do whatever they could to see him released.

The decision Carlos made to drive under the influence has haunted him now for almost 15 years. We have been in contact now for about 7 months. Every day since he began his sentence, he has lifted the Delgado family up in prayer. He had a difficult time believing that they have forgiven him as he struggles to forgive himself. Before incarceration, Carlos was a marble installer and was in the process of building his company. One decision has completely changed the path to success he was on. Carlos is incarcerated in a Florida correctional institution where he has become a mentor to many. He shares his story and his feelings of remorse as a way of encouraging those reentering society to think before they make decisions that can lead to re-incarceration. We continue to fight for his release.

Not to be overlooked when considering forgiveness is the example of a young Black man who forgave a White female police officer after she had mistakenly shot his brother, Botham Jean, to death while he was in his apartment. According to my readings, Guyger thought she was in her Dallas, Texas apartment and that Botham was an intruder. 18 year old Brandt Jean spoke to Officer Amber Guyger as he made his victim impact statement, "If you truly are sorry, I know...I can speak for myself. I forgive you, and if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I don't think anyone can say it, but again, I'm speaking for myself, not even (inaudible) for my family. But I love you like anyone else. And I'm not gonna say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you, and I was never going to say this in front of my family, or anyone, but I don't even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be to give your life to Christ."

Is society served well by knowing that those who have committed crime will die behind bars after serving countless years for their convictions? Are we aware that many age out of their criminology and are no longer a threat to society? According to the Marshall Project, this is not atypical. In a 2015 article written by Dana Goldstein, there are many incarcerated citizens who suffer from age related illnesses and can not physically be a threat.

Considering the annual cost of housing an inmate in the United States provokes the question, "Is there a better way?" According to the Bureau of Federal Prisons, the annual cost of housing an inmate for one year in a federal facility was $39,158 in 2020. The cost of those in residential reentry centers was $35,663. As far as state facilities, the cost varies. According to IN.Gov, $19,202.65 is the average cost to house an inmate for one year in my home state of Indiana. This is a contrast to the state of Ohio where the average annual cost is $30,558.00. The annual rate to house an inmate in California is a staggering $106,101.00

Is retribution worth the cost, or would restorative justice be worth considering? What exactly does that mean? I encourage you to read the 5 Principles of Restorative Justice from CTRI (Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute), link below. Restorative justice attempts to describe a justice rooted in human dignity, healing, and interconnectedness. When those who have been perpetrated against come together with those who have committed crimes similar to what they have faced, a certain healing comes about. Accountability is a big part of restorative justice; there is a need for those who have committed crime to accept their actions. There is also a need to come to understand the dehumanizing treatment of this population. Through restorative justice, it is possible to lessen the likeliness of further crimes.,in%20the%20State%20of%20Indiana%20.

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