UNITED METHODIST SOCIAL CREED

02/19/2012

166 We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
(It is recommended that this statement of Social Principles be continually available to United Methodist Christians and that it be emphasized regularly in every congregation. It is further recommended that “Our Social Creed” be frequently used in Sunday worship.)
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2000. Copyright 2000 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

FAITH AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

02/19/2012

FAITH
AND
SOCIAL JUSTICE
The United Methodist Church from the beginning of our predecessor titles has believed in Social Justice as an important part of our faith.
James 2:1(Wesley Study Bible, commentary) James shows how a Christian value system honors the poor (vv. 5-13) urges the uselessness of beliefs that do not express themselves in everyday behaviors (vv. 14-17) and provides two examples of genuine faith. (vv.18-26)
James 2.15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food and you say to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and you do not supply their basic needs, what good is that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
How is Social Justice different from Works of Mercy?
Both are equally important. Works of Mercy provide food, clothing, rental assistance and other resources for people’s basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. However, works of mercy do not lift people up out of their circumstances which requires them to continually seek help.
If someone falls into a well and a traveler hears his/her cry for help and goes over, looks in the well and asks, “How are you?”, and says, “I’ll get you a sandwich”. When he comes back s/he drops a sandwich down the well” that is a work of mercy. If the traveler says, I’ll go and get a rescue team and does so that is social justice on a one to one personal basis.

After rescuing the person from the well, the traveler, rescue team and other nearby townspeople come together and develop a plan to search out all open wells in the community and fill them to prevent others from falling in, that is community social justice.

Social Justice works on the one to one personal and on the community level to show Christ’s love, make disciples and transform society as we believe is within Christ’s vision for the world and God’s kingdom come on earth.

Social justice works to provide fair wages for farmers, farm workers, transportation, and affordable prices of food at the market. Social justice works to help people have sustainable food, through gardening, learning food preservation, and through a social system that cares for the poor, underprivileged, unemployed, disabled, in ways that provides adequate and healthy food.

SOCIAL JUSTICE MEANING

02/19/2012

Serve population outside the local church boundaries
Challenge and hold societal structures accountable in performing acts of justice
Transform lives of all involved
Create sustainable change by developing life skills and/or restoring health & wholeness, fostering/developing job opportunity, create economic stability and fair lending, developing affordable housing, food sustainability, developing overall community and quality of life

Origin of Social Justice

02/19/2012

If, Social Justice is a code word for Socialism, as a well-followed television personality has said, is an ice cream social a gathering of socialist?

A quote: (not mine) “Where I go to church, there are members that preach social justice as members — my faith doesn’t — but the members preach social justice all the time.  It is a perversion of the gospel.  You want to help out? You help out.  It changes you.  That’s what the gospel is all about:  You. Social justice was the rallying cry — economic justice and social justice — the rallying cry on both the Communist front and the Fascist front.  That is not an American idea.  And if we don’t get off the social justice economic justice bandwagon, if you are not aware of what this is, you are in grave trouble. I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church website.  If you find it, run as fast as you can.  Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.  Now, am I advising people to leave their church?  Yes!
I must protest the above statement. Not everyone who uses the word Christian for themselves is an actual Christian. Jesus said,” Everyone that says, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father”. Matthew 7. 21. The Message, paraphrases verses 17 and 21 as: “Be wary of false prophets, who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma: look for character. A genuine leader will not exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. Knowing the correct password, “Master, Master” isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience–doing what my Father wills. Michael Slaughter in Momentum for Life, “functional atheists”?
Justice is the cry of the biblical prophets. God observed the misery of God’s people and heard their cries on account of their task masters. God told Moses: “I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Exodus 3.7-8. This is the Origin of Social Justice. Social justice is to see and feel the misery and suffering of others and to follow Jesus’ mission and directive to feed the hungry, ‘heal the sick’, all the sick, not just those who can afford insurance, clothe the poor and homeless, care about the prisoner, and those in other forms of bondage. Social justice is to be part of God’s redemptive work in the world. As Michael Slaughter writes, “When I am actively participating in the redemptive work of Jesus, my labors will add value, and enhance quality of life and promote connectedness in relationship”, with and for all people in society. This is social justice.
Am I asking for you to follow Jesus’ teaching, the answer is “Yes!”.

