Day 20 Devotional & Discussion – March 27, 2014

Jeremiah 33:10-11, Psalm 68:4-6

The people of Israel have been removed from their land and taken into exile because of their rejection of God and their rebellion against God’s Law.  But their punishment is limited.  God promises to “restore their fortunes” and return the people to their land and replace what had been lost.  The Psalmist also celebrates God’s restoration after release from captivity.

What do these passages teach about God’s forgiveness?  How might they challenge our current correctional system and how we treat ex-offenders?

When ex-convicts are released in California, they are given up to $200 (depending upon the length of their incarceration) in what is known as “gate money”.  However, they must pay for their own transportation from the prison out of that $200.  This is the extent to which we “restore their fortune”.   “Gate money” varies from state to state, but few states provide comprehensive re-entry services to ensure that ex-convicts can survive let alone thrive outside of the system.

Consider picking up the phone to contact Representative Danny Davis’ office at 773- 533-7520 to thank him for introducing the Second Chance Reauthorization Act and ask how you can support his efforts to get the bill passed.

We have reached the half-way mark in our Fast for Freedom.  What impact has this experience had on you thus far?



  1. I was unaware of the “gate money” until I read a book called Miss Brenda and the Loveladies. It’s about a woman from Alabama whose own brush with prison spurred her to help women in prison in her community. She just happens to live near the worst women’s prison in the country and found out something similar: that the women, upon release, were given $10, a set of standard issue clothes and a bus ticket BACK TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY WERE ARRESTED! So, a fresh start wasn’t really probably for any of them. What she did is so inspiring, helping women in a wholistic way. Second chances, yes. I see the need for that.

    This has certainly affected my thinking. I’m going to blog about some of those thoughts when it’s all over. Wearing the button has been challenging when I stop to wonder what people might think if they read it. But it’s nothing compared to the “mark” those who’ve been in prison wear.

    I just appreciate the chance to focus on issues near to the heart of God during Lent and not just my own selfish desires.

      1. It is. She still runs The Lovelady Center today. I think it’s the largest transitional home for women in the country. My copy of the book is currently on loan but it’s as worthwhile read.

        The cost of incarceration per year at the prison in our hometown is $25,000 on average. In some cases, I have to believe restorative programs would be cheaper and more effective at returning the person to a contributing role to their community. But again, I have no idea. Maybe the church needs to ask of the prisons or transitional homes: how can we help you?

  2. I have a sense that every $1 we would spend on restorative justice would save us $100 in long-term incarceration costs. Maybe I’m way off on that. I never heard of gate money. What about the cost of incarceration? Are prisoners required to pay that back? Many work in prison or have work release programs. I would guess there are some making a lot more than gate money when they leave. This makes me think again of Potter’s House, a transitional program in our area. They do a lot to help prisoners, spiritual, housing, employment, etc. It seems to me we need a lot more of this. And when I think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 about taking care of prisoners, I get a sense that the church has dropped the ball. Are there ministries reaching out in this way? What more could be done? This compact has been very challenging to me. I have a sinking feeling that there is much work to do, much work that I should do, but am not. I wonder how I could ever fit in another thing. I feel that I can’t. And yet I want Faith Church to take this seriously.

    1. Illinois currently spends $2 billion annually on incarceration!!! Imagine even half of that money going to safety net programs for the poor. There is such a strong link between poverty and incarceration. If we spent more to reduce poverty (living wage ordinances, rent control ordinances, etc.), we would significantly reduce incarceration. We also need to get rid of the Mandatory Sentences. I believe one of the primary roles of the church is advocacy for the poor.

    2. Here’s a link about “gate money” by State. As you can see, PA does not give “gate money.” And while it is true that many prisoners work during their stay in prison, they get paid only a few cents per hour. However, this money allows them to buy stamps, toothpaste, etc. Prisoners have become the new slave labor. I have never heard about people being required to pay back the cost of incarceration. BTW, when I searched for prison pay online, most of the comments expressed outrage that prisoners were paid anything.

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