Richard Twiss, Speaking Plain Truth, and Promoting Diversity at Christian Conferences

This past weekend I attended the memorial for a very dear friend and amazing individual, Richard Twiss. Richard, who was a descendent of the Sioux and Lakota tribes of South Dakota, was a scholar, writer, speaker and thought leader. Richard was also a follower of Jesus.

Richard was both one of the most personable and charismatic individuals I’ve ever met. He had a way about him. I’ve never known someone so authentic and full of love as to make everyone he spent time with feel unique, special and valuable. Richard was also one of the sharpest prophetic voices I’ve ever heard. He was unyielding with logic and his respect for truth. He was hard as nails when it came to excuses from others who would try to compromise truth. Truth, for Richard, was unwavering.

If I was able to ask Richard today how best to honor him, I know that — after talking about his concern for his wife, kids, and grandkids — he would expect me to use my voice to speak truth.

Incarceration Nation

THE UNITED STATES has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  In fact, according to the most recent data, the U.S., while having only 4.5 percent of the world’s population, holds 21 percent of the world’s prisoners. The last few years have shown a slight decrease in incarceration rates, but law enforcement policies continue to both target racial minorities and to foster high recidivism rates.  And with the rise of private, for-profit prisons, putting Americans behind bars is becoming an increasingly lucrative business.

  • 2.3 million people are in prison or jail in the U.S.—and one in every 33 adults is behind bars or on parole (2010 figures).
  • From 2002 to 2010, the number of inmates held in for-profit prisons increased 37 percent, while the number detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in for-profit prisons increased 206 percent.
  • In 2011, 70 percent of people sentenced in federal criminal cases were people of color. More than 34 percent of prosecuted criminal cases were immigration-related, and 29 percent were drug-related. Fraud, the third most common offense, made up less than 10 percent of federal criminal cases.
  • Approximately 700,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year, and more than 40 percent of them are reincarcerated within three years of their release.
  • The national unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, but even before the recession, unemployment was roughly 75 percent for ex-offenders in the year after release.

                                                                                                                                                         —Compiled by Dawn Araujo

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'I Come From Where They Come'

Custodian mop bucket, Design Pics/Darren Greenwood / Getty Images
Custodian mop bucket, Design Pics/Darren Greenwood / Getty Images

Every school day just after 2 p.m., Sandra pushes her cart into my classroom to clean the bathroom and empty the trash cans. She is the school custodian and my students love her. When students hear her squeaky wheels in the hallway outside our door, they listen for her kind giggle as she enters the room. "Ms. Sandra! Ms. Sandra! Can I help you empty the trash? Can I help you?" they yell out with their hands waving in the air.

She responds, "Jennifer, you look so cute today! How you doin' VicTOR? Francisco, baby, you look like you're doing a good job for Mr. Barton. You come on over and help me today. Anna, honey, that's okay, you can help me tomorrow." She knows all of my students by name.