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Flawed Anthropology, Easy Money, and Politics in New Hampshire’s Correctional System


New_Hampshire_State_Prison_2008-1CONCORD, NH – Op. Ed. – People change. This is an incontrovertible truth in life. Yet, this concept seems to be lacking in the wonderful state that has become my home–at least it’s MIA in the New Hampshire state prison system. [Fortunately it hasn’t hit our schools yet.]

The money to be made by an opposite view–people don’t change–is real. The flawed anthropology which argues that people can’t change has no place in any serious attempt at rehabilitation. The shallow promises to act on behalf of change are the result of playing to the popular. In New Hampshire, when it comes to sex offenders, the popular is paranoia and ignorance. These never lower rates of recidivism.

Any pseudo-science that would claim that people do not change, does not deserve our serious attention. For every Psychiatrist or psychologist with an MA in the art of Psychology or Sociology, I’ll give you three Dr.’s of Theology or ministry who will present documented proof of miraculously changed lives. Changed lives can be easily documented or demonstrated. The press, politicians, and pseudo-scientific community refuse to acknowledge change. Change is threatening because transformation apart from them excludes them and is something they can’t take credit for or control.

Another reason the mainstream media refuses to understand spiritual change is their Western, anti-supernatural bias. Although you cannot see spiritual, supernatural transformation, you can clearly see its results in the life changes in millions of people. Yet they either refuse to see or cannot see. Is their blindness willful or does it have another source?

I learned in journalism [in my investigative reporter days assigned to East Boston and Boston City Hall], that we should “follow the money.” In NH, easy money hides in the notion that people like Raymond Guay can’t change. Good politics too.

Here in New Hampshire, the money trail is found in all the fees that are collected by independently contracted counselors–licensed by the state. The state collects licensing fees. The men and women on parole have to see these counselors weekly and have to pay for it themselves. Why should they ever get better? Why should they be released as healthy and changed? There’s no money in human transformation. So, “sex offenders can’t change” is the motto of profit.

There’s lots of talk about rehabilitation here in New Hampshire, but I question the sincerity. Four or five years ago I met with the Commissioner of Corrections, Bill Wrenn. He promised a meeting of those of us involved in aftercare. It never happened. He also promised to get to the bottom of parole officers undermining parolee’s chances of reestablishing themselves in community after having done their time.

The state set up a chaperone program to help ex-sex offenders be able to attend churches of their choice. After having certified thirteen of the people at New Life Fellowship in Concord, the state decided that it did not recognize their own certification. All training was conducted under an independent “counselor,” used almost exclusively by the state to inform them about prisoners and parolees. He has since been charged with a crime. And I believe was convicted and sentenced.

I know first-hand that some officials in the state of NH want to use these state certified counselors to declare parolees, who have served their time, as mentally unfit for release. If they can’t keep sex offenders in prison, then they can at least have them committed to their mental facilities.

Several years back, one woman on the parole board made it her mission to incarcerate sex-offenders for life. Never mind making distinctions between repeat offenders and one time offenders or predatory versus passive, single instance offenders. In her narrow mind, She lumped them all together.

During a parole hearing, she announced as much to a man that I was interceding for. She obviously does not believe that people change. For that reason ALONE she has no place serving our community on the parole board. We do not serve the people when we do not consider the weakest among us to be people also.

I hate to think of what the little mob in the town of Chichester or the state officials of NH would have done with Saul of Tarsus, who through his experience of regeneration became the Apostle Paul, one of Christianity’s greatest champions. Previously a murderer of men, women, and children of the early followers of Jesus, he was transformed to become a man of great love and character. Though he still had flaws after his conversion, they were not dangerous flaws. Nor did he ever kill anyone again. Today he is known as one of the greatest of Christ’s apostles–a champion of the Christian faith. So much for people not being able to change.

I’m really more concerned with the question: Can politicians and journalists really change? I believe they can . . . IF.  If they are willing to return to integrity and character they can change. If they are willing to be compassionate, they can change.

We need to and can do several things:

  1. We need to take a close look at Maine’s way of classifying sex-offenders
  2. We need to take a close look at Vermont’s new system of combating recidivism. States all over the union are inviting Vermont’s prison officials to speak and teach about their successes.
  3. We need to thoroughly purge New Hampshire’s propensity for profiting from its “rehabilitation” programs. No more keeping parolees of proven character who have paid the penalty and done their time under the control of the state and financially bound to it by various fees, fines, and levies.
  4. We have to end ALL clear conflicts of interest in the counseling and reporting of ex-prisoners.
  5. Find men and women who do believe that people can change and support them to find NEW ways to work with prisons and parolees. If the people who now work there don’t believe they people change, then remove them and show them that we’re not afraid of change. Too many successful models work to hold on to one that doesn’t.

