The Virginia Parole Board has come under fire for its release of Vincent Martin and for not properly notifying the victim's family. Martin had served 40 years for the tragic slaying of a police officer in 1979.

The board claims it has done repeated and thorough reviews of the case and highlights his stellar record of behavior while behind bars. Martin had an exceptionally positive influence on other prisoners and was called on to help resolve a violent prison uprising while incarcerated.

But the board has been equally criticized for granting too few releases among those who remain eligible for consideration (due to having been sentenced before parole was abolished in 1995).

A significant number of these men and women have proven themselves thoroughly corrected and rehabilitated after decades behind bars. Many have gained the trust and respect of prison officials and fellow prisoners, have taken every remedial class available, and have proven to be model citizens in the most challenging circumstances imaginable. Yet they have been denied release year after year based solely on the seriousness of their past offenses.

A growing number of these are also eligible for geriatric release, but are still routinely denied in spite of many being infirm, in need of intensive (and expensive) health care, and even being blind or in wheelchairs.

I understand the deep feelings of people on both sides. For family members of victims, no amount of punishment could ever compensate for the trauma and grief they have endured. On the other hand, many families long to have their repentant loved ones offered a hard earned second chance.

As people of faith, private citizens and public officials alike, we are mandated to both "do justice" and to "love mercy," along with "walking humbly with God," which means subjecting ourselves to a higher authority than our own.

In one of Jesus' familiar parables, an elder son, representing good people like us, is outraged by his father's celebration of a younger son's repentance and his return home after having wasted his inheritance and living a life of irresponsibility and lawlessness. Though worthy of being stoned to death for his disrespect and disobedience, the father, representing God, runs toward him, embraces him as one who has "come to himself," and warmly welcomes him home.

So what do we take from this story? Dare we show only disdain for wrongdoers, even thoroughly repentant ones, unmindful of our own need for grace? Or will we become ever more like the compassionate father, who not only forgave his repentant son, but put the family ring on his finger, restored him to his place in the family, and celebrated his transformation?

Showing mercy doesn't rule out tough love in cases of wrongdoing. It doesn't mean being soft on crime. It doesn't mean not expecting restitution and reparation to be made to whatever extent possible. But it surely means showing compassion toward all who demonstrate contrition and a genuine change of life.

That's not a mere suggestion. It's a divine requirement.

Harvey Yoder lives in Rockingham.

(24) comments

bishopsboy

Deft, I applaud Harvey for wanting to be a good guy, but he just keeps letting extreme left-wing politics cloud his understanding of right and wrong. When every poster, liberal and conservative, on this thread rips his Open Forum apart, he probably should remain silent and just take his beating,

DeftCurmudgeon

Yep, he's the product of an echo chamber full of well meaning but essentially real world clueless ignoramuses.

bishopsboy

Beautifully stated.

prodigalson

Deft and Bishop. I almost always agree with you guys, but I will have to take issue with you both on the notion that Harvey and his ilk are well-meaning. I used to believe that, but I no longer do. No one could be as truly ignorant as Harvey pretends to be as it relates to facts, fairness, human nature, etc. Harvey, and people like him, are wolves in sheeps' clothing. They pretend to be well-meaning in order to shield themselves from legitimate criticism, and then implement their evil Marxist agenda under the guise of "Christianity" so that they can corral the uninformed into their camp. This is arrogant, condescending, wicked stuff, and must be recognized for the poison that it is.

bishopsboy

But Prodigal, we have to agree since Harvey thinks we’re one person!

prodigalson

He'll probably rationalize our disagreement as two different sides of a psychotic personality. You know, Jekyl and Hyde?

bishopsboy

LOL. I wonder how he’ll reconcile our different parents and birthdays?

brokenanvil

Mr. Yoder, do you indeed “understand the deep feelings of people on both sides” when you fail to mention even the name of the murdered Richmond police officer?

What might have Michael Connors (age 23) accomplished in the past four decades had he not viciously lost his life while performing his duty?

DeftCurmudgeon

Harvey has just gone into... cricket mode.

DeftCurmudgeon

If your "institution of higher learning" disrespects the country that provides it with an umbrella of freedom and safety under which it can spew its socialist nonsense, your opinion is... inoperative.

And can be categorically... ignored.

prodigalson

Ahhh yes. EMU.

LVW

Well, I think there are two components that determine the appropriate length of incarceration: (1) what a reasonable penalty for the crime should be and (2) whether or not the inmate is still a danger to society. I don't like the idea of tossing out either of those two components, nor do I like the idea of using the Bible to justify doing so. I have lost count of the number of times people have attempted to use the Bible to justify things, many of which were ridiculous.

