As I reflect on the thirty years of discipleship Crossroad has carried out in American prisons, I wish I could say that we have the problem of mass incarceration all wrapped up. But the numbers tell us a different story. In fact, Crossroad’s ministry is important and necessary now more than ever.
When I first heard that incarceration rates in the United States are the highest in the world and that around 2.3 million people are behind bars at any given moment, my mind was boggled.
How can a nation with 5 percent of the world’s population hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners?
But what’s even more boggling is that these statistics fail to account for the number of juveniles and undocumented immigrants in detention centers on a given day. When those statistics are figured into the equation, the number of incarcerated people is likely edging closer toward the 3 million mark than we’d like to admit.
This situation is certainly bleak. Yet we still hear prophetic voices crying out against mass incarceration. We still witness organized movements bent on reducing sentences for nonviolent crimes, ending mandatory minimums and advocating for alternative sentencing and rehabilitation, such as community service.
And this progress is good.
However, the sad fact is that these cycles are difficult to break. While we are trying to reduce the number of incarcerated people on the one hand, we are filling the prisons right back up with undocumented immigrants on the other.
As the prison industrial complex in the United States continues to soar, Crossroad needs to keep soaring as well. Moreover, we cannot lose heart in the shadow of these harsh statistics, because the job of discipling prisoners is more powerful and necessary than you may even know.
Ultimately, these numbers tell us that there are more incarcerated folks than ever before who need to be reached with the truth of God’s Word and the love of God’s people. For such a time as this, the church must go all out in her mission to make disciples and to remember those in prison. That’s what Crossroad has always done over the past thirty years and, by God’s grace, will continue to do as long as there are prisons filled with hearts that need Christ.
Dr. H. David Schuringa serves as the president of Crossroad Bible Institute.