A week ago Allison Mueller Jones sent my book club an email about a free lecture at OSU by Piper Kerman about "Inequality in America's Criminal Justice System." Piper is the author of the book "Orange is the New Black" and currently a resident of Columbus teaching writing at both women's and men's prisons here in central Ohio. JoDee Davis and Marsha from our book club knew her and both work on programming at Marion Correctional Institute. So, five of us attended Piper's talk.
It was really interesting and I wrote down some statements which surprised me and other statements I am still pondering.
- The person who introduced Piper said that our prison system is both a mirror and an engine of inequality
- There has been a 650 percent increase in female incarceration in the past thirty to forty years
- Ohio has the biggest probation system in America
- Prisons and jails are tools of social control
- 80 percent of people who are arrested cannot afford lawyers
- when helping someone we should ask - "What do you need?"
Meanwhile JoDee started a program years ago called "Healing Broken Circles" which continues to help the men in Marion by "Providing space for healing and learning for those touched by the justice system" You can read about it in their website "www.Healing Broken Circles.org.
Afterwards the five of us went to JoDee's place and had a beautiful meal of spaghetti, salad, wine and klondike's and much conversation. We talked about politics, family, and of course the prison system. I learned about some of the difficult experiences that have been part of Jo Dee's work at Marion.
I have been working on a sermon based on Jesus statement: "You are the salt of the earth/" I could not help but recognize that in the face of systemic inequality in our country - the prison system being just one example - it is inspiring to see people who are willing to do their little bit to bring healing and hope. Whether it is Piper writing and speaking or Jo Dee and Marsha working behind the scenes - the salt seasons and brings new life.
We live in a world that is dividing us all the time and I continue to follow the one who calls us to love and to unity and oneness. Here is a prayer by Maxine Shonk
May you be blessed by the God who invites all to be ONE
who draws you ever nearer,
speaking to you of unity and true community where you are surrounded by love and truthy.
May this God uphold you and inspire you.
May the gift of community arise from within you,
radiate around you and extend itself throug you
to the ends of the earth.
May the blessing of the ONE GOD be with you