Len Browning: We need to balance compassion with prudence
Craig — 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?
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