Chuck Colson

Believe it or not, it's less than fourteen months until the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Thus, there’s hardly a potluck dinner or a PTA meeting in either state that won't be graced by the presence of at least one would-be presidential candidate.

Even in the era of the "perpetual campaign," there are some places where you don't, however, expect to find possible presidential candidates. One of them used to be inside a prison.

I said, "used to be," because Senator Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas, who has established a presidential exploratory committee, wasn't in Iowa or New Hampshire this past weekend — he was in Louisiana. Specifically, he was in Angola, Louisiana, the site of one of America’s most famous — or infamous —prisons.

Brownback spent the night in a 7 - by - 10 - foot cell. He called his night "a little rough," adding, "I didn't sleep the best."

Obviously, Brownback didn't spend the night at Angola for the accommodations. Nor did he do it as some kind of campaign stunt. As he put it, "There aren't probably a lot of votes for me here."

What was there was an opportunity to "promote religious - based prison efforts to curtail violence and provide inmates with an alternative to crime once — or if — they got out."

Brownback told reporters, "We don't want to build more prisons in the country [and] we don't want to lock people up. We want people to be good, productive citizens."

Not only do these programs make a difference after release, they can also make a difference before prisoners are released. Angola's warden, Burl Cain, has credited "a drop in violence at the prison" to these kinds of programs. That's why he and other corrections officials and Prison Fellowship support them.

It's not often that you hear a possible presidential candidate saying, "We don't want to build more prisons in this country," or that we're not addressing the "problems and needs" of prisoners. In fact, I can't recall any presidential candidate ever saying anything like this. (And let me add, I don't endorse political candidates, and I am not doing so now, though I think the world of Brownback.)

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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