Previously, we discussed a little bit about why America’s prison system is broken, and is not at all what a Biblical system would look like. Law-breakers are removed from society and placed with other law-breakers for years and years, rather than getting an immediate punishment, and are then free (for most crimes anyway). Interestingly, we can see how this kind of system has been engrained in our society from the beginnings of our lives, by the liberal use of the time-out system. The time-out, as most are aware, is a system of discipline that says when a child disobeys, they are then isolated from the family; they get sent to their room or a special secluded place. Other than the seclusion, the children can then usually do what they want, as long as they stay in that one place. In general, this means they can play games or watch TV, and do whatever they might have wanted to do anyway. This might vary from family to family, but the common theme is separation. This seclusion affects two parties: the child and the parent. The child is taught that when they disobey, they can expect to be separated from the rest of the family for a period of time, often to “think about what they did.” Not only does this not actually teach a child what they have done wrong, or that there are any substantial consequences for actions, but it forces on them either a prolonged sense of guilt, or it allows them to forget about it completely. Neither of these things actually teach someone how to obey, rather it either puts distance between the child and parent or it says they can do what they want and get out of any tangible consequence. Rather than think about what they did wrong, it more likely fosters a sense of resentment at being sent away. Ultimately, there is never any forgiveness for what was done, just isolation and guilt. For the parent, it also enables and enforces a sense of “I don’t want to deal with this”. Not knowing how to really deal with disobedience other than sending a child away creates and fosters a laziness of parenting that lets them simply procrastinate and forget. Initially, parents rely on the time-out because it’s all they’ve been taught, but after relying on it for a time, it’s much easier to never deal with a child’s issue than to find a good alternative, even when there is never improvement in behavior (and often a further degradation). The Biblical model, however, is one of quick discipline using spanking with the rod. Proverbs 22:15 says “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” A child disobeys, is corrected with physical pain, and is then free again. Quick, simple, and easily understandable for a child with limited reasoning skills (as most children have). This also eliminates any sense of seclusion or prolonged guilt that would otherwise be taught, and it shows that there are real consequences to actions. The folly that they did is driven away. As a quick aside, this Biblical model for discipline is also a small facet of how the Gospel operates. For the love of the child, the discipline is short and swift, teaching the lesson and then immediately bringing the child back into favor in being forgiven immediately, no matter what they did. The underlying love of the parent shows that they want what’s best for the child, no matter how hard the discipline is, and it certainly is hard seeing our children cry, but it is what’s best for them to drive folly from them, according to Scripture. There is no isolation, only grace that loves them unconditionally and wants the best for them. God disciplines us, but then shows us grace and forgiveness through his Son. There is no isolation or fear of judgement. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11). We discipline out of love, just as God does. So how does this relate to America’s prison system? The similarities are fairly obvious. We separate the guilty party from the rest of the family/society for a period of time, and then expect that they will act better when they rejoin everyone else. There is no teaching, no tangible consequence, and most importantly, no forgiveness at the end. People are sent away and left to rot, rather than face an immediate punishment. There is no reason a person should need to be “rehabilitated” for re-entering society for a crime, but when you remove them from the rest of the country and place them with other law-breakers, they can’t reasonably be expected to be “normal”. It takes the idea of a time-out, and multiplies its effects exponentially, effectively ruining their lives for any sentence more than a few years. Whereas the Biblical prescription for law-breaking is immediate and meaningful, the worldly solution is lengthy and debilitating. The Biblical ideas of discipline might seem harsh at first, but they are really much more humane than the alternative.