Restoration and transformation of the incarcerated

March 12, 2017
Mass incarceration. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Rev. Carlos Malave

Every incarcerated person is a sister, nephew, husband, grandchild, son or daughter. Every incarcerated person is a human being who is loved by someone. Their life has been welcomed, cherished and celebrated, even if, in some cases, only by a few.

We all have the tendency of creating an emotional barrier, and distance ourselves from those who have done wrong or evil acts. When we do that, we don’t realize that we are expressing toward the transgressors the same emotions that in the first place turned them into criminals. Which is to say that there is a dormant criminal inside of each one of us. Throughout our lives, the majority of us face the possibility of crossing the line and giving way to the worst of our emotions. The gospel admonishes us: How can you say to your brother, “brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?

Most people have been privileged enough to grow up and live in a healthy environment where we have learned to control destructive tendencies. Others were raised in troubled families, in poverty or deprived of a good education. Others simply made the wrong decision. The reality is that those of us who have been blessed to live in a healthy environment, are privileged.

When we consider our justice system, we must always keep before us this human perspective. Our failures should not ultimately define who we are. Our existence is defined by the image of the Creator, which we bear. It is our human dignity, given to us by God, which determines our value in this life. Every human being has an inherent eternal value.

Morally conscious people can't rejoice in the pain and tragedy of those who suffer, be them the victims or the transgressors. The respect and value for life that God has for every person must convict and move us to consider every person as indispensable. No human being is trash. The son of God gave his life for each person who has ever breathed on earth.

The criminal and judicial system of a society that considers itself “Christian,” has the responsibility and duty to seek the restoration and transformation of the incarcerated. They are not commodities of a capitalistic system; nor should they be deemed as less human. Because of our common propensity to fail, we must always put ourselves in their shoes. "Do onto others as you wish others do onto you".

Pope Francis once said “we don’t think about the possibility that people can change their lives. We put little trust in rehabilitation ... into society. But in this way we forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners.”

Because of the example of Jesus, Christians should be champions of mercy and compassion. The scriptures are crystal clear when it comes to God's desire for the redemption and transformation of every person. Including you and I.

Rev. Carlos Malave is executive director of Christian Churches Together in Louisville, Ky.

Every incarcerated person is a human being who is loved by someone. 

from our Resource Library

For Education

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...


Changing Climate, Changing Farmers

February 7, 2017


The Jobs Challenge

April 10, 2018

From the Blog