Overcrowded prisons: what to do?

A Christian Science perspective.

California got itself into a years-in-the-making jam when it stuffed too many prisoners into too little space. Prison authorities hijacked common areas, such as gymnasiums, and retrofitted them with rows upon rows of double- and triple-stacked bunks. As living conditions declined, tempers among inmates rose, and violent outbreaks mushroomed. The courts finally stepped in. They ordered the end of overcrowding. But how could the state achieve that? In part, by dumping inmates back onto the streets. That included inmates who stood, in some instances, far from possible parole.

So, how happy does this make the neighborhood?

Not one bit. One obvious concern hinges on the impact this has on real estate. Even more of a concern is the impact on safety. In some communities fears loom that each negative repercussion could trigger yet another negative repercussion. For instance, depressed real estate could mean less tax revenue, which could mean fewer police, which could mean ... you get the idea.

Still, good answers do exist. Solutions are within reach. To admit this is a modest first step in a problem-solving direction. With it, fear, and the downward spiral it exerts on thought, lessens. Fear doesn’t have the final say. It is the very opposite of fear – it is the very assurance coming from the Almighty – that has the power. It is divine Love endlessly expressing itself as love in a thousand practical ways that has problem-solving control over the whole scene. That control is in force every moment and everywhere. Prayer is the state of thought that realizes this.

Consider an analogy. Think of Daniel from the Old Testament. His “crime” was his ongoing devotion to the one Almighty God. He fearlessly acted on that devotion in full view of the community. He did so even after the king had signed a decree outlawing such worship. Daniel’s prison – which doubled for a time as his neighborhood – was the den. The lions were like inmates released into his neighborhood.

For a moment it appeared fear would reassert itself and erode the sense of safety that Daniel evidently understood at the core of his being. But Daniel was delivered. His conviction was in the Almighty’s presence, and this conviction seems to have never flagged. Was divine Love unfolding its control? Yes. Were the Almighty and divine Love one and the same? Absolutely. Did divine Love pervade the community and shield its residents from danger? Every moment. Now, as then, the need is to prayerfully realize the divine presence. The most solution-resistant corners of thought begin to yield. Conviction in Love’s power deepens. Peace grows surer. Fears give way to the government of divine Love.

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy – a lifelong student of the Bible – wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions’ den, and Paul proved the viper to be harmless” (p. 514).

Realize these facts in prayer. Then even the most challenging of concerns move within the reach of Love. Safety follows.

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