UPCOMING EVENTS: Free to attend! Click links below for details
- Happy Surprises in Later Life (Feb 4 - Mar 11, 2015)
NOTICE: Fr. Chinlund has fully recovered! - click HERE for more information
There is a certain monastic quiet in the painter’s studio where the Rev. Stephen Chinlund sometimes spends hours at a stretch at his easel. Outside, along the streets of the garment district, noisy chaos reigns. But inside, in the soft light, he can easily slip into a trance as he paints.
There is value to this solitary pursuit he has cherished in his retirement. He has learned that lesson not just in his studio, but also in prison. Since the 1960s, he has worked among the incarcerated as an advocate, watchdog and even watchman, all part of what he saw as his vocation to help transform lives. His conclusion? Despite the popular image that prisons are nothing more than schools for crime, they can also be places of profound individual change for the better.
He knows that this may not sit well with some of his friends who otherwise share his liberal beliefs. But having been on both sides of the bars, he is resolute in his convictions.
“Prisons are absolutely necessary,” he said. “Some people need to be held still. There are a lot of people, including members of my beloved liberal community, who are horrified by the idea one human being can have total control over another human being. But I feel wildly passionate about this whole thing, even if I know some people won’t get it and will be mad as hell.”
It comes as a surprise to many to learn that, after decades of rapid growth, there are fewer prisons in New York State. Twelve have been closed in the last nine years.
An equally astonishing fact is that one of the main reasons for that is that rate of people returning for new felonies within three years after release has declined from 28% to 10.7%. That has meant that the adult prison population has declined from 71,538 in December 1999 to 55,893 on February first!
We have become so accustomed to the bad news of building new prisons; population rising; “nothing works,” that it is hard even to imagine everything going in a good direction. However, these are hard facts; this is not the dreamy musings of some idealistic prison reformer.