What the Bible Teaches About Capitalism by Rabbi Aryeh Spero has led congregations in Ohio and New York and is president of Caucus for America

01/31/2012

By ARYEH SPERO

Who would have expected that in a Republican primary campaign the single biggest complaint among candidates would be that the front-runner has taken capitalism too far? As if his success and achievement were evidence of something unethical and immoral? President Obama and other redistributionists must be rejoicing that their assumptions about rugged capitalism and the 1% have been given such legitimacy.

More than any other nation, the United States was founded on broad themes of morality rooted in a specific religious perspective. We call this the Judeo-Christian ethos, and within it resides a ringing endorsement of capitalism as a moral endeavor.

Regarding mankind, no theme is more salient in the Bible than the morality of personal responsibility, for it is through this that man cultivates the inner development leading to his own growth, good citizenship and happiness. The entitlement/welfare state is a paradigm that undermines that noble goal.

The Bible’s proclamation that “Six days shall ye work” is its recognition that on a day-to-day basis work is the engine that brings about man’s inner state of personal responsibility. Work develops the qualities of accountability and urgency, including the need for comity with others as a means for the accomplishment of tasks. With work, he becomes imbued with the knowledge that he is to be productive and that his well-being is not an entitlement. And work keeps him away from the idleness that Proverbs warns leads inevitably to actions and attitudes injurious to himself and those around him.

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Yet capitalism is not content with people only being laborers and holders of jobs, indistinguishable members of the masses punching in and out of mammoth factories or functioning as service employees in government agencies. Nor is the Bible. Unlike socialism, mired as it is in the static reproduction of things already invented, capitalism is dynamic and energetic. It cheerfully fosters and encourages creativity, unspoken possibilities, and dreams of the individual. Because the Hebrew Bible sees us not simply as “workers” and members of the masses but, rather, as individuals, it heralds that characteristic which endows us with individuality: our creativity.

At the opening bell, Genesis announces: “Man is created in the image of God”—in other words, like Him, with individuality and creative intelligence. Unlike animals, the human being is not only a hunter and gatherer but a creative dreamer with the potential of unlocking all the hidden treasures implanted by God in our universe. The mechanism of capitalism, as manifest through investment and reasoned speculation, helps facilitate our partnership with God by bringing to the surface that which the Almighty embedded in nature for our eventual extraction and activation.

Capitalism makes possible entrepreneurship, which is the realization of an idea birthed in human creativity. Whereas statism demands that citizens think small and bow to a top-down conformity, capitalism, as has been practiced in the U.S., maximizes human potential. It provides a home for aspiration, referred to in the Bible as “the spirit of life.”

The Bible speaks positively of payment and profit: “For why else should a man so labor but to receive reward?” Thus do laborers get paid wages for their hours of work and investors receive profit for their investment and risk.

The Bible is not a business-school manual. While it is comfortable with wealth creation and the need for speculation in economic markets, it has nothing to say about financial instruments and models such as private equity, hedge funds or other forms of monetary capitalization. What it does demand is honesty, fair weights and measures, respect for a borrower’s collateral, timely payments of wages, resisting usury, and empathy for those injured by life’s misfortunes and charity.

It also demands transparency and honesty regarding one’s intentions. The command, “Thou shalt not place a stumbling block in front of the blind man” also means that you should not act deceitfully or obscure the truth from those whose choice depends upon the information you give them. There’s nothing to indicate that Mitt Romney breached this biblical code of ethics, and his wealth and success should not be seen as automatic causes for suspicion.

No country has achieved such broad-based prosperity as has America, or invented as many useful things, or seen as many people achieve personal promise. This is not an accident. It is the direct result of centuries lived by the free-market ethos embodied in the Judeo-Christian outlook.

