What’s about to be said probably isn’t what you think it’ll be. While this blog is primarily about mobilizing every one of us to go out into our world and make a positive impact on others, some of us aren’t always called to cross borders and travel to new lands and cultures- and that’s okay! We can all have an impact right in our own community. But what happens when even that has been taken away? The following excerpt is about men who’ve found themselves exactly in that position. Because of crimes they’ve now owned responsibility for, these men have found themselves with a life-sentence without parole in CA State Prison, Los Angeles. Setting aside all political stances, personal convictions and experiences, this is about men who’ve experienced the darkest nights and have chosen hope, healing, to accept forgiveness even when it’s not offered, and a lifelong pursuit of making the world a better place.
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. - Matthew 25:36
Change is a Choice by Allen Burnett
California State Prison-Los Angeles County is located 79 miles outside the city of Los Angeles in the rural community of Lancaster, where an estimated 3,273 men are spread across four maximum-security facilities. Facility A, the Progressive Programming Facility (PPF) formally the Honor Yard, has remained a shining star throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Established in 2000, the PPF was once home to over 300 men sentenced to Life Without Parole—the other death penalty. Yet, despite having no incentive to change or hope of release, these men went on to create an environment free from criminality, drug abuse, violence, and racism; ultimately converting the PPF into a facility that fosters personal transformation and rehabilitation through its self-help and higher education programs. A long time participant of the PPF, Richard Whitehurst said,
The uniqueness and success of the PPF is that it is all voluntary and inmate led—our peers set the standards—our change is a choice.
Their years of the exemplary dedication to rehabilitation reached the State Capitol in Sacramento, attracting the attention of then Governor Jerry Brown. In Governor Brown’s final days in office, he commuted the sentences of 158 inmates; 60 of those inmates are current or former participants of the PPF program. On February 13, 2019, over 30 of those men gathered in the facility garden to commemorate their achievement. Risala Rose-Aminifu, one of the men who received commutation after 27 years of incarceration stated, “We really wanted to encourage the other men—our brothers, still waiting not to lose hope.”
Of the PPF participants interviewed for commutation of sentence, roughly, 55% were granted, and the remaining 45% are still awaiting. –Allen Burnett
Here are some ways you can begin to make a difference for men and women incarcerated in CA state prisons:
SHARING with others to help change the narrative about people who are incarcerated.
LEARNING more about life as someone who is incarcerated, mass incarceration, and God’s heart for those in prison. Share what you’re learning with others. A great resource is
WORDS UNCAGED: a platform where some of PPF participants share their writing.
PRAYING for those who are incarcerated and for justice in our prison system. Here are some helpful prayer points:
Pray for prisoners and their relationship with God, that they would experience His love and seek God as they get involved with chapel services and Discovery Bible studies offered in the PPF program.
Pray for prisoners to grow in their respect for prison staff and to experience genuine brokenness for the harm they’ve caused their victims, so that God can begin a new work in bringing healing, redemption, and complete forgiveness.
Pray for prisoners’ protection from sexual assault and other forms of victimization often common in prisons.
Pray for prisoners to be healthy and free from serious illness.
Pray for prisoners’ futures, that they would take advantage of prison programs to enhance their educational and vocational skills and seek wisdom and resources they need to adjust to reentering society: job, housing, supportive friends, etc.
Pray for Christian prisoners to have strength and courage to witness to other inmates.