I saw the documentary series Gordon Behind Bars, which stars Gordon Ramsay, the famous British chef. In it he convinced the prison ministry in England to allow him to work with a group of inmates. He taught them professional cooking skills as well as life skills so that when they got out of prison, they had a viable profession.
This was not an easy task. From personal experience, I know how difficult it is to convince the prison system that most of the inmates are not bad people but good people who’ve done bad things primarily because they have no other skills or opportunities.
I found the four-part series positive and inspirational. Why? Let me share my thoughts from four different viewpoints.
- Gordon Ramsay: He was raised to be tough, but his cooking skills and business savvy opened unbelievable doors. Gordon is also a humanist, willing to share his time, talents, and treasures to fight the prison bureaucracy and start a program that taught inmates professional cooking, a work ethic, and business skills. Gordon has the answer about how to rehabilitate those in prison. It is a thrilling story about his strong belief in the goodness of humanity. I admire him deeply.
- The inmates: I was watching a miracle in front of my eyes as Gordon took a group of what society would call “losers” and made them into productive members of society. One could watch hardened criminals being given another chance, and because of Gordon’s dedication, their lives were changed radically. As a Follower, I know that loving the hell out of people is much more productive than kicking the hell out of them. This series proves that without a doubt.
- The guards and officials in prisons: I have worked in correctional institutions as a chaplain and volunteer and have experienced the idea “Everyone here is bad, so let’s dehumanize them, lock them in small cages, and treat them like scum, then they’ll all become angels.” Huh? The present prison system is the problem. I felt they all wanted Gordon’s program to fail. If it didn’t, they could be out of a job. Gordon proved that the present prison system desperately needs an overhaul.
- The bigger picture: The current prison system is designed for failure, well proven in my lifetime. To dehumanize people in prison and then send them back into the world to be punished for the rest of their lives because they committed a felony in the past makes no sense. Plus, you and I have to pay for this “no sense.” It costs between $100,000 to $130,000 a year to lock up inmates. Wouldn’t that money be much better spent dealing with their mental issues and addiction habits, teaching them current skills and a work ethic, and releasing them with their felonies expunged? Gordon thought so.
It was the faith-based community that ended slavery. It took a long time, but they did it. I believe it is the faith-based community that could transform our present penal system.
What do you think?
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Larry Farr on Unsplash