And for someone returning to the free world after months or years or decades in prison, the things we find routine can be filled with uncertainty of how things have changed and how they are expected to act. They have not opened a door or window while they have been away. They have not been the first person to see a letter or card addressed to them, and they may have missed a card altogether because it had glitter or added parts that did not meet the necessary prison guidelines. They are often challenged by the very foods they have been longing for because few prisons have much budget for spices. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a rarity. Flowers tend to be limited to prisons with horticulture programs and pets to prisons with dog rehabilitation programs.
How would it be to come out of prison with no one waiting, no place to stay, no one who is willing to offer even the most basic employment, no church who offers the fellowship of all believers? And this is not a short-term situation as broken families, uncertain landlords, worried employers and frightened churches are slow to lend a hand up for multiple reasons both valid and invalid.
We speak of "paying a debt to society" but our fears help increase the likelihood of someone, even someone who comes to faith in prison, being soon attracted to old friends, old stomping grounds and old ways of coping with sadness, want and despair. If church people don't really believe in redemption, renewal and restoration, then how are we different from the world?