Free Non-Violent Offenders Now!

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One of the finest men I have met while at the federal work camp in Atlanta is Pastor Mickey Huff from Athens, Tenn. This former pastor has been in the ministry for 43 years. He has pastored three churches during that time. And he has been conducting a successful Bible study here at the prison for the last four-and-a-half years.

I have noticed that he has such a great compassion to reach as many men as he can, bringing to them the knowledge of Christ. Pastor Huff is highly respected and is thought of reverently among all the people at the camp.

Pastor Huff also falls in the class of “non-violent offenders.” His case was so unusual. Prosecutors gave him the choice of pleading guilty in a drug conspiracy or having them go after his son and prosecute him. Pastor Huff chose the former. He took the blame and is serving the time. It was a tough choice. What would you have done?

Some may say, “Don’t believe everything you hear.” I don’t. What I do believe is what I see. Pastor Huff has made some mistakes like all of us. But I believe he is telling the truth.

As I observe him on a day-by-day basis, I think of Jesus and what he said in John 15:1-2: “I am the vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Pastor Huff  is bearing good fruit, attracting people to Christ. His Bible study is held every Monday through Thursday. I attend as many of those sessions as I can. He is constantly teaching, answering questions and giving instructions on how we all can get a better relationship with Christ. So far, six men have been baptized recently at the prison. This is more proof that Pastor Huff is bearing “good fruit.”

Monday through Friday starting at 8 a.m., we inmates have to check in with the Officer in Charge. He wants to see everyone at the camp, to make sure none of us has left without permission. While doing this, I recently heard the comments of a young group of prisoners. The comments were not flattering to the older inmates.These mockers felt that the faith shown by older inmates was a sham. And since many of the older inmates use canes to support themselves while walking, some of the younger inmates claimed the older ones were “faking.”

One mocker said, “The first thing they throw away when they leave here is the cane, and the second thing is the Bible.” I was upset by the comments. I believe these older men came here with their faith and still have it. Where was your faith before you got here? Why haven’t you found it here? How sad and pathetic this young guys can be.

Then I thought of a situation Elisha faced when he was going to Bethel. This story can be found in 2 Kings 2:23-24. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead! “They said, “Go on up, you baldhead!”  He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youth.

Oh, she-bears, where were you that morning when the young men mocked us, our Bibles and our canes? (Just kidding!)

This camp is called a “day care for the elderly” by the younger prisoners. I think of Psalm 107:10-14 when I see older, non-violent inmates wasting away for years in this camp.

Some sat in darkness and in gloom,

prisoners in affliction and in irons,

for they had rebelled against the words of God,

And spurned the counsel of the Most High,

Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor;

they fell down with none to help.

They cried out to the Lord in their troubles

and he delivered them in their distress.

He brought them out of darkness and gloom

and broke their bonds asunder.

It’s time to let elderly non-violent offenders go home! Back to their families. Back to where they can get treatment for their many ailments and afflictions.

No more false promises of reviewing laws and making chances to let the elderly, non-violent go. It’s time to reinstitute probation for the elderly and non-violent prisoners. And institute Diversion for the first-time, elderly non-violent offenders. These programs work on the state level, why would they not work on the federal level too. Let’s end the practice of cramming the elderly, non-violent offenders in our prisons. Unless the circumstances are really heinous.

For your information:

How Bureaucrats stand in the Way of Releasing Ill and Elderly Prisoners (Pro Publica, 12/4/13)

Exploding Number of Elderly Prisoners Strains Taxpayers, Systems (USA Today, 6/29/13)

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Comments can be emailed to Bernard Addison at bernardaddison@outlook.com or postal-mail him at the Federal Prison Camp in Atlanta, where he is serving 46 months for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. Send cards or letters to:

Bernard Addison/ 44863-074/ FPC-Atlanta; Dorm D/ P.O. Box 150160/ Atlanta, GA 30315

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