Cameron “C-Grimey” Williams and others in Chattanooga’s anti-police state protests have demanded penal reforms in the area of probation and parole.
It might be good for them to consider a more aggressive demand targeting the very institution of prison.
A more Christian view of prisons comes into the news cycle with news about protesters in Seattle forming what they call Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ. “The movement calls for abolishing imprisonment and replacing it with restorative/transformative accountability programs ” says Newsweek. “It is also demanding the release of prisoners serving time for marijuana-related offenses and resisting arrest if there are no other related charges, as well as expungement of their records.”
Reform of probation parole are among the demands of protesters who marched as of today 13 times in Chattanooga. None of the public speechmaking among the protesters has proposed abolition of prison — the total abolition of a state slavery operation that confined 21,806 people, oversaw 75,187 others in probation or parole and spent $1.036 billion in fiscal 2019, according to the annual report of the department of correction.
Are prisons godly or anti-Christ? Is the demand to abolish prisons anarchy and mayhem, or obedient to biblical precept (or at least going in that direction)?
Prison rejects God’s law, local economy
In a nutshell, prison fails to bring justice to the victims of wrongs such as robbery, theft, rape, kidnapping or assault. The scriptures have a victim-centric and lococentric approach to dealing with any sin that breaks the public peace and is a public act (aka crime).
➤ Prison does not restore victim
➤ Prison does not redeem the offender
➤ Prison is double punishment for victim (crime + taxes to pay for prison)
➤ Prison is impersonal, bureaucratic, remote, expensive
➤ Biblical jurisprudence is local and personal
➤ Jury / multiple evidence lets judgement come from peers
➤ Local investigation of alleged offense
➤ Witness tosses first stone in capital case (execution is local)
➤ On all other torts or crimes, offender makes good locally and PERSONALLY
➤ In a free and open society of the kind the Seattle group wants, in those parts approved in the Bible, justice is decentralized
➤ Prison centralizes and depersonalizes and DEHUMANIZES justice. God wants it close, personal, redemptive.
➤ Victim-centered settlement with an offender on restitution is salvific.
The gospel requires Christians to use all parts of God’s revelation to declare His glory, righteousness and goodness. The law of God is an evangelical tool that is a means by which Christians win the world to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deut. 4:5-8).
Prison is part of a demonic man-centered and autonomous justice system. Courts that reject equity and justice deliver rulings that don’t satisfy any victim. A capital case deserves the death sentence, and non-capital crimes deserve something in the direction of a restorative/transformative accountability program that starts with the victim.
➤ DEATH SENTENCE REJECTED FRIDAY A Kentucky teen who killed two classmates and injured others when he opened fire at his high school in January 2018 is sentenced to two life sentences Friday.
Gabriel Parker, 18, will receive an additional 70 years in prison for 14 counts of assault in connection with the shooting at Marshall County High School. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years. He’d pleaded guilty in April to two counts of murder and 14 counts of assault.
Parker was 15 when he opened fire with a handgun at the high school, killing Bailey Nicole Holt, 15, and Preston Ryan Cope, 15. (NBC news. )
➤ PRISON FOR A ROBBERY Derron Hill of Hamilton County will be spending 12 years behind bars after being convicted of an April 2018 aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Hill and a woman tricked a man to a local InTown Suites on Lee Highway.
The victim thought he was going to meet a woman he knew to have sex with, but once he arrived inside the room another woman Miranda Barley was in the room. Derrian Hill appeared out of nowhere hidden in the closet and robbed the victim of his wallet, credit cards, and car.
Investigators say the victim was stripped from the waist down, tied up and shoved in the closet. The victim was able to free himself and ran about a half-mile to a nearby hotel to call the authorities.
Law enforcement officers found Hill and Barley three weeks later in Tallahassee, Florida with the victim’s personal possessions. (Kerry French, Hamilton County man sentenced to 12 years in prison for aggravated robbery and kidnapping,” WRCBTV.com, Nov. 13, 2019)
What is justice for Mr. Parker, the teen murderer, and Derron Hill the robber? The church in the U.S. for the past century has taught a version of the gospel that denies God has a claim on what the people in society are to do with these men.
“The ‘city on a hill’ concept has been redefined by Christians to apply only to personal ethics, family ethics, and church order,” says Gary North in Victim’s Rights. “It is not supposed to have anything to do with social order. The modern church self-consciously denies what the Bible makes plain, namely, that biblical law is the only God-sanctioned means of bringing permanent social order (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). The Bible teaches this clearly, but modern man sticks his fingers in his ears. He refuses to listen. To admit this would be to admit that the works of his own hands cannot save his soul, heal his institutions, or bring lasting social peace.”
Key points at the start
God is the victim of every sin. Some sin is private and not regulable publicly (lust, coveting, anger, jealousy, backbiting). A criminal or tortmonger sins against God and the person of his victim. The victim in public proceedings represents God.
The scriptures indicate God puts the victim 100 percent in charge of pursuing a case against the one who injured him. It’s not in state prosecutor’s hands. Not in hands of parents. Church pastor. Offspring. Relative. It’s in hands of the victim.
Says North: “What we must understand is that in biblical jurisprudence, it is the victim whose rights must always be upheld, not simply because he was harmed by the criminal, but also because he served as God’s surrogate when he became the victim.
The Bible provides five remedies for criminal behavior: 1) flogging (up to 40 lashes), 2) the slashing of a woman’s hand; 3) economic restitution, which can be large enough to require 4) up to a lifetime of bondage; and 5) execution.