Furthermore, only a prosperous nation can protect itself from outside threats, for without prosperity the funds to support a robust military are unavailable. Having radically enlarged the welfare state and hoping to further expand it, President Obama is attempting to justify his cuts to our military by asserting that defense needs must give way to domestic programs.

Both history and the Bible show the way that leads. Countries that were once economic powerhouses atrophied and declined, like England after World War II, once they began adopting socialism. Even King Solomon’s thriving kingdom crashed once his son decided to impose onerous taxes.

At the end of Genesis, we hear how after years of famine the people in Egypt gave all their property to the government in return for the promise of food. The architect of this plan was Joseph, son of Jacob, who had risen to become the pharaoh’s top official, thus: “Joseph exchanged all the land of Egypt for pharaoh and the land became pharaoh’s.” The result was that Egyptians became indentured to the ruler and state, and Joseph’s descendants ended up enslaved to the state.

Many on the religious left criticize capitalism because all do not end up monetarily equal—or, as Churchill quipped, “all equally miserable.” But the Bible’s prescription of equality means equality under the law, as in Deuteronomy’s saying that “Judges and officers . . . shall judge the people with a just judgment: Do not . . . favor one over the other.” Nowhere does the Bible refer to a utopian equality that is contrary to human nature and has never been achieved.

The motive of capitalism’s detractors is a quest for their own power and an envy of those who have more money. But envy is a cardinal sin and something that ought not to be.

God begins the Ten Commandments with “I am the Lord your God” and concludes with “Thou shalt not envy your neighbor, not for his wife, nor his house, nor for any of his holdings.” Envy is corrosive to the individual and to those societies that embrace it. Nations that throw over capitalism for socialism have made an immoral choice.

Rabbi Spero has led congregations in Ohio and New York and is president of Caucus for America.

Justice for African-Americans in their OWN VOICES

01/29/2012

I don’t pretend to know African-Americans’ experiences. I am a white male raised in a small Kansas town with possibly only one African-American in a nearby town.
I went to college in Oklahoma and in some of my travels around was introduced to ‘whites only’ facilities. I thought this was the most outlandish idea. Although I didn’t know any African American I instinctively knew this was wrong. I believe it was from my early introduction to Christian Faith that I believed this. I had heard of slavery which I also knew was wrong. I knew God is on the side of the oppressed and so should I be. This, I believe was my early interest in Justice for All.

Since, I cannot actually speak from an African American experience, I can’t speak for them as they are able to speak themselves. Therefore, I publish writing of and about African Americans in their own Voices, as in my last several postings and today (below)

Letter to the Editor, Washington Post
WHAT BLACK WOMEN FACE
Published: January 28

As a black woman, I recognized myself in the Jan. 23 front-page article “Peeling back the labels.” I have wondered about the dreams and struggles of black women, especially those of my family and friends, and their collective outcomes. Although many of our beginnings were humble, some of us were able to transcend the obstacles and excel. Those of us who seemed more privileged were not always the ones to move forward. Many seemed to settle as they accepted the limitations imposed by outside forces. However, some of us were determined to forge ahead even though the process was slow and tedious.

We were not taught that men would find and rescue us; however, we yearned for love and the extended family, especially love. We are very human in that way, but we adjust when we find that romantic dream elusive. Our careers have not become more important than our families. We just do what we must. For many of us, trusting God has been our salvation; yet we know how Christ lived and died. We understand trials and tribulations as integral parts of our existence.

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After 72 years, I hope that a well-adjusted black woman has emerged from the struggles of my past. I continue to embrace the notion of making a contribution to other women, regardless of ethnicity, and to society as a whole. All evidence indicates that I’m not alone in this.

