Esther Fairbanks won first prize for her essay “A Christian Response to Imprisonment in the Wesleyan Tradition” in the 2018 Tom Nees Social Justice competition at the Nazarene Theological Seminary.
I am honored to have this annual Social Justice award offered to NTS students in my name. It is intended to encourage seminarians to focus on the central place of compassion and justice in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Here are two startling statistics about the U. S. prison population, estimated now at 2.1 million:
- There are as many people in the U.S. with criminal records as have graduated from four year colleges – from Emily Bazelon in her new book ‘Charged.’
- Imprisonment costs more that college – as example from an Associated Press report – “At $75,560, housing a prisoner in California now costs more than a year at Harvard” including board, room and tuition.
As bad as the injustice of the federal prison system is there is some good news. “The First Step Act” a bipartisan bill to reform federal prisons was signed into law in December, 2018.
A good summary of the new law is on the Prison Fellowship website. It does not affect the majority of prisoners in local and state prisons.
Mrs. Fairbanks is a chaplain with Marketplace Chaplains USA and has personal relationships with the formerly incarcerated and their families.
Her essay reminds us of the Biblical mandate to reach out to prisoners and their families motivated in part by the example of John Wesley, the 18thCentury English evangelist and founder of Methodism.
It’s worth reading.