2 out of 4 stars
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Many people find their spiritual direction for the first time in prison. They come face to face with their own actions, accept their guilt, and turn to a savior for forgiveness. Rev. Terri Strong wrote her book, Prison to Priesthood, about her twenty-five years’ experience as an officer in prison where she was able to help many inmates find this spiritual peace. She tells some touching stories of people she was able to influence. She also spends a large portion of the book discussing related issues like prison violence and the overrepresentation of blacks in the inmate population.
Rev. Terri takes one of the first chapters to discuss prison life from the guard’s perspective. They watch out for each other and are trained to have high moral character and professionalism. However, there is also much corruption. She explains how the system is set up to keep control of the prisoners. She even goes as far as to say that the inmates would never be able to overthrow the prison system. I fear that statement could be taken as a dare by some prisoners.
The author’s religious emphasis is never hidden. She discusses Christian beliefs and morals freely. She also spends an entire chapter discussing how every human being chooses whether to serve God or Satan by their actions. The behaviors seen most often in criminals that she defines as the Devil’s tools are profanity, anger, egotism, and pride. These are the tools that led to their crimes and landed them in prison. They are encouraged to turn from these ways and accept the forgiveness and freedom that only Christ can offer. This is the only way to end the crime and evil in the world.
A large portion of the text is used to compare the prison system to slavery. The author gives some history of how various races were enslaved. However, she says, it was eventually the black race that was chosen to be enslaved permanently. She then goes on to explain how the 13th Amendment to the Constitution allows slavery as punishment for crime. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States…” According to Rev. Terri, this slavery or involuntary servitude takes the form of prison in our society. This plays into the fact that there are more black men in prison than there should be according to their percentage of the population as a whole.
The author warns in the Introduction that she will not be sugar-coating anything. I found that to be very true. I also found some of her tactics to be overly negative. I’m not sure calling convicts ‘fools’ or a ‘special kind of stupid’ is going to influence them to make positive changes in their lives. I also found some of her material to be extremely biased. She quotes Sarah Palin as saying black people enjoyed slavery. According to Snopes, this is not accurate. The article it came from was written in satire. She even goes so far as to suggest that whites have purposely chosen the crimes that black men commit and given them harder penalties than the crimes that white men commit. I found these views inflammatory and offensive.
I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to read stories about people who were changing their lives through the grace of God. Instead, I kept tripping over the author’s abrasive style and prejudicial attitudes. I admire the work she has done, but I cannot give the book a rating of more than 2 out of 4 stars. Because of the adult content, such as the mention of sex, rape, and physical abuse, this is not a book for younger audiences. I can only hope that her target audience of male black prisoners will find value in its pages.
Prison to Priesthood
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