Women Emerge as Prison Reform Activists

Posted on January 25, 2011


Stan Moody
POB 240
Manchester, ME 04351


Women Emerge As Prison Advocates

Stan Moody of Manchester, ME, former Maine State Representative and most recently a Chaplain at Maine State Prison in Warren, is advocating for transparency and accountability in Maine’s prison system…A prolific and published writer, Dr. Moody is pastor of the Meeting House Church in Manchester and has been a speaker on human rights issues at conferences around the nation…

Author: Stan Moody

The biblical story of Cain and Abel has Cain, who murdered his brother in a jealous rage, answering God’s question, “Where is your brother, Abel?” with, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” That question plagues us today, as the cost of prisons – largely concentration camps for the marginalized – has been balanced against capital punishment and rehabilitation programs. It comes down to what is the best and most cost-effective way of keeping the marginalized out of our consciousness and our neighborhoods.
As a result, from 1987 to 2007, the US prison population nearly tripled. There presently are 2.5 million Americans in prison or jail, representing 25% of the world’s prisoners. Four times those are out on parole or probation, nearly 70% of who will be going back. The national cost is creeping up on $75 billion, with states like Maine and California spending nearly $50,000 a year per prisoner.
Being “my brother’s keeper” is deeply imbedded in Christian culture.
Inside is a phenomenon known as “Jesus in the lobby.” That is, you say “Hello” to Jesus on the way in and “Goodbye” on the way out. Evangelical warden, Burl Cain of infamous Louisiana State Prison at Angola, has been accused of holding out the so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” like a carrot in exchange for preferential treatment. Am I my brother’s keeper, or am I my brother’s confessor?
Prison Fellowship, popularized by its founder, Chuck Colson of Watergate fame, has been tracked for its effect on recidivism rates of ex-offenders who had been active participants while inside. While its advantages on prisoner morale and behavior have been widely acclaimed, it has been largely discredited as a restorative tool. Being my brother’s keeper, apparently, requires something from deep inside that can’t be programmed or faked.
We have turned over the task of corrections largely to tough, stodgy males who pride themselves in stifling their emotions.
There is hope evolving from an unexpected quarter – female prison activists. What women bring to the table is something that a man will never experience – the maternal instinct. We are throwing away millions of citizens, each of whom was just a short time ago the object of the most excruciatingly happy moment in some woman’s life. Coupled with religious fervor, then, my brother’s “giver” may be the best hope for becoming my brother’s keeper. Will it fall on the sisters to step up?
It may be time for the wives, mothers, widows and female activists to take over if America is ever to break away from this deadly cycle of abusing people our chauvinistic, macho, advance guard is insisting is threatening wives, mothers, widows and female activists.
Maybe they don’t need our protection. Maybe we may need theirs.