Over the last 10 years, I can count on one hand the number of times a Bud’s Warehouse program participant has worked with a parole officer that cared about their success. Most of the time, our staff members participate in a frustrating bureaucratic process where an over-worked parole officer just seeks to manage problems and enforce punishment for the breaking of rules. It’s a system where there is no pro-active problem solving and an assumption that parolees are destined to fail with very little chance of successful rehabilitation.
This reality was driven home again this week with the imminent return to prison of one of our more successful program participants. After several years in prison, he reentered society through a half-way home and a job at Bud’s Warehouse. Over the course of a year, he made a successful transition from the half-way home into his own place and shined in our job-training program.
But even with all of this success, he struggled with a poor relationship with his parole officer. This individual was looking for him to fail…and eventually he lived up to those expectations. I am frustrated because by working together, the parole officer and our program could have helped this individual succeed. But instead, the lack of a partnership and the absence of a parole officer that cared has resulted in a return to prison at an annual cost $40,000 to the State of Colorado.
Sometimes, individuals sense a call from God into the ministry. Often, that involves questions about whether someone should quit their job, go into seminary and then full-time ministry. I am praying that someone hears that call and then follows it into full-time service as a parole officer. How different our community would look if Christ-following individuals chose to use their gifts to help ex-offenders succeed in the parole system. The problem of recidivism could be reduced by Christ-followers that sought to provide hope instead of a timeworn pessimism that believes a felon is destined to fail. As in Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, “whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)