I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the concept of restorative justice will take hold in every community, that offenders will be concerned about victims of crime, that victims will learn more about reasons for crime, and that supporting the rights of victims will not be mutually exclusive of ensuring humane treatment for prisoners.
I have a dream that one day the legal defense of indigent prisoners will not go to the lowest bidder, but will be sought out by the best legal minds so that every arrested person may get constitutionally guaranteed excellent representation in the courtroom.
I have a dream that one day the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” will become a reality instead of a meaningless cliché, that investigating officers will avoid the curse of “tunnel vision” and seek all facts before making arrests, and that states’ attorneys will pursue conviction of proven criminals but also admit mistakes and wrongdoing and release those persons where accusations are unfounded. I look forward to that day when arrests are equally made with no regard to race, religion and gender.
I have a dream that a better system of choosing prosecutors can be established, in which prosecutors do not campaign for re-election on a platform of conviction totals, but instead seek public support based on their pursuit of justice. I look forward to that day when prosecutorial misconduct will not only be readily exposed, but pursued and punished with an equal vigor.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that those robed justices on the bench may not only find fairness and equality in sentencing from county to county, state to state, but that their fine legal minds can creatively develop alternatives to incarceration, especially in cases of non-violent crimes…alternatives that not only benefit the public and reduce the costs of prison systems, but also seek to positively impact lives of the accused. May that day come when rehabilitation supersedes retribution.
I have a dream that parole boards will no longer insist that prisoners show remorse before giving them consideration, but recognize that the system has its flaws, that there really are people behind bars who have been wrongly convicted, and that it is criminal to insist that these people lie in order to achieve freedom.
I have a dream that prison wardens and prison staff members will no longer become jaded by those who commit heinous crimes, but instead will recognize that all men and women have been created in the image of God. Even though many prisoners seem rebellious, insensitive and uncaring, I have a dream that leaders of prison systems will make efforts to give their occupants more education, more vocational training, more counseling, adequate medical care, and that prison staffers will receive improved professional training to better care for the large population of mentally challenged inmates.
My dream goes beyond those behind bars, those who put them there, and those who keep them there.
I have a dream that one day the general public will not only hear but accept our message that all prisoners, regardless of guilt or innocence, regardless of the nature of the crime, deserve humane treatment.
That will be the day when HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is no longer an agency with services limited to the State of Michigan, but has active chapters in every state!
That will be the day when we no longer have to worry about how to pay the electric bill, but will have dollars to improve and expand our essential ministry.
And that will be the day when we’ll have hundreds of volunteers gladly holding open doors for re-entering citizens as they exclaim, “Free at last…free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!”