Where will you spend the Christmas holiday? I’m not sure where I’ll be this year, but I know one place it won’t be…in the county jail, where I spent Christmas some years ago. I knew it was Christmas from the TV in the day room, and the beef ends we got from the meat packing plant (where the work release guys were employed for 20 cents an hour) masquerading as Christmas dinner .
I won’t be there. But millions will wake up this Christmas behind bars, including about 80,000 in the federal prison system who don’t belong there. That’s why I know where I’ll be on October 12, no matter where I’ll be on December 25.
On October 12, hundreds of people will gather in front of the White House in Washington, DC, to urge President Obama and the federal government to show more mercy on the tens of thousands of federal prisoners who are overcharged by our federal court system, and deserving of the attention of the White House Office of Commutation, Pardons and Clemency. While the President signed an executive order providing provision for clemency for thousands of non-violent offenders in federal prisons, the staffing for carrying this out is so thin that it would take over 200 years to process the potential applications.
Add to that the fact that the requirements for clemency include having served at least ten years of your sentence and with no tickets, the actual number of people eligible is only around 30,000. Thirty K or eighty K, those are folks who deserve a shot at being home for Christmas this year.
Dr. Madeline McClenney-Sadler thinks so. Armed with a deep understanding of the Bible’s call for justice, coupled with a real love for humanity, the good reverend doctor has organized our time in DC on October 12. “Time’s-Up; Let Me Go Home” is our rallying cry in front of the White House that day from 11 AM-6 PM. Dr. Madeline expects thousands of us to support her vision, bred of countless hours supporting men and women coming home from prison through her ministry, The Exodus Foundation of Charlotte, NC. She could be in a comfortable classroom teaching, with her Ph.D. from Duke. She could be in a sizable pulpit preaching with her Masters’ degree from Howard. But for over twenty years, she has been on the front line of care and justice for those society has labeled and warehoused, whether in overcrowded prisons, or overlooked shelters. She wants to see more of us home for the holidays this year.
I’ll be there. So will a number of speakers, musicians and spoken word artists. We aren’t just showing up with goodwill, but also with plans to show the feds how to make this work for the good of everyone. Vision without a blueprint is just a daydream. It’s time to turn dreams into reality, so that more people wake up at home on Christmas than last year, and can feel the warmth of family instead of cold tile floors. This year, I won’t need a TV and some beef tips to tell me what day it is. That’s why I’m going to the White House on October 12 with Dr. Madeline. Meet me there.