Don't Send Me": A Restorative Justice Story
- Two years ago, when she retired, Debbie Roeger prayed that God would
show her how she could serve Him. She had just one request: "Please God," she
prayed, "Don't send me into prisons."
Well, I don't have to tell you that's
exactly where God sent her. But Debbie's story is an exciting one of how ordinary
people can make an extraordinary difference in criminal justice.
after praying her prayer, Debbie saw an ad for a Prison Fellowship conference
on Restorative Justice. She didn't really want to go, but she felt God was calling
her to attend.
At the conference, Debbie met Gary Sims, who was in charge
of prison religious services in central Ohio, where Debbie lived. Gary told her
about a pilot program at Ohio's Marion Prison in which forty-eight prisoners --
Christian, Jew, and Muslim -- were learning how to demonstrate respect and tolerance
for one another.
Debbie had hoped that if God really did ever send her
to a prison, he would at least send her to a women's prison. But Debbie had a
sudden, clear sense God was calling her, not just to prison ministry, but to one
specific men's prison: Marion. Debbie, you see, has a master's degree in human
resources and is a trained mediator. God wanted to use her background and experience
in a new, unexpected way.
At Marion, the warden invited Debbie to develop
a conflict resolution program. And over the next eighteen months, Debbie trained
twenty-four inmates to mediate disputes between their fellow inmates. She also
worked with prison staff, teaching them how to mediate workplace disputes. Inmates
now feel better equipped to handle conflicts and to use the skills informally
in all sorts of situations.
Now Debbie has been asked to teach conflict
resolution skills to the entire prison population. As Debbie notes, "It's tremendously
powerful in what it can accomplish in terms of trust, self-esteem, and conflict
resolution." One inmate commented, "I've never trusted anyone in my life, but
this program taught me to trust."
And Debbie learned to trust too -- to
trust that God would give her the courage to accomplish His will wherever He sent
her. As she told BreakPoint, "The first time I stepped into prison, there was
no small amount of fear in my heart. God gave me Scripture from Isaiah 41: 'For
I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do
not fear; I will help you."'" Debbie has been a tremendous witness for Christ
in this, one of the toughest prisons in Ohio.
Today, Debbie says, "Some
of the strongest prayer partners I have are men in prison. God has given me a
family of brothers at Marion who love me as a Christian sister."
told us that when we visit those in prison, we are visiting him. Too often, we
think we ought to leave that to the professionals. But Debbie is evidence that
God can take ordinary people behind prison gates and use them in a mighty way.
For further reading: Justice
That Restores, by Charles Colson.
From BreakPoint, Copyright 2002 Prison Fellowship
with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship
Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington,
DC, 20041-0500." Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.