Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 28, 2009
U.S. Incarceration Rates Hit an All-Time High
On March 28, 2009, The Pew Center study of American prisons released its publication, “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008.” This report found that U.S. incarceration rates were the highest in history of the world. With over 2.3 million people being held behind bars in 2008, the U.S. prison population had exploded to the point that our nation had exceeded the prison populations of countries like China, Russia, and Iran. The report called for fewer low-risk offenders to be sent to jail and a change in criminal justice policy.
Today, Latino males have a 1 in 6 chance of being incarcerated within their lifetime, while Black men have a 1 in 3 chance. Between 1980 and 2014, the number of women behind bars increased 700 percent, the fastest-growing segment of the prison population. 1 in 16 African-American women and 1 in 45 Latina women — in contrast to 1 in 111 white women — will see the inside of a prison at some point in their lifetime, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Moreover, over eighty thousand inmates per day are locked in solitary confinement, where they are quarantined in a 12×7 concrete cell (smaller than a standard horse stall), frequently for 23 hours a day, and are only allowed access to outdoor access and human interaction for one hour. There are currently more than 2,500 individuals serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, for crimes they committed as children. Seventy percent of these life-without- parole convictions, for kids 14 or younger, were of children of color.
Additionally, some 10,000 children are housed in adult jails and prisons on any given day in the U.S. Incarcerating children with adults has been proven to needlessly put them at risk. Children who are incarcerated in adult correctional facilities have been found to be five times more likely to be sexually assaulted during their incarceration than they would be if they were housed in juvenile facilities. Juveniles incarcerated with adults have also been found to be more likely to commit suicide, during and after their incarceration.
One in three Americans — 70 million to 100 million people — have a criminal record, and roughly half of all children (between 33 million and 36.5 million) have a parent with a criminal record.
Between 1990 and 2010 there was a 1600% increase in the number of privately operated prisons in the U.S. By 2013, 10% of all prisons in the U.S. were privately operated.
A 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center noted bluntly that “prisons and jails have become America’s new asylums.” The report also said that “Ten times more mentally ill people are now in jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals.”
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: PSALM 102:18-22
“Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day27
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: Prayer for Prisoners and Correctional Institutions (2007)
“Lord Jesus, for our sake you were condemned as a criminal: Visit our jails and prisons with your pity and judgment. Remember all prisoners, and bring the guilty to repentance and administration of life according to your will, and give them hope for their future. When any are held unjustly, bring them release; forgive us, and teach us to improve our justice. Remember those who work in these institutions; keep them humane and compassionate; and save them from becoming brutal or callous. And since what we do for those in prison, O Lord, we do for you, constrain us to improve their lot. All this we ask for your mercy’s sake.”