By Jim Goodson
Editor, St. Andrew’s Cross
An expert in criminal justice criticized America’s “prison-industrial complex” during the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s national meeting in Philadelphia.
Edwin Davis is president of the Restorative Justice Ministries Network of Texas and coordinator of restorative justice for the Diocese of Texas. He leads the 150-inmate Brotherhood chapter at the Wayne Scott Unit in Angleton.
Davis spoke at the ministry’s Triennial conference at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott, and he was elected the Brotherhood’s vice president of restorative justice ministries.
Brothers Elect Jeffrey Butcher
Jeffrey K. Butcher was elected the Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s 28th national president by a unanimous vote June 13 during the 132-year-old brotherhood’s 44th Triennial Convention and National Council meeting.
The conference met at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott.
“I am thankful for the confidence my fellow Brothers bestowed on me,” he said. “It is most humbling. We will be traveling this road together.”
Butcher is a longtime Brother, former Kentucky diocesan coordinator and a national officer. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2002, after 32 years of service as a Lieutenant Colonel. He also spent 28 years in the securities business as a Registered Representative, retiring from UBS Financial Services in 2012.
He attends St. Luke’s Church in Anchorage, Kentucky, near Louisville.
The brothers also elected Jack Hanstein, senior vice president; Robert Dennis, treasurer; Charles Craven, secretary; Dick Hooper, National Council chairman; Billy Harrison, Province IV president; and Roy Benavides, Province VII president.
“The way our nation handles criminal justice wounds victims and offenders alike,” Davis said. “Because we are turning our prisons over to corporate America, there is no incentive to reduce recidivism rates. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The more prisoners society creates, the better it is for these businesses.
“President Eisenhower would have called it the prison-industrial complex.”
But ministries of restorative justice, including plans by the brotherhood, can make a difference, he said.
After a year of planning, Brothers are applying for tax-exempt status from the IRS and are seeking a site for a halfway house to help recently paroled inmates make a successful return to civilian life.
“Prison ministries are just a piece of the puzzle,” Davis said. “Places such as the Brotherhood Restorative Justice Center are sorely needed for those with no family to return to.”
It’s needed even for those who do have families because current laws disallow convicted felons from living in public housing.
“So where does a man go whose family lives in public housing?” Davis asked. “This is just one example of how flawed our system is. Restorative justice is about restoring families, even dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional families produce fewer criminals than having no family does.
“Restorative justice helps the victims as well as the offenders,” Davis said. “After time in prison, most offenders want to apologize to the victim. But under Texas law it’s a felony for the offender to communicate in any way with the victim. It’s the same in 17 states.
“There’s no opportunity for redemption.”
Davis recommended that Brotherhood chapters adopt an inmate who will soon be paroled.
“It takes more than one person to counsel an inmate,” he said. “I’d recommend at least three to five Brothers to mentor each prisoner that’s soon to be a citizen. They will not be up to date on the latest technology, they will be extremely needy, and whatever outside church they attend will not be as satisfying as their prison church.”
The rest of the world’s civilized nations use restorative justice techniques to rebuild human lives, Davis said.
“It’s time that we listen to God’s word and turn to restorative justice,” Davis said. “One way to start is to designate the last Sunday in Advent Restorative Justice Sunday and preach about Matthew 25:36.”
Image of Edwin Davis by Jim Goodson