A Soul Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

colson2The Washington Post recently published an investigative series, revealing D.C.’s public schools are “close to the highest-spending and worst-performing in the nation.” The results include low test scores, dilapidated buildings—and neglected students, some of whom end up in a life of crime. According to the Post, “just over half of teenage students attend schools that meet the District’s definition of ‘persistently dangerous,’ because of the number of violent crimes.” In these conditions, educators have their hands full just trying to keep order, let alone teaching students. One student who ended up on the streets was Leslie Sharp. After attending six different schools, some which kicked him out and some he just left, Leslie dropped out of school in 11th grade. “By the time Sharp finally did stay put somewhere, he was behind bars,” writes columnist Mark Fisher. “Convicted of selling guns on the streets, he spent nearly two years in jail.” And that’s when Leslie Sharp’s life turned around, and he earned his high school equivalency diploma. He got a better education behind bars than in the classroom. It all happened because a guard encouraged him to join a reading group run by an organization called Free Minds, which introduces teen inmates to reading and creative writing. After their release, the group connects the former inmates with jobs and more books. Today, Leslie is 19 and “working as an intern at the National Juvenile Defender Center, putting together brochures for young people facing criminal charges.” He’s also trying to get into college to study architecture. Now, anything that leads ex-prisoners to become productive and contributing citizens in society is a good thing. But education is not the only thing, nor is it the most important. You can educate a prisoner and what you will get is an educated criminal. You have to change his heart. Leslie recognizes that fact. “[Leslie] doesn’t blame the D.C. schools for where he ended up,” writes Fisher. “He figures he’s the one who decided to make his way on the streets.” He revealed as much in one of his poems when he wrote, “These are my consequences from the way I acted.” Says Leslie, “You can tell a child anything, but they’re going to do what they want.” And the lack of moral direction in a family compounds children’s rebelliousness. Research bears this out, that crime is caused not by poverty or environment, as most people supposed, but by people making wrong moral choices (as Leslie admitted) and lack of moral training during the morally formative years. That’s why we at Prison Fellowship do what we do—breaking the cycle of crime by introducing prisoners and their families to the truly transforming power and grace of Jesus Christ; surrounding them with believers who will disciple them so they may make the right moral choices. And BreakPoint is here to help Christians live out the biblical worldview in all areas of life and then go out and transform their local communities, ministering to those in need. Won’t you partner with us, by volunteering and donating to the ministry so we can continue our much-needed work? Education may get ex-inmates a job, but a life-long relationship with Christ and His people will truly transform their lives.  
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For Further Reading and Information
Marc Fisher, “His Body Imprisoned, His Mind Set Free,” Washington Post, 10 June 2007. The Washington Post’s investigative report: “Fixing D.C.’s Schools.” Dan Keaton and V. Dion Haynes, “Can D.C.’s Schools be fixed?,” Washington Post, 10 June 2007. David Frum, “The Scandal of D.C.’s Schools,” National Review Online, 11 June 2007. Pat Nolan, “Helping Offenders Get Good Jobs,” Justice eReport, 19 April 2007. Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative. Prison Fellowship’s Opportunities For Involvement. Breakpoint Commentary No. 060901, “Fifteen Years and Counting: 'BreakPoint' Celebrates a Milestone Anniversary.” Breakpoint Commentary No. 061220, “One in Thirty-Two: Prisoners, Culture, and the Gospel.” Breakpoint Commentary No. 070208, “An Appeal for Hope: The Innerchange Freedom Initiative.” Breakpoint Commentary No. 060217, “A Fighting Chance: The Second Chance Act.” Breakpoint Commentary No. 030814, “A Clean Slate? Success Speaks for Itself.


Chuck Colson


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