Welcome to the Speak Up for Hope blog! Thank you for your interest in our organization. This blog will be updated weekly and we hope you will check back often for news of what is happening as we reach out to help meet the needs of inmates and their families.
Many of you have asked for an update on our son. On October 25, 2010, Jason will mark his 11th year of incarceration. We have exhausted all of our appeals at both the state and federal levels. Last summer Jason’s paperwork requesting a clemency hearing made it to the top of the pile (a three year process). After reviewing the case, the Florida Parole Commission recommended that Jason’s case receive a waiver hearing before the clemency aides. A waiver is needed before a case can be heard before the governor and his cabinet at a clemency hearing. Clemency does not usually mean that an inmate will immediately walk in freedom. In our case, we were asking for a review of the case, with the hope that Jason would be given an eventual end-of-sentence date, instead of life without the possibility of parole. In the State of Florida, a life sentence means the rest of your natural life will be spent in prison. Our son did a terrible thing, believing he was protecting his two stepdaughters from the potential of abuse, and we know there must be a punishment.
Gene and I were given an hour to present Jason’s case in front of the clemency aides. They asked lots of questions and requested that we gather letters from inmates who had been positively impacted by Jason’s teaching, mentorship, and encouragement, along with letters from the parents and spouses of inmates who observed his influence on the lives of their incarcerated loved ones. It took us two months to gather the materials and letters that were requested and we compiled them into eight two-inch thick notebooks and sent them to Tallahassee for distribution. Three days after they arrived we received word that the attorney to the governor of the state had denied a clemency hearing for Jason. It will be five years before J.P. is allowed to file clemency paperwork again.
It was discouraging, to say the least, and I wish I could tell you we immediately thanked God for what he was teaching us through this exhausting, expensive, and discouraging process. I sobbed and Gene comforted me through his own tears. The next day was a visitation day and Gene gave Jason the news. When I arrived at the prison a couple of hours later, I wept as I greeted my son.
J.P. was totally at peace as he said, “Mom and Dad, if God chooses to allow me to walk in freedom in this lifetime, it won’t be because I received the favor of well-connected politicians and attorneys. It will be because God moved in the hearts of decision makers in a miraculous way. I am content with that. My heart hurts for the family of the deceased and I hope that someday in the future they will be able to forgive me.”
Jason is currently taking his 8th group of inmates through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. He is in the Gavel Club, which is a group of inmates who are working on their public speaking skills. He has reached the 4th level of the Evangelism Explosion program, and he has a group of mighty prayer warriors who fast and pray on behalf of the needs of each other and their families.
Some of you have asked what you can do to help. The workbooks needed for the Financial Peace class are $17 each, so if you are able to donate on our website, that amount will cover one inmate’s course material. Additional gifts help us to provide DVD curriculum for chapel programs, inexpensive greeting cards for inmates to send to their families, and Boxes of Hope that are sent to wives and moms of inmates.
Most of all, we are grateful for your prayers—for us and for Jason and for inmates all over the country who are trying to be ambassadors for Christ in a dark place. Thank you for caring. For regular updates on the ministry Gene and I are involved in, please become a friend on Facebook at: Carol Kent, or follow us at www.Twitter.com/carolkentspeaks.
Be encouraged with these words: “Friends when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (MSG)