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Colson as Prison Reformer

4:45 PM, Apr 27, 2012 • By JOSH GOOD
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A final, related observation is that, even in his later years, Colson maintained an intellectual curiosity that kept him learning.  In a foreword to Ambassador Gregory Slayton’s forthcoming new fatherhood book, Colson wrote with characteristic humility about the link between father-absence and crime: 

In my visits to 800 prisons, I have seen what happens to kids who have no dads:  Looking for male role models, which all boys need, they turn to the gangs.  At first I thought that turning these young men around would be a simple matter, such as building discipleship groups.  But what I soon discovered was that we were building prisons faster than Prison Fellowship or anyone else could get to them…

Colson describes reading several contemporary criminologists, compares their findings with his own knowledge of prison inmates, and then warns us—prophetically—against “treating family formation and structure as something malleable that can be shaped to suit our own predilections.”

Even in this last regard, Colson practiced what he preached.  The day he was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot alongside his brain that eventually led to his death, he had spent 10 hours working with other cultural leaders on a Manhattan Declaration project focusing on present and future challenges to the American family.

In short, after emerging from prison Charles Colson lived out his convictions and fought for them to the very end.  The congruence of word and deed in his life produced enormous influence in the public square: His radio commentary, heard on 1,300 media outlets nationwide, reached over 8 million listeners every week. By following through on his early commitments, Colson improved the lives of literally millions, and both our prisons and society at large are the better for him.

Josh Good is a senior consultant who works with faith-based organizations and several public policy think tanks in Washington, D.C. 

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