Len Browning: We need to balance compassion with prudence

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— I have had a rigorous test of my faith recently. Jeff Hammond showed up on my doorstep as it were, via telephone last week.

Jeff Hammond is the recent parolee to Moffat County considered a sexually violent predator. Jeff's sex crime stems from a 2001 Jefferson County sexual assault conviction from a consensual relationship, meaning Hammond was involved with a consenting minor. He served time in prison for that offense and then more time later for convictions related to methamphetamines, after which he met and married a former Craig girl, and they moved here. I met Jeff through Love INC, Celebrate Recovery and other various ministries at the Journey at First Baptist.

Jeff impressed me as one who was truly repentant about his past and truly committed to following Jesus Christ. Over a period of several months however, through one bad decision after another, Jeff fell back into old habits and patterns with drugs, alcohol and petty crimes - not crimes related to illegal sexual activity. Jeff squandered many opportunities to change and good jobs and took advantage of our community. He subsequently was convicted of cultivating marijuana charges and sent to prison for the third time.

When I found out Jeff was coming back and seeking help to get on his feet, I responded with a profanity-laced outburst and refusal to consider helping again.

Jeff called me at 6 p.m. last Friday from his parole officer's office. I was stern and let him know of my anger and frustration. He said he understood and did not blame me nor the community for our anger. The reason for the call was that he was given no money, provided no place to stay and had to leave the office and report by 10 p.m. where he was staying or an arrest warrant would be issued. Jeff's parole officer is working hard to get the start-up money Jeff should have received from Colorado Department of Corrections and our law enforcement officials were promised he would have. Jeff had asked to be paroled to either Denver or Grand Junction knowing he would be homeless and those larger communities have services available that ours does not. His request was denied, and he is here because his last conviction was in our jurisdiction.

Time and space do not allow for venting my frustration in regard to how our DOC too often sets parolees up for failure - no wonder the recidivism rate is so high. My frustration is at least in part shared by our sheriff and chief of police.

Several agencies, ministries and local churches have worked together to provide Jeff with an apartment for one month near downtown away from schools, parks and playgrounds.

Jeff must follow through on the terms of his parole including finding and keeping a job. Regardless of all the obstacles, the ball is in Jeff's court. He has conveyed to me a renewed sense of dependence on God through Jesus Christ by their Holy Spirit. Jeff's battle is no different than any professing Christian and the solution is universal as well:

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."

I need help forgiving Jeff and wisdom to know how to help him. As a community we need to balance our compassion with prudence - God help us.

I pray that Jeff makes it this time but if he doesn't, my question will be: who failed whom?

Comments

daybyday 5 years, 4 months ago

Thank you for the message this morning!
"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke,exhort, with all longsuffering, and teach." 2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV God bless your day.

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LarrySpalding 5 years, 3 months ago

A disproportionate amount of our state tax dollars never get returned to our community. The reason why Denver has more services is because the state government collects sales taxes from the entire state, and then puts everything in their budget out to bid. Only businesses in Denver can compete in that process due to the nature of how products are imported into Colorado. Less shipping costs enable the businesses in Denver to get the bid, then the state absorbs the cost of moving those items to the outlying state agencies. Businesses in the outlying areas have to include the transportation costs of those goods in their bids because they have to get the goods from Denver too. The results are that businesses in Denver are supported with profits from the state which are funded by everyone else outside Denver. Local governments outside of Denver operate at a disadvantage because the businesses in these outlying areas don't get stimulated with the reinvestment that government would give them if purchasing were done at a local level. These businesses would then generate more income and more taxes for our local governments. The local governments in the communities in and around Denver generate more revenues because the state awards their businesses with the contracts for goods that the state purchases. There are many hidden costs which the bidding process does not address. It might save state government money, but it penalizes local governments to do so, and communities outside of Denver.
Until true parity comes to state government expenditures, we will languish in the underfunded outback of Colorado. And people in similar circumstances will continue to be set up for failure due to a lack of government funding for services to truly help them overcome the temptations that come when a society fails it's citizens. Sometimes I think that the rising crime rate in the US is simply due to individual acts of revolution, because our 'system' has failed to provide a means for another individual to take care of himself or his family without resorting to breaking the rules in one way or another.
Our society is on the verge of a financial collapse that will test the true nature of us all. May God be with us. Well spoke Len. Your sermons are why my family and I come to your church.

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