I had a special moment at midnight last night, and that doesn't happen often in this business.
We received word from one of our contacts behind bars: Our friend John, a parolable lifer, walked free yesterday! I took a moment to thank God before I crawled into bed.
John is the first to admit that he and his friends committed a horrible crime back in the 70s, while high on drugs. There was no excuse for it, and the parolable life sentence was justified.
John was 15 at that time. He's going on 55 right now, having spent the majority of his life in prison.
I'm so pleased to report that he didn't continue on an evil path during his incarceration. He was determined to improve himself, and to do things for others. His prison record reflects all of his accomplishments, as well as his personal improvement. Even with all of that, it was a long and difficult road to freedom. Many still believe he should remain in prison. In fact, when a newspaper published a story indicating that he might be paroled, there were bitter and vindictive comments cowardly penned by anonymous readers. 50 pages of them! It's amazing how we pray for and expect forgiveness for our past transgressions, but we're not ready to offer any forgiveness to others.
The good news is that one parolable lifer walked free this week. Based on statistics, the chances of him re-offending are almost nil. I know the man, and I know he won't.
The bad news is that many more men and women in this aging group of inmates are not being released. The Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending estimates that if just half of the eligible prisoners eligible for parole were released, the state would save $17-million.
I once spotted a little poster in the office of a person who worked with mentally challenged children. Scrawled on a cheap piece of paper with crayon were the words: GOD DON'T MAKE NO JUNK.
I thought of that, and believed it, when I heard that John was finally going to enter the free world...a healed and restored human being. But I almost questioned it when I read 50 pages of terrible comments about his pending release. Still, based on what I believe, even those people will experience God's forgiveness. That's just the way his amazing grace works.
Back to Michigan's shameful record with lifers: It's time for change and reform in our state's parole process. We keep people in prison longer than any other state.
It's negatively affecting lives. It's costing us dollars.