Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Harsh Words for a Harsh Reality: Interview with Bondage Breakers, Inc. CEO, Dr. Alicia Malone"

During the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Mr. Arthur H. Garrison, of Garrison Consulting, LLC presented a research paper entitled, “Disproportionate Minority Confinement: A Historical Look at Racial Incarceration.”

His research concludes the following…

In 1999, one in every 29 African American males was sentenced to at least a year’s confinement, compared with one in every 75 Hispanic males, and one in every 240 white males. In more than a dozen states, a convicted felon loses the right to vote – for life. Thirty-two states prohibit offenders on probation or parole from voting. As a result, nearly 4 million Americans, one in fifty adults, is barred from voting. Of these, 1.4 million are African American,accounting for 13 percent of the black male population.

He further states…

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Prison
Inmates at Midyear 2007 report, compared to the estimated
numbers of black, white, and Hispanic males in the U.S.
resident population, black males are six times and Hispanic males are two times more likely to be held in custody than white males
(pages 2-3, American Society of Criminology 2008 Annual Meeting paper, St. Louis, MO November 12-15, 2008).

The above stated findings provide a glimpse of some tragic realities. The “Prison Industry” in America is an unjust and heinous system that perpetuates familial dysfunction, poverty and imprisonment. In this our final segment focusing upon clergywomen in prison Ministry, the Rev. Dr. Alicia Malone, CEO/Executive Director of Bondage Breakers, Inc. reflects upon the systemic inequities and voices righteous indignation. Bondage Breakers, Inc., is a prison ministry dedicated to offering practical, spiritual, economic and educational assistance to ex-offenders and their families. Bondage Breakers, Inc. has several ministries, including a mentoring program, employment training and assistance, and an academic scholarship program for children of incarcerated parents. The organization is comprised of church volunteers throughout Summit County.

Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Dr. Alicia Malone
Founding Executive Director,
Bondage Breakers, Inc.
Akron, Ohio

Tell us how you became involved in prison ministry and in what capacities have you served regarding this ministry.

I initially became involved in 1982 under the Way Out Prison Ministry under the directorship of Esley Patch. I volunteered for the GED Program at the Summit County Jail. My heart was deeply moved by the lack of education and interest of education within the incarcerated population. Eight years later, the Lord called me into Prison Ministry on a much larger scale.

Explain the concept of “pipeline to prison” in America

Not having done much research in this area, “pipeline to prison,” from a common sense standpoint, one can discern that prison, the industry that it is, is an opportunity for the nation’s states to become rich. Another factor I have always held is that this “pipeline” is a post-modern “slavery” and in many ways defeats or deflates many of the earnest and valiant plights presented during the Civil Rights era.

How does this impact individuals, families and communities?

The impact upon individuals, families and communities is continued fragmentation, break down of the family structure and a continual worsening of their condition. Today’s perpetual societal dysfunction as relates to the prison system makes it so. The dysfunction persists because of the biased legislation process. In other words systems and laws have been put in place to control and continue disproportional minority incarcerations. Let me say it this way - many of our young men and women are being incarcerated for crimes that call for “treatment” not physical incarceration. Today, any and almost everything, from driving under suspension to driving with an open container can land a person in prison. There is something grossly wrong with this picture, in my opinion.

How can clergy help?

Clergy can help by first, stop ignoring and denying the realities of prison, incarceration, broken, dysfunctional families in our congregations. Jesus ministered to those “broken, dysfunctional” persons in his day i.e. Simon the leper, the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years. We, Clergy, don’t need to hide behind a cloak of religiosity, we need to emulate our Savior and become revolutionist.

How can churches help?

Churches can get behind existing organizations, like Bondage Breakers, Inc. and make them a line item in their overall Church Budget. If Churches would commit $100.00 a month to organizations who are “on the front line doing prison ministry” those organizations would not have to vie for State dollars (to address a state problem). As a church and organization leader, I have sent out verbal pleas to many churches with a very minimal response. What I have learned in the 20 years of ministry to the least of these (Matthew 25:41), is that many churches are very apathetic regarding the realities of prison ministry. If a situation does not appear to affect them, it has been my experience, that they (churches) show little to no interest in assisting, emulating Christ in the fullness of the Gospel.

What guidance would you give to individuals desiring to get involved in prison ministry?

The initial word of advice I would give to anyone is: “make certain that you are called into this arena.” There is nothing more damaging to an inmate than for a person to come “look and see” but really are “detached” in terms of the heart of their matter. I pray you do not mind my being candid. If there is a sincere calling and you have your church’s support, start with the Pastor and official board. Let them bring it to the congregation and make sure you are budgeted from within the house of God. At the inception of Bondage Breakers, Inc. that is exactly what my Pastor Dr. Arthur E. Kemp did. He made certain that transportation was made available for us. He also provided gas and revenue for a light lunch after the services concluded. Prison Visitation Ministry is at least a 12 hour day; this includes travel time, the service time, and the return trip home. For those who do not aspire to minister inside the walls, there are many “outside the wall” services that can be rendered. One still must discern the call!

Micah 6:8 declares, “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
For more information about Bondage Breakers, Inc. or to contact Dr. Malone write, P.O. Box 8328 Akron, Ohio 44320; (330) 867-2325.

Your thoughts? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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