When he spoke at the Calvin January Series on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, sociologist, criminologist and author Reuben J. Miller told stories from his interviews of several Michigan men who spent long periods of time locked up in cages in Michigan prisons.

Miller’s book Halfway Home: Crime, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration reminds readers of Bryan Stevenson’s  Just Mercy.  Both men seek to help us understand this American crisis by becoming “proximate with” directly-impacted people.  Have you ever talked with someone who murdered another human being? Have you had a one-on-one conversation with a person who served more than half a lifetime in prison for first-degree criminal sexual conduct or accessory to armed robbery?  How close are you to someone whose life was shattered by domestic abuse, robbery, murder of a loved one, and separation because of incarceration?

Do you believe that people can repent and charge?  All of us are offenders. Some are apprehended and incarcerated.  Many learn from their mistakes and rise above past crimes to experience and extend restoration.

Troy Rienstra, affiliated with COS since the early 2000’s when he was “serving God while serving time” in one state facility or another, knows several of the persons described in the Halfway Home book.  Troy can vouch first-hand and vicariously for the separation, rejection and presumed guilt of those on parole in the “supervised society” to which Miller often refers.

How can we be restored to right relationships when so much of the fabric of relationships has been ripped apart and trampled underfoot? What is punishment for?  Why this way?  Do you realize that most Christians do not really think rehabilitation of errants is possible?

These are questions courageous Christians are willing to ask themselves.  These are questions that many members of COS are willing to ask each other.  If you would like to do something about this, consider reaching out to Troy Rienstra for a phone or zoom meeting.  He welcomes the opportunity to share how God is at work in and through him.  Or, you can check with one of the members of the COS Anti-Racism Team or Prisoners in Christ team.