Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shelves - A Poem from Prison

The is the fourth poem in my series entitled Poems from Prison. This poem is one of my favorites.
I've typed it exactly as handwritten by Somer Erickson. She penned this poem and many others while she was in jail, participating in a faith based program for inmates.

The program is voluntary. She and her fellow inmates live together in a faith-based dorm or "pod".
Various organizations and volunteers teach them about God's love for them using Bible studies
and help them prepare for successful re-entry into society via academic classes, life skills classes,
mentoring and other programs. 

The recidivism rate among inmates who participate in programs like these is much lower than inmates who do not have these programs available to them.
According to Hope Prison Ministries, "Recidivism rates among those completing a faith-based dorm program are less than 10%". Thus less than 1 out of 10 will return to prison.

Contrast those statistics to this quote from the same website: "on a national basis, recidivism estimates range from 60% and higher. This means that 6 out of 10 of those released from prison will return to prison within 3 years. Obviously the system by itself is not working."
Hope Prison Ministries also states: "In Texas more than 500,000 Texas are under some of supervision from the TDCJ. The average Cost of Housing 1 offender is $16,000+/year. The recidivism rate (source: TDCJ Annual Report) is 37%. A number thought to be far too low in view of national estimates."

Also reflect upon this: according to a New York Times article published in 2008, the U.S. has less than 5% of the worlds population and almost 25% of the world's prisoners.
We have a serious problem.
I believe the answer to part of this problem in to allow more faith-based programs to work with inmates.

Somer's poem, Shelves, is revealing, yet despite all she has been through she finds the one true source of Hope.

I started building shelves one day.
I have a lot of stuff
I wanted to organize my thoughts
so my insides didn’t appear so rough
I built a shelf for lies
I built one for self-blame
I built a shelf for lack of concern
another housed my pain
I built a shelf for hate
then built one for regret
Then I kept on stacking
 I wasn’t finished yet
I built a shelf for anger
I built a shelf for tears
I built a shelf for bitterness
I’d been collecting it for years
I built them high, I stacked them tall
but suddenly I watched them fall
I cried out loud “Someone Help"
"I don’t know what to do"
"My shelves have broke
 "they need repair"
"and I’m all out of glue!”

I heard a voice inside
It spoke softly just to me
I know someone who can fix those shelves
child don’t worry about the fee.
A man showed up he went to work
did all the work for me
When he was done - he installed the shelves
and he did it all for free
All the junk that I had stacked
was clean & washed away
And what do you know
I was good to go & didn’t have to pay
When you're stacking shelves one day
and they break along with you
Remember all you must do is ask
And the Carpenter will fix yours too.

©Somer Erickson

Who is the Carpenter?
Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3

More poems from my series "Poems from Prison" - 
Fallen Angels- A Poem from Prison
I Cried - A Poem from Prison
Contemporary or Christian - A Poem from Prison

The prison program in which I participate is run in concert with Ministries 101
at Dawson State Jail in Dallas. Their website states " a relationship with Jesus is essential for meaningful change".
I wholeheartedly concur.

Prison Ministries
Prison Fellowship
Ministries 101
Hope Prison Ministries -Home page, Recidivism page

New York times article referenced above. It's an interesting read.

To God Be the GLORY! - Julie