Unjust Imprisonment: Is There a Solution?
A MAN had been paroled after several years of imprisonment. While he was visiting his former wife and his son a family friend who used drugs placed some in the man's jacket. Later the man was found with the drugs and sent back to prison for violating the terms of his parole. This was heartbreaking for the man. He swore his innocence to me, although I had no way of knowing if he was telling the truth. But I did know one thing: while in prison he had begun to attend services conducted by Christian Scientists. And he had been reading the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and the founder of this newspaper. He had discovered in this study a link to God in his life that he'd not known before , and I had seen developing in him a self-respect that was new.
His faith in this spiritual relationship to God caused him to take a course of action that others advised against. Rather than appear only before a magistrate to adjudicate the drug possession charge, he felt he had to appear before a jury. He was convinced from what he had been studying in the Bible and Science and Health that God governed his life, not injustice or deception or evil.
I prayed with him during the weeks before his trial. I pondered often Christ Jesus' repeated defense of man in the face of sin and disease. It was a defense, I saw, that didn't simply fight for a person, but rather perceived the powerlessness of sin or sickness to possess the true selfhood of any individual. Jesus proved that man is the spiritual offspring of God and that evil is an unjust imposition and its hold could be broken in people's lives.
Writing in Science and Health of the necessity that God's purpose be fulfilled, Mrs. Eddy affirms: ``This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man -- governed by God, his perfect Principle -- is sinless and eternal.'' I began to see that God's law governs man wholly and that we were under divine compulsion to obey and trust this law, regardless of the judicial outcome. The most unexpected and remarkable turn of events occurred. The jury of six found the man guilty, but the magistrate was so impressed with the man's testimony, evident honesty, and good prison record, that he set the jury's verdict aside and did not sentence him. The parole board acted similarly and he went forward with his life.
The Bible's essential message of divinity confronts sin in every form, whether it's the sin of committed crime or the sins of cold injustice and disregard for humanity caught in an often cruel and crime-producing social system: ``Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit.'' The prophet Ezekiel's words provide a basis for a social compact upon which our relations to one another will be built on God's law and every individual can re spond to divine Love's demands. Justice and love are joined in God's commands, and this assures everyone's well being.
Will reform, then, be required? Absolutely. And the origin of this requirement is not human but divine, resting equally on all people. As this spiritual demand is embraced, we'll build a society that leaves no one unjustly oppressed, either by the temptation to commit crime or by the fear that crime can be unjustly imposed upon anyone.