Prisons in the Bible
The Hebrew republic, aka the children of Israel, do not have prison in their God-revealed jurisprudence, summarized by the great two commandments (“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36ff). And amplified in the 10 commandments and the case law.
No prisons in Israel policy. But prisons in Egypt, among the Philistines, in Babylon and among apostate Israelite kings.
➤ “Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.” (Genesis 39:20)
➤ “Then the Philistines took [Samson] and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.” Judges 16:21
➤ Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, has a prison, and directs Michaiah to be put in ward, saying, “Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I come in peace.” 1 Kings 22:27
➤ Assyria’s king puts the king of Israel, Hoshea, a tributary, in a cell. “And the king of Assyria uncovered a conspiracy by Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and brought no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison.” 2 Kings 17:4
➤ Babylon believes in confinement. Jeohiachin, king of Judah, had been in captivity a long time. In the 37th year, good news: “Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison.” 2 Kings 25:27
➤ Angry at being reproved, Judah’s King Asa puts the cuffs on a prophet. “Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.” 2 Chron. 16:10
Israel had no corrections department and large-scale jailing operation.
If no prison is ordained, what then?
If Israel did not have punishment except for capital cases, what happened to the malefactor?
The controlling rule under God’s law is equity. Equity is a synonym for justice and righteousness. The term for this principle in defending and restoring crime victims is lex talionis.
Eternal standard is equity
Lex talionis = equity. For every wrong, a remedy. Exodus 21:22ff explains:
“If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye.
And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.
Under this principle, victim has right to for the perpetrator’s eye if his injury is a lost eye. The perp’s foot if the wrong cost him a foot.
But a victim probably would rather be compensated than to have the court cut off the accused’s foot or poke out his eye. The court supervises an “auction in human flesh,” as North puts it (p. 125). As the criminal faces the loss of an eye for his offense, he is invited to make an offer: “What is your eye worth to you? Sir, make a bid for your eye to your victim. Hope he accepts it. If he does, you keep your eye but owe him the substance of your offer.”
If the evildoer’s offer offer is accepted, there is benefit for all parties in the transaction. Society as a whole gains because it doesn’t lose a productive member to a debilitating injury.
“By allowing the victim to demand restitution in the form pleasing to him, and by allowing the criminal to counter-offer something more pleasing to him, the penalty comes close to matching the effects of the crime, as assessed by the victim,” North says, p. 135
The punishment fits the crime.
The scriptures have no account of any accused person forfeiting a body part under lex talionis for injuring the body or property of another. There is a price tag to vengeance. If victim wants to pay it, he can be satisfied with injuring his abuser and making him yield his arm or leg. But the victim forfeits the compensation. The victim effectively has to pay $150,000 for the satisfaction of lopping his abuser’s leg off. If it were me, I’d rather have the money.
When the victim accepts the offer, he accepts — he buys or chooses — the alternative sanction, as proposed by the criminal.
This system is not state-centric and burureaucratic. It keeps government small. Judge is kept out of this arrangement. He merely oversees it. He simply upholds the process, and doesn’t take sides, and imposes not his own will.
What if criminal makes a high offer, it is accepted, but he cannot pay it?
The inability of the criminal to pay the agreed amount creates a different kind of flesh market — a slave market. The person is bound to the person he owes and under a bondage of his service.
Because such an arrangement puts the criminal and the victim in close personal contact, it is possible that the victim at some point might forgive the debt and free the slave/servant before he has made good the whole. Because such arrangements are personal and local, the role of grace is likely to soften the harshness of the settlement.
What if the settlement is upon a criminal with little skill, one who cannot earn a lot of money quickly? What if by the settlement he is bound 45 or 75 years? Well, the parties agree to it, and it is entirely up to the victim to decide what to do — to show mercy, or to insist on the personal remedy to which they agreed in front of the judge.
Personal restitution to the victim, personal restoration for the offender, who may end up being entirely forgiven, his person and the remaining dollar balance of his debt.
What’s wrong with prison?
- Slavery continues today, with state as owner and master
- States and corporations such as CoreCivic in Nashville profit on this slavery
- Private profit motives behind the prison industry drive lobbying for the creation offenses to keep the prisons full, as they are profitable when full
- Prisons don’t allow offender to make good to victim
- Prisons lock people into time, are static, nonmoving, nonprogressive, steal inmates’ time and prevent them from using time or skill to anyone’s benefit or create value for anyone.
- Totally impersonal. In capital cases, remote invisible state employee pulls the trigger for execution.
- Executions private
- The problem is systemic impersonalism (quoting North).
- Prison guards same class as the wretched prisoners. Bukovsky writes of Soviet prisons: “There’s no real difference between the criminals and the guards. Except for the uniforms. The slang is the same, the manners, concepts, psychology. It’s all the same criminal world, all joined by an unbreakable chain.”
God is cosmically personal. In noncapital cases, the biblical principle is personal connection and restitution. In capital cases requiring the death penalty, the main witness throws the first stone of execution, and everyone else in town throws a stone on the corpse as a monument to God’s justice and a reminder to all about the dread one should have to violate God’s commandments.
The Bible requires personal connection for noncapital cases, and the witness throwing the first stone in a death penalty cases
Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.
The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you. Deut. 17: 7
No axemen with a slitted white bag over the head, no guillotine operator with a mask, no prison ward employee behind a mirrored glass pushing the knob for the lethal odor to flood into the gas chamber. Personal executions by the public in the locale where the crime occurred.
In a murder case, God is vindicated by all the people, personally involving themselves in collective punishment of the malefactor. Such is the society that has no prison and that has effectively a lococentric and local economy personal ethic about crime, seeing that crime is a moral and ethical problem best fought God’s way rather than man’s.