As I attended this year’s Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference held here at Calvin March 5th through the 7th, I could not believe what I was hearing. Michigan has over 700 collateral consequences for incarceration. Simply put, collateral consequences are sanctions and disqualification that are placed on offender as he or she re-enters society. These “collateral consequences” last indefinitely and affect a host of areas from employment to government benefits and program participation. As I sat in the seminary chapel, my heart was heavy from hearing this statistic.
This statistic was part of the CCDA West Michigan regional conference intensive on mass incarceration. Collateral consequences were only one of several areas this intensive explores. I knew going into this intensive that the prison system is broken. What I was not prepared for was just how broken it really is. As I learned about collateral consequences, my mind raced to someone I knew who had spent some time in jail. I pondered anew what affect collateral consequences are having on his life. I pondered what life must be like to live under such a dark cloud.
I felt a deep tug in my heart to do something. A couple of months earlier I felt the same tug as I listened to Bryan Stevenson speak at the January Series. God used this statistic to move my heart to get involved in the injustice of mass incarceration. After the intensive finished, I went home and emailed my complete volunteer form for Celebration Fellowship, a local prison ministry of the CRC. As I look forward to volunteering, I am excited to join God in what he is already doing at Celebration Fellowship. I have no doubt that I will be transformed through this experience. While I am anxious, I fully trust that God will claim the anxiety. I would have never thought that one statistic would be used to move me to action.
By Bradley Diekema