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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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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

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1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

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All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

Special Two-Disc Set!

After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

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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.

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

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Running Time: 145 minutes

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