Our very own Samuel Buggs recently spoke at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a national gathering focused on “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.” Sam is a member of the Kairos Program, a residential recovery program at Christ House. Read his personal, challenging, and inspiring speech below.
My brothers and sisters, my name is Samuel Buggs. I am honored to be given this opportunity to share my story. I have been incarcerated for 25 of my 58 years on earth. I now stand before you as a converted man. Converted not by the institutions that took my youth and freedom away, but converted spiritually by my relationships with God and the people of God.
It is with sadness that I inform you that too often jails and correctional facilities destroy the human spirit and do not rehabilitate those who paid their dues to society. Unfortunately, today, prisons don’t even use the word ‘rehabilitation’ anymore!
Remember the times when facilities were known as rehab centers?
Now these prisons only exist to make a profit. There is no incentive to teach, to heal, or to restore. They lay to waste whatever remaining potential a person may have. They destroy the dreams and hopes of men and women who want to change their lives for the better.
We must, as people of God, come together to put pressure on these institutions, who have become incubators of oppression and racism. We must continue to bear witness and stand up for the fair and humane treatment of all people, even those who have at one time been incarcerated.
The poet, Langston Hughes, once asked about what happens when a dream is deferred. I bring that question to the CEO’s and the policy makers who are responsible for the unjust reality of the current prison system.
To them, I say,
“Black lives matter. Latino lives matter. Asian lives matter. Native American lives matter. White lives matter. All deserve a chance to be made whole despite past mistakes. And all can be made whole with God’s help.” And to my Christian brothers and sisters, we must live out our faith in this fight for justice.