Having said that, if the actual victims -- the folks who are in the position to actually practice "forgiveness" -- forgive the person who committed the crime AND that person is clearly not a threat to anyone else, THEN we can talk. But to have some third party decide that it's okay to release an inmate because they have been behaving nicely in prison, even though they murdered someone else's spouse or child (for example), that's another matter entirely.

DeftCurmudgeon

Amen.

Notzi.

prodigalson

Well done LVW.

bishopsboy

LVW, you're moving more and more toward the right every day! Before long, you'll be wearing a MAGA hat!

Harvey Yoder

Your two points are well taken. That leaves us with your questions of who determines what is a reasonable penalty and when is an offender no longer a threat to society? And yes, we could rule out, as you suggest, applying any of the wisdom of sacred texts that have had a longstanding and pervasive affect on our culture and our legal system. And we could also rule out any "third party" whatsoever having anything to say to these questions. But wouldn't that leave us with a system of "justice" that would be based solely on the emotional judgments of victims of crime? Isn't it better to have a criminal justice system based on a constitutionally framed set of laws, interpreted and applied by impartial jurors, and carried out by a humane and rehabilitation-focused department of "corrections" rather than of mere punishment? Just thinking out loud here. I'd be glad for your response.

LVW

HY: Both penalties and threat evaluations are subjective and even somewhat fluid (as the recent change in marijuana laws in many states shows), but I believe they are best determined by the legal system as a whole. I never said to discount all the "wisdom of sacred texts," as you put it. But I don't find "Jesus said this so society should do that" arguments particularly compelling. This is not just because I have seen the Bible used to attempt to justify some mighty wacky things, but also because I think there is a difference between what an individual should do based on their belief structure and what an entire society should be forced to do. One only need look to some Middle Eastern countries to see the danger of undue influence of a "sacred text." In this particular case, it seems like you are using Jesus' teachings about forgiveness (directed to individuals who have been wronged) and applying that to society as a whole. I also can't imagine a victim being told that the person responsible for their loss is now going to be set free early because Jesus said to forgive people 490 times.

bishopsboy

I agree with Harvey Yoder. The mystery of God’s redemptive love for the offender often conflicts with our own expectations for justice, particularly in the case of murder, even if the offender has turned his life around. How can God love and forgive someone who barbarically takes the life of another made in His image and how can He expect us to do the same? What about the victim and his suffering, the immeasurable loss and suffering of his family and friends? Doesn’t he, don’t they, count? The answer is yes, but the love, grace, and mercy of God goes far beyond our human sense of justice. God wants all to repent and find salvation and for all us to rejoice when they do regardless of their past sins. This is the meaning the Prodigal Son parable.

So my challenge to Mr. Yoder and those liberal Mennonites of like mind is to show the same godly redemptive love for President Trump whom they have demonized and incessantly railed against for the last 4-5 years as they do for some murderer who killed a police officer. Your message would resonate much louder if you showed the same love, mercy, and rejoicing for those you denigrate over far lesser offenses.

prodigalson

Very well put Bishop.

bishopsboy

Thank you, my royal brother and a true prodigal son!

prodigalson

Harvey, if only you demonstrated the same amount of compassion for the unborn that you do to violent criminals, you may be taken more seriously. Your stance is hypocritical.

bishopsboy

Prince Prodigal, you are spot on. The upside-down kingdom Mr. Yoder and other liberal Mennonites often reference does not include showing compassion, grace, mercy and love for thieves, child molesters, rapists, and murderers while denying all those same virtues to unborn innocents. It’s incongruous that he and other “pro-life Christians” would willingly advocate snuffing out the life a child conceived by a rapist or child molester and yet shower the father of those children with mercy and compassion just because he’s been a model prisoner for a long time. Doing so is NOT compatible with the theology behind the Prodigal Son parable and is simply evil.

prodigalson

Again Bishop, you have hit the nail on the head. You have done a masterful job of pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of Harvey and others like him. I'm also grateful that you placed quotes around the phrase "pro-life Christians", because the position that Harvey takes is neither pro-life, nor is it Christian. To suggest that one can be "pro-life" while openly advocating for abortion to remain legal is to lie. The truth of the matter is that the religion that Harvey and those of his ilk promote is not Christianity, but Marxism. They simply sprinkle a few scriptures in along the way in order to make their wicked ideology appear more palatable and respectable.

bishopsboy

As always, Prince Prodigal, I agree with you 100%.

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