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The Forerunner

New Crime Responses Proposed

By Editorial Staff
Published September 1, 1989

By Colson & Van Ness

WASHINGTON, D.C. (FR) – In an indictment of the nation’s criminal justice system, two experts working in the field have called for a dramatic overhaul of the way America punishes offenders.

Former “law and order” presidential aide and Watergate figure Charles W. Colson, now chairman of Prison Fellowship ministries; and attorney Daniel Van Ness, head of Justice Fellowship (an advocacy group promoting reforms in the criminal justice system), have co-authored a book attacking America’s current system of justice and introducing a new concept which they say would revolutionize the way we look at crime and punish its perpetrators.

“The criminal justice system in America is on the brink of incoherence,” the authors argue in Convicted: New Hope For Ending America’s Crime Crisis (Crossway). “Not even those who run it defend it. It is a joke to criminals, a mystery to victims, a scandal to taxpayers.”

Grim prison statistics point to a seemingly hopeless situation. In mid-1988, there were 604,824 prisoners in America; 83 percent more than in 1980. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency forecasts that prison populations will increase by 50 percent in the next 10 years. Yet prison construction has not kept pace, resulting in severe overcrowding situations – federal prisons are as much as 73 percent over capacity, while state prisons operate between 105 to 120 percent of capacity.

“We need prisons for dangerous offenders,” Colson and Van Ness agree. “But nearly half the people who are in prison today are there for nonviolent offenses. According to Department of Justice figures, it costs an average of $80,000 to build a maximum security cell, and an average of $15,900 a year to house a prisoner there. The nonviolent offender should be working in community service, paying back those he wronged, learning to contribute as a responsible member of society rather than sitting idly in an expensive prison cell, growing bored and bitter and plotting his next crime.”

Colson and Van Ness challenge the existing system with an ambitious plan which they call Restorative Justice. These principles form the foundation of Restorative Justice:

1. Crime causes injuries that must be repaired.

2. All parties affected by crime should be included in the response to crime.

3. Government and local communities must play cooperative and complementary roles.

Programs around the country are already demonstrating the effectiveness of Restorative Justice. Prison Fellowship has for nine years conducted Community Service Projects, in which nondangerous prisoners are furloughed to repair the homes of needy or disabled individuals. All parties involved benefit from this arrangement: the prisoners contribute a worthwhile service to the community, the residents’ homes are repaired, and the community gains a new perspective of the offenders. Such community programs are far less expensive to operate than incarceration, with many gaining revenue to support themselves.

The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any nation in the world except the Soviet Union and South Africa. And yet, Colson and Van Ness contend, America’s prison experiment is not working. The “lock ‘em up and throw away the key mentality” that gets public officials elected has resulted in overcrowded prisons.

“If we really want to get tough on crime, let’s hold offenders accountable to their victims,” the authors conclude. “Let’s reserve prisons for hardened criminals (where they can be incarcerated for longer periods of time), and let’s put nonviolent offenders to work. Let’s give victims a meaningful say in the justice process, and let’s put community resources to the task of binding the wounds caused by crime.”


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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

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Martin Luther: Digitally Remastered 1953 Classic (DVD)

“Here I stand … I can do no other!”

With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.

The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Running time: 105 minutes

Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.

Watch a clip from Martin Luther.

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