When Colson got out of prison he founded Prison Fellowship, a Christian organization that recruits volunteers to "visit those in prison" in response to the command of Jesus, conduct Bible studies behind prison walls and help ex-convicts find jobs after their release so they won't return to crime and jail.
It has worked. According to Prison Fellowship, prisoners who take part in their faith-based programs have a much lower recidivism rate than other prisoners.
In 1983, Colson established Justice Fellowship, a Christian-based criminal justice reform group. Through Justice Fellowship, Colson became a leading prison reformer, taking positions one doesn't usually associate with Republicans. He criticized the death penalty, mostly for being unequally applied (though he believed in it for rare cases). He opposed the incarceration of nonviolent, non-dangerous offenders, believing restitution was a more redemptive approach for both perpetrator and victim.
I once asked him if he would ever seek a pardon. He replied, "I have the only pardon I need," referring to God. In 2000, he accepted a restoration of his civil rights from then-Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, but was never pardoned by a president. President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008 for his work in prisons.
In one of his many books, "Who Speaks for God?" Colson warned against attaching a heavenly kingdom to the political agendas of the age. He also urged Christians to think and act more like Jesus.
In 1973, when news of Colson's conversion became public, The Boston Globe editorialized, "If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everyone." To which the "new" Charles Colson would undoubtedly shout, "Amen!"
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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