Last week the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the chronic overcrowding of California’s prisons was tantamount to “cruel and unusual punishment”. As such, the state is mandated by the court to release between 36,000 and 46,000 offenders from its custody. The 20 year narration of protest, admonishment, and now judicial ruling by the Federal courts should come as little surprise to those Californians who were paying attention. It should be a wakeup call to those that were not.

Choosing which prisoner to release from their sentence is a job for Solomon but Governor Brown and the prison board will have to do. And unless there is a new prison growing in the desert, inmates will soon be coming to a neighborhood near you.

Re-entry is a term used to describe the return of the formerly incarcerated back into society as a whole. The journey for the criminal is demanding, uncertain and dangerous. There is small hope for success when the recidivism rate in the state is above 70%. Families, to whom close to 90% return to, are ill equipped to adjust to the return of their loved one, if they are even loved at all. Communities that are already tense will amplify to near panic unless some guidance arrives before the court appointed time limit for prisoner release arrives.

It is in these significant times that leadership is needed. One may look to the horizon for a new chief riding to the rescue. But it would be a protracted exercise as most politicians don’t know the wrong end of a horse from their fellows. The looked-for leadership is not likely to come from Sacramento and it certainly will not come from the Federal Government. But all hope is not lost. There is leadership offered; there are those that feel called to serve “the least of these”. Faith based and community groups stand at the ready. In the face of overpowering change, law enforcement leaders are ready to build coalitions where formerly they were not. Volunteers are poised to minister inside the prisons before release and to focus support services on the parolees once they are free. Monies saved from direct incarceration, as a result of 41,000 offender’s early release should be more than significant.

What’s missing and needed is a call for the community of peoples in this state to Re-enter into what it means to be a citizen. To engage with one’s own governance to achieve the greater good. The debate on criminals being repatriated into society is just the first salvo of things to come that will test our collective will and our regard for each other. Fundamental world view and perceptions of authority, rules and accountability are the root causes that landed our fellow citizens in jail. It is not a great stretch to see that those are the very issues over which society and culture are waging war.

We need to Re-enter into relationship with our neighbor, Re-enter into regard for our fellow citizens, Re-enter into responsible regard for our laws, Re-enter the care and concern that real freedom demands of us that we might Re-enter what it means to be a citizen of California.

Not all are called to be first responders, to be boots on the ground. Any effective movement takes an army of logistical support. If one seeks to serve, one will find a role to play. If one does not feel called to “visit” the prisoner don’t be discouraged. There will always be widows and orphans to attend to.