Anita Merritt Jones, Gaithersburg

Thank you for the gorgeous picture featuring three generations of black women; it felt great not to be invisible. One of the most pernicious observations was that black women perceive that others think they’re not so smart. All my black female friends have stories of humiliating and covert questions about credentials and authority. Women as accomplished as Michelle Obama, Gwen Ifill and Condoleezza Rice constantly face stereotypical assertions and inquiries. Often invisible in executive suites, black women must authorize our own empowerment and value. We are expected to succeed while encumbered by sexism, racism, exclusion and isolation. It is up to us to provide support to each other.

Jatrice Martel Gaiter, Alexandria

The writer is a founding board member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and vice chair of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

I believe that …

01/28/2012

I believe that some people need to be in prison. I also believe prison should be more habilitative (you can’t re-habilitate when someone has never been habilitated in the first place) When prisons become the new mental facility old age home, and new Jime Crow. Something needs to change. Our country can do better. At least have different environments, more compassion, less simply punitive. Read article:

Number of Older Inmates Grows, Stressing Prisons
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS, New York Times, 1.26.12

The number of Americans in prison older than 55 is growing at a faster rate than the group’s share of the population at large, and many prisons are unprepared to provide them with health care, which can cost as much as nine times more than for younger inmates, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Friday.
Related
Justices, 5-4, Tell California to Cut Prisoner Population (May 24, 2011)
Prison Ruling Raises Stakes in California Fiscal Crisis (May 24, 2011)

The complications in handling the swelling number of aging prisoners range from making allowances for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia and finding sufficient ground-floor cells for inmates in wheelchairs to ensuring that older prisoners are not exploited or robbed by younger inmates.

“Age should not be a get-out-of-jail-free card, but when prisoners are so old and infirm that they are not a threat to public safety, they should be released under supervision,” said Jamie Fellner, the author of the study. “Failing that, legislatures are going to have to pony up a lot more money to pay for proper care for them behind bars.”

The report found that the number of imprisoned men and women 65 years and older grew by more than 90 times the rate of the total prison population from 2007 to 2010. While the number of those older inmates increased by 63 percent, the number of all inmates rose by just 0.7 percent.

State or federal prisons now hold about 26,200 people 65 years and older, and about 124,000 inmates older than 55, the report said. The number of incarcerated people who are older than 55 has grown at a rate six times that of the rest of the prison population.

While most elderly inmates have been in prison for years, the number of older people just entering has also been increasing — along with the cost of their care.

In Michigan, the annual cost of health care for the average inmate was $5,800, according to the study, a figure that increased to $11,000 for prisoners aged 55 to 59. The cost spiraled to $40,000 a year for inmates 80 years and older.

“Prison officials look at the projected increase in aging prisoners in their systems and realize in the very near future they will need to operate specialized geriatric facilities,” the report said. “Some already do.”

California, which is under federal court order to reduce overcrowding in its prisons, has seen the percentage of its inmates older than 50 increase to 17 percent in 2010, from 4 percent in 1990, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“We have an awful lot of people who are probably going to die in prison,” said Nancy J. Kincaid, spokeswoman for the state’s Correctional Health Care Services. “There are people with 40-year sentences, 30-year sentences. We have to figure out how to care for these people.”

The state’s prison health care system has been in federal receivership since 2006, when a court ruled that the state was failing to provide inmates with adequate access to health care services.

Ms. Kincaid said that as the prison population had aged, so had the incidence of chronic diseases among inmates, including hypertension and diabetes. And because the state has only three hospitals for prisoners — about 120 beds — it must contract with private operators for inpatient care. The cost of a hospitalized inmate in such a facility is about $850,000 a year.

“We have guys who are comatose shackled to beds with a guard in the room,” she said.
To reduce costs, the state is building a $750 million medical center for inmates in Stockton that will have 1,772 beds, and include a pharmacy and dialysis clinic. It will be single story to ease mobility problems among what is expected to be a large number of older patients.

Editorial: Sentencing reforms overdue

01/28/2012

The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jan 24, 2012 @ 08:21 AM

After an unusually productive first year, the state Legislature is positioned to tackle big issues that require comprehensive action. Its work is already well under way on issues of crime and punishment.