If they are willing to embrace a genuine concern for ALL people . . . even ex-offenders, perhaps there is yet hope. If the people and politicians of New Hampshire will treat one-time ex-offenders the way they would want to be treated, everyone will change–for the better of our future and our remarkable state. Let’s put NH on the map for something other than politics as usual.

–Dr. David C Alves

Concord, NH

QUESTION: Can people really change? Haven’t you?

 

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Some Thoughts on Partnership in Christian Publishing?


 I wrote this post back in 2009, but as I reread it, I realized that it deserves to be touched up and resubmitted to readers of “David’s Place,” many of whom are writers and authors. I predicted back then that traditional Christian publishers may be in trouble. Three years later, most of them have sold out to mainstream, big name publishers. Here’s what I said back then:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Frank Who??

Frank Peretti? Who had ever heard of him before This Present Darkness?

In the early or mid-seventies, Kenneth Tyndale’s Living Bible found no publisher willing to take a chance. If my memory serves me correctly, he shopped that manuscript around to 5 or 6 publishers. He finally had to become his own publisher. That’s why to this day Tyndale Publishers stays opened to writers that can’t find a publisher (at least in theory).

Why would any author–who writes a potentially important book, who works hard to get it into the hands of readers, and who has developed some sort of platform on his/her own–want to share that with a publisher whose “platform” policy makes it clear that they are unwilling to invest or risk anything, with that author? Who needs fair-weather friends? I do not fully understand publishing, but common sense begs the question: what use is a publisher to an already popular and successful author? All she needs at that point is an editor, a format and cover artist, a reprographics company like CreateSpace.com who will keep up with printing demand and market distribution; and, a sharp, innovative administrative assistant to coordinate all of her partnerships.

Lottery winners are smart not to trust new found friends. They do best to trust their instincts and the loyal friends who were with them from the start.

A Proposed Solution

The Christian writer and publisher must remain open to other considerations that secular publishers need not consider–God’s will for effective ministry and for building the body of Christ. We will be held responsible for more than the bottom line. How much of our “business” is sensitive to the needs of ministry and guidance of the Holy Spirit? God uses the little known and despised things to confound the wise. He often raises up the least likely. We look on the outside. He looks on the inside. He purposely counters our too often worldly perspectives. Therefore, if we don’t want to miss what He is doing, we need to stay sensitive to his leading, as well as to our formulas for success. He may choose to bypass them (as in The Shack and  many other titles that surprised those who had their eyes on the bottom line). By the way, the author of The Shack had zero platform–none!

Fortunately for us, many of the greatest authors in literature had publishers that knew that writers write and publishers print and market–its a partnership. The great publishing houses became such because they knew that first books were investments. Perhaps even second ones. Author and publisher needed each other. They took chances together in order to impact their world, because they believed in the message. And each had his own responsibilities and expertise. They were co-workers. And their shared risk enriched and enlightened or entertained us.

An increasing number of today’s publishers appear to want a guaranteed return on someone else’s investment. They may be unaware of publishing history or simply uninformed. Some publishers know better and continue to believe that important books remain to be written and discovered. And occasionally a receptive publisher connects with a gifted, determined writer and together they make history. However, that becomes increasingly rare when publishers set policies that exclude new manuscript submissions unless they come through agents.  I don’t have the solution. Publishers have their own challenges. More could be said on this, but perhaps someone more qualified could take up the challenge. But I can suggest that Christian publishers need spiritually discerning people at their front doors as manuscript readers–that is if expanding the Kingdom and honoring God is as important as money.

The Future of Christian Publishing?

My guess is that if the current publishing trend continues, more and more authors will find alternate ways to publish and connect with readers. Then where will the Christian publishers be when their potential authors no longer need them?

I’ve heard it said that “the internet eliminates geography.” Social networking is the new town center. Amazon.com is the new town center and the most important bookstore in the world. And if your book is already there, don’t worry that no publisher will partner with you. After all, word of mouth has always been and will continue to be the most effective form of advertising. So authors, don’t worry if the big guys won’t even read your manuscripts without an agent. You have many alternatives today in the new and growing reading community. Since the Lord raised you up and gave you the ability to write well, let’s see how good He is at getting your work out there and connecting with the readers He wants to communicate with. I expect there are many more viral books to be written. Remember The Shack. And keep writing and publishing.

Or if you’ve been successful, why not give back by launching a Christian publishing company with a different set of values. The world is ripe to see a publishing company motivated by ministry.

QUESTION: What do you think will be the future for traditional corporate Christian publishers?


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