|Corrections: A High Calling - Part II|
|By Mike Raneses, Parole Agent, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation|
In our last article, we began to lay the foundation for the case that working in Corrections, because it is a vital component of the criminal justice system, is more than work, but it is a calling, a High Calling. We examined the very nature of work itself, that work was designed by God to be more than drudgery, but to fulfill the very purpose of man. This week, we will focus on the specific High Calling of working in the criminal justice system as an integral component of the governmental structure God created
The Bible, specifically the Book of Genesis, lays the foundations for the origins and purpose of human government. God created the first human couple from which all of society originated. He also placed man in an environment of rich material resources to develop and improve his well-being. Since God is the benevolent source and provider for human society, He also designed the working plan for the good of man. God created man in His own image for fellowship, with the intent that man be in such close communion with Him that His ways would be naturally our ways. Due to man's disobedience in "doing his own thing" instead of God's will, his close communion with God was broken. God then, in compassion, and understanding of human nature, provided the discipline and structure of human government.
God, Government and Criminal Justice
The criminal justice system is the "up front" and most visible manifestation of government and, more specifically, governmental authority. Does God respect government authority? How does God's view of government authority apply to criminal justice? Does God allow the criminal justice system to use force, including deadly force? In the Bible, God gives answers to these questions. Consider these excerpts from Romans, Chapter 13, which specifically address government authority and the enforcement of law:
"Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.”
Romans, Chapter 13 It is significant to note that these verses on government authority, and those who enforce that authority, were written during the time of Roman government rule. The Roman government was not a democracy, and was known for the viciousness of its soldiers. In spite of all this, God said what He did about His support of government.
The Nature of Authority
It is clear from the Bible that there is no authority except from God, and that God establishes government for His purpose. Think about it, serving in the criminal justice system in the Corrections setting, enforcing the laws established by your state and local jurisdiction, ultimately means that you are working for God!
Before going further it is important to define and understand authority. Authority is the lawful right to enforce obedience. It is the power to influence or command behavior. An important aspect of authority is that it is given or surrendered; authority can never be taken. This does not mean that force and authority are incompatible. Force may be used in order to cause someone to submit or surrender to authority.
In order for you to have authority over someone they must be compelled to submit to your authority. For example, when a correctional officer gives a command to an inmate on the yard, or a parole agent enforces a condition of parole, does the offender comply because “Bob Smith” is giving them orders? No, the offender complies because Officer Bob Smith acting as a representative of government is giving them orders. Apart from the governmental authority that "Bob Smith" represents, "Bob Smith" has no authority.
The High Calling of the Public Trust
The Bible has established that lawful force to exercise authority, up to and including deadly force, is acceptable.
In the Book of Romans that we referred to above, God's Word says that the government is a minister, a helper to those who do what is good. But to those that would do evil, they should be afraid; because the government does not bear the sword for nothing.
In the time that the book of Romans was written the sword was carried by the Roman soldiers. The Roman soldier was charged with protecting the citizens of Rome, and upholding the laws of Rome. In many ways the Roman soldier was the equivalent of the modern day law enforcement officer.
The Roman soldiers were given the authority by the Roman government to use force, including the sword which represented deadly force in order to exert the Roman government's authority over those that lived within the control of Rome.
Based on the Biblical example, modern law enforcement officers, including corrections professionals, may also use force in order to protect those that do good, and to exert the government’s authority over those who would do evil. This force can include the use of a gun which represents the modern sword, or other weaponry used by the agency. However, the force used by the law enforcement professional must be within the constraints of the authority given by the officer’s governing authority.
Think about it. How many professions in our society are given the authority to legally take human life? The answer, of course, is the military and the criminal justice system of which we in Corrections are a part. We, through the authority delegated to us by the public we serve, hold the power of life and death as a public trust. Ours is indeed a High Calling, and must never be taken lightly!
Next time, we will focus more specifically on the High Calling of Corrections, and how we can make a positive difference as corrections professionals.
Corrections: A High Calling - Part I
Corrections: A High Calling - Part III
Corrections.com author, Mike Raneses, is a 40-year criminal justice veteran with service as a Deputy Sheriff, Probation Officer, and most currently as a Parole Agent with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Also serving as a Professor of Criminal Justice with the University of Phoenix, he resides in Tustin, CA with his wife Ruth where they lead Corrections Staff Fellowship, an organization designed to help staff maintain their faith and values while walking “The Toughest Beat in the Nation.”
Other articles by Mike Raneses
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