For years, advocates in and out of state government have pushed to reform sentencing laws that are neither fair nor effective in reducing crime. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and higher sentences for crimes committed in overly broad “school zones” have led to overcrowded prisons and under-supervised ex-cons. But the same political pressures that put those policies in place — headline-inspired “tough on crime” poses and lobbying by prosecutors and police — kept them in place.

Last year, the Senate grabbed the headline-inspired call for tighter limits on parole for violent criminals and adopted a “habitual offenders” bill. But amid concerns that its “three strikes and you’re out” provisions would jam more inmates into a prison system already overcrowded, the Senate expanded the bill, including reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for some non-violent drug offenders, shrinking the school zones that expand sentences even for crimes that have nothing to do with children, and post-release supervision for all released convicts.

That happened toward the end of the last year, and the House wasn’t ready to tackle as ambitious a package. Initially, the House passed only the habitual offenders part and sent it off to a conference committee. The concern here was that the sentencing reforms would get lost in the conference.

House leaders have now changed course, with encouragement from Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate leaders and reform advocates. Speaker Robert DeLeo expects to advance bills that hit the same areas as the more comprehensive Senate bill.

Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, a member of the conference committee, told the Daily News he expects the House will support a habitual offenders bill that narrowly targets “the worst of the worst,” along with provisions to reduce mandatory minimums, shrink school zones and increase post-release supervision.

A report from the Patrick administration last week underlines what’s at stake. Spending on the Department of Correction has grown by 30 percent over the last decade, and addressing overcrowding will cost taxpayers up to $2.3 billion over the next 10 years. Prisoners are staying incarcerated longer and are getting older, sicker and more expensive to care for.

Rather than build more prisons, Massachusetts must reduce recidivism through smarter sentences, post-release supervision and better treatment of mental health and addiction.

Other states, including those politically more conservative, are finding alternatives to incarceration. Massachusetts should as well. Enacting sentencing reform would be a good, and overdue, place to start

Read more: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/opinions/editorials/x739235999/Editorial-Sentencing-reforms-overdue#ixzz1koELmi7p

01/28/2012

Please visit and “LIKE” an important human rights initiative; designed to attack the so-called war on drugs and the unjust mass incarceration of people of color http://www.tobefreeatlast.net and on Twitter@2bfreeatlast or Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/2BeFreeAtLast/234187619967233

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Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes and Friendship West welcomed Michelle Alexander and some 200 activists for a two day summit focusing on launching the To Be Free At Last Movement. Check out some of the video from that meeting…and more is forthcoming. See Full Summit Go Now

Prison and African-Americans

01/28/2012

For Too Many African-Americans, Prison is a Legacy Passed from Father to Son

Today is Martin Luther King Day. But with more African-American men facing jail than were enslaved in 1850, there is little to celebrate

By Gary Younge

January 16, 2012 “The Guardian” – -According to Jeffrey Gamble, the luckiest day of his life was when his car hit the kerb at the corner of Jefferson and National in Los Angeles while he was drunk-driving. It flew over a fence, falling 80ft into a creek below, leaving him with a broken neck and paralysed. “If I hadn’t had that accident, I would be dead – or in jail for the rest of my life, just like my brothers,” says Gamble, 47. Prison, for the Gambles, is as common a destination as university might be for a middle-class family. His two brothers are both in jail. Ricky, who was convicted for burglary and assault with a firearm under the three strikes law, is in for 110 years to life. Mike got life without parole for the murder of a local councillor. His father was in jail for a series of alcohol-related offences. His son, Khalif, has also been in jail for dealing drugs and possession.
“It’s not just that we didn’t fear jail,” says Jeffrey, who now uses his experience to warn youngsters away from gangs and prison. “It was like a rite of passage. You needed to go to jail so you could have that badge of honour.” Three generations of African-American men enmeshed in the criminal justice system. A legacy of incarceration passed from father to son. A cycle that just won’t break.

