Grace Goes To Prison

TEDx Talk on Prisons as a LAST RESORT

Grace Marie Hamilton has taught me so very much, both through the extensive interviews with her that went into writing “Grace Goes to Prison”, and in the years since the book’s publication, as she has become both my mentor and teacher. Grace Marie has a number of “sayings” that she’s shared with me. One of them is:

“Prisons should be used ONLY for the people we don’t yet know how to help.”

I recently had the honor of being one of the speakers at a TEDx event, and I used what Grace Marie taught me to craft a talk around the radical suggestion that our prisons should be used only as an option of last resort. Here it is:

TEDx Talk: #PrisonAsALastResort

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Prayers for Jerry, from “Grace Goes to Prison”

Those of you who read “Grace Goes to Prison” may recall stories of a man named Jerry in the book. After 27 years of incarceration, Jerry will go in front of the Parole Board for the first time on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 . . .

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The NOW Generation of Peacemakers

I spent last evening with 15 long-time community activists and peacemakers. Men and women from right here in Lancaster County who have been involved for years in a variety of causes, from environmental issues to global peacemaking to matters of social justice. All are in the “second half of life” and have already had long careers as lawyers, teachers, healthcare workers, business people, and other professions . . .

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A Sea Change, Rich and Strange

The strong breeze ruffling the curtains of my office window today is a cool weather front coming in, according to the weatherman. A harbinger of the impending change of season. It seems an appropriate metaphor for something else I’ve been feeling lately . . .

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Restorative Justice and Violent Crime - Part 2

In my last post, I shared the first part of Jenny’s story – about her request to meet with the man who had killed her brother, and the journey of preparing for that meeting. Today’s post is about their face to face meeting . . .

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Restorative Justice and Violent Crime - Part 1

In an earlier post in this series, I told the story of Michael and Mr. Good, and how restorative justice was utilized as an alternative to the criminal justice process. This post is about a different type of restorative justice program, for victims of violent crime . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part4

Today’s post is the final segment of a 4-part post of the keynote speech I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

Boise, Albuquerque and City Heights aren’t the only places striving to incorporate restorative practices into the very fabric of their communities . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 3

Today’s post is the third in a 4-part post of the keynote speech I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

The last question I’d like for us to consider is when we apply restorative justice principles . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 2

Today’s post is the second in a 4-part post of the keynote address I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

Let me get back to the quilt story . . . and another question it raises. That is the question of who we might involve in RJ efforts . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 1

I’ve been asked to share the keynote address I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner. So, I’ll post it in 4 segments here on my blog over the next 4 days.

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Joe and Red

Joe* is being paroled today after 34 years in prison. He is 58 years old. He was about the same age as my son – 24 years old – when he was sent to prison, before his adult life had ever really begun . . .

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Not About the Book

“How was the book tour?” is one of many questions people have been asking in the last couple of days. There are so many possible responses to that question, so many experiences and challenges and things I’ve learned along the way that I will need to reflect on and process and ponder. It may take me weeks, even months to fully understand and formulate my replies to that question.

But my initial response is this . . .

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One Last River to Cross

I drove along the Monongahela River and up the winding hills out of Morgantown to I-68 just after the morning rush hour. A few miles after that came the glittering Cheat Lake, fed by the Cheat River . . .

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Take Me Home

Had some real John Denver moments today as I made my way north and east along winding country roads through Kentucky horse country and then into West Virginia. Despite the torrential rains that pounded out a drumbeat on the windshield for the first 100 miles or so, it was a gorgeous drive . . .

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Re-entry

For weeks now, I’ve been thinking every day about what it will be like to get back home after 74 days on the road (almost THERE!!! see Countdown clock at right!!)

Various metaphors have come to mind: astronauts re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, sailors returning home from sea, explorers returning from an expedition . . .

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Walking in the City on a Hill

Cincinnati is a city of hills. Local legend says it was built on seven hills, like Rome, though as I drove up and down, around and through the city, it seemed there were way more than seven. (the van does NOT like hills, either up or down) . . .

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A Stranger in . . . Goshen

Midwestern friendliness has abounded in my week spent here in Hoosier country. Indiana is surely one of the prettiest and most welcoming places in the country . . .

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The Value of Tears

I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately. Maybe because I’ve been shedding so many of them. Don’t know if it’s menopause, exhaustion or just too many hours and too many miles traveling alone. Whatever the reason, it’s prompted me to think about the value of tears (no, not the vale of tears…

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The Passion of Youth, The Wisdom of Elders

College-age peace activists . . . new professors and those with long experience . . . retired social workers, doctors, teachers, pastors, peace activists and others . . . people working to build a fledgling mentoring program for women transitioning out of prison . . . founders of one of oldest programs for perpetrators of domestic abuse in the country . . . all have been part of my journey through Indiana over the past several days.

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Impromptu Pilgrimage

Elkhart, Indiana: a town of about 50,000 people at the confluence of the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers in the north-central part of the state. It’s been known as the “Band Instrument Capital of the World” and “RV Capital of the World.” But neither of those was the reason I decided to make an impromptu stop there on my way through this part of the state . . .

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One for the Choir

United Church of Christ, Church of the Brethren and Presbyterian groups in Madison, WI, Chicago and Elgin, IL have hosted me in the past week to share stories of restorative justice and Marie’s work in the prisons . . .

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Interviews on RJ, prison reform, Brethren roots and other good stuff

In the past few weeks, a radio interview, YouTube videos and a web interview have been posted where I’ve talked about restorative justice, Marie’s prison work, prison reform, the Church of the Brethren and other topics. So, in case you’re interested, here are the links.