When Martin Luther King, whose birthday is marked across the United States on Monday with a national holiday, adopted Mahatma Gandhi’s call to “fill the jails” 50 years ago, he didn’t mean this. Back then, the aim was to delegitimise the prevailing power structure by removing the stigma from protesting against unjust laws. Today, imprisonment is not an act of resistance but a fact of life. It is both the product and cause of social collapse in many black communities, where full jails do not challenge racial inequalities but sustain them.

For decades the issue never entered mainstream debate unless an increasingly desperate right wing decided to ramp up its race-baiting rhetoric. (The man who delivered the racist Willie Horton ad for George Bush Snr’s campaign in 1988 now works for Team Romney). On a local level it is back on the agenda because the states simply cannot afford it: California spends $47,102 per inmate per year. It is a national disgrace. The mass incarceration of African-Americans is the civil rights issue of the day. The statistics are horrific.

One in three African-American boys born in 2001 stands a lifetime risk of going to jail, according to the American Leadership Forum. In 2007, one in every 15 black children had a parent in prison. According to Ohio State University law professor and author Michelle Alexander, there are more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole in the US now than there were enslaved in 1850. Alexander also calculates that because felons lose the right to vote, more African-American men were disenfranchised in 2004 than in 1870, the year male franchise was secured. There are now roughly the same number of black men in American prisons as the populations of Glasgow and Derby combined. Black women are seven times more likely than white women to be in prison. Almost one in 10 young black men are behind bars.

Exclusion does not end with prison but begins there. In many states, felons lose the right to vote and sit on juries for ever. Sometimes conviction isn’t even necessary, arrest is enough. Whether you are eventually found guilty or not, the fact you have been arrested can be enough to thwart your chance of getting a job or housing.

Broadly speaking, there are two opinions about how so many African-Americans could have ended up in this situation. The first is that black people are genetically pathological; the second is that societal factors are at play. For those who believe the former, turn the page. There are other papers for you and other days. The very fact that King’s birthday is commemorated indicates that such bigotry is no longer officially accepted.

Like many Conservatives, Mike Reynolds, who launched California’s three strikes initiative after his daughter was murdered by convicted felons, believes the key societal factor is an over-generous welfare system that encourages black women to have children and black men to abscond. In the case of the Gambles, nothing could be further from the truth. Jeffrey’s mother says she had no idea he was involved in crime from the age of eight because she was holding down two jobs.

Indeed, the extent to which the problem is economic means that for most of those who end up in jail it’s not too much welfare, but too few jobs. Black unemployment currently stands at almost 16%. For young black men between the ages of 16 and 19 (those at risk of entering the criminal justice system) it is almost 50%. “In the past in the civil rights movement, we have been dealing with segregation and all of its humiliation; we’ve been dealing with the political problem of the denial of the right to vote,” King said, just 10 days before his death. “I think it is absolutely necessary now to deal massively and militantly with the economic problem.” But that shift in emphasis from race to class demanded allies who were too few, and too weak.

As Jeffrey saw it when he was growing up, he had two choices: a long life scraping by on the minimum wage, if he was lucky, or a shorter one on the streets that promised fast money and either death or prison. He grew up in the shadow of the university of southern California, but it might as well have been a foreign country: “The only thing we went to USC for was to break into their cars when there was a game on, and sell weed,” says Jeffrey.Khalif’s choices are not much different. He wants to be a truck driver. But with a criminal record, work is as hard to come by as the $500 he needs to enrol in a driving course. To escape the lure of crime, he moved 70 miles away to Lancaster, where he stands on the street for five hours a day earning the minimum wage for holding up a sign directing hopeful house buyers. “It’s a struggle,” he says. “But it’s better to go that way than the wrong way.”

Each of the Gambles must, and does, take personal responsibility for the decisions they make; but society must answer for the options that were available to them and others. As King wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Gary Younge is a feature writer and columnist for the Guardian based in the US

© 2012 The Guardian