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One - Revisited

“I am trying to prepare myself for the outside life but how do I do that when I don’t even know what it is or how to expect it,” a man named Rocky wrote to Marie Hamilton shortly before his release from prison. “Believe it or not I don’t know if I want to come out there. Right now I am thinking about turning down parole. . . . Everyone has fears and this one of mines now. If I had someone I could talk to maybe I would feel differently…”

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Imagine

Imagine arriving in a new place, with nothing but a few dollars and the clothes on your back. You don’t have a roadmap or any reliable means of transportation. You aren’t sure where to go or where you’ll stay tonight. You haven’t eaten for hours and aren’t sure where your next meal will come from. You don’t know anyone – at least not anyone who could really help you . . .

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Preparing the Fields

They’re preparing the fields for planting here in Iowa, where I spent most of yesterday driving straight up through the middle of the state on I-35, past farming communities with idyllic names like Garden Grove, Winterset, Swaledale and Woolstock . . .

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Postscript

So many friends and family members have called me or sent emails already this morning to check up on me after yesterday’s blog post. Thank you! I wanted to add a little postscript to yesterday’s post . . .

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One

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Actually, it’s a little surprising that it hadn’t happened before now. But this morning, it struck without warning, with the force of a Kansas twister . . .

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Regional Oddities

As I’ve traveled across the country, I’ve discovered some unusual regional customs, foods and other miscellany. Here are a few . . .

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Small Town Wonders

“Snow . . . accumulations . . . high winds,” the weatherman said. High winds are nothing new. I’ve been dealing with those since Oklahoma . . .

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The Long Haul - Part Two

Driving east into the sunrise out of Albuquerque, the colors of the landscape changed from chili-powder red to the browns and golds of cumin and turmeric as the miles rolled away beneath my wheels . . .

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The Long Haul - Part One

Have you ever been a victim of your own stupidity? Well, on Monday morning, I was . . .

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Midway Oasis

Apache Junction, Tempe, the Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren and the Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren have all offered a peaceful oasis for the past four days . . .

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Kindred Spirits . . . and Starfish

An evening of meeting and talking with kindred spirits here in New Mexico has re-energized me and renewed my hope that restorative justice can and will take hold . . .

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Uniquely Texas

Friday’s long drive across western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and into New Mexico yielded some interesting photos. Here are some gems that are uniquely Texas

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Exodus House and Redemption Church in Oklahoma City

I spent Thursday afternoon and evening with folks from Exodus House and Redemption Church, two ministries run by the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church. These and other programs are part of their “Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries” (CJAMM), directed by the Reverend Dr. Stan Basler, who had invited me to visit . . .

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

Spent several hours at the Oklahoma City National Memorial yesterday. These photos express the swirl of emotions I felt there.

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

I’ve encountered some interesting, disturbing, attention-grabbing and downright strange signs along the highways and byways . . .

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Other gems and nuggets

DINER WISDOM: In a choice between a chain restaurant and a “Mom & Pop,” always choose the “Mom & Pop” . . .

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Bits of wisdom gleaned along the way

When you cross a mighty river . . .

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Downshift

After a very intense start to this journey, I’ve downshifted into a couple of quiet days in Nashville. I’ve felt somewhat guilty for not having more meetings and speaking gigs set up here, but about half a dozen Nashville-based organizations and individuals I had contacted repeatedly over the past several months just didn’t seem interested enough to respond. I’m not sure why. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, and a little depressing, but finally I had to just let it go and decided to give myself a little break and do some sightseeing.

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The list goes on

The list of great people I’ve met goes on and on . . . here are several more:

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Activists, Peacemakers and Rabble Rousers

Okay, now that I’ve “vented” a little about some of the dissenting voices I heard last week, I’d like to tell you about some of the other wonderful and inspiring people I’ve met who are dedicated and passionate activists, peacemakers and rabble-rousers, each “troubling the waters” in their own way . . .

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Troubling the water

It’s been an interesting week here in the south, where I’ve managed to shake things up, stir the pot, and do some rabble-rousing. I’ve encountered people who sharply disagree with the message of restorative justice . . .

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Renewed

After a hectic couple of days with 3 speaking gigs in 36 hours, I had a chance to regroup…

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Shine a Light

I woke this morning to grey skies and a grey cat peering down at me through the rooftop skylights. It seems “Bubba Bad Boy” has appointed himself my bodyguard and guardian angel (he also occasionally poses as a hood ornament for the RoadTrek). But I had to leave him behind as I left the comfortable cocoon of being among dear old friends and familiar landscapes. It was time to head further south, first to Roanoke and then on to Greensboro, NC . . .

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Things that go bump in the night

THUD!
My eyes fly open.
Whawazzat? my sleep-addled brain sputters.
I hold my breath and listen.
Nothing.
Did I dream it?
Still silence.
Maybe I kicked something…
I listen for a moment longer
Then start drifting back to…

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Traveling Mercies

With 5 days and 385 miles under my belt, this week has been filled with traveling mercies . . .

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The journey begins

The official start of this journey was a little anti-climactic, as my first speaking gig was canceled due to a forecast of snow. The snow never materialized, but blessings did . . .

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With love and gratitude

An endeavor like this would be impossible without the love and support of many people. So, on the eve of my departure, and, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day, here’s a small expression of my love and gratitude for each of them . . .

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Listing

A recent exhibit at the Louvre was titled “The Vertigo of Lists.” In explaining his chosen theme, guest curator Umberto Eco said that lists help human beings to “make infinity comprehensible . . . to create order.” Ultimately, Eco says, “We like lists because we don’t want to die” . . .

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