by Jon Persson
America, bastion of freedoms unknown in many lands, has a higher percentage of incarcerated citizens than in any other land. This stark statistic—and the many sad stories it represents—represents the calling to which Winston Taylor of New London’s Shiloh Baptist Church has been drawn. For 3½ hours at his Prison Awareness and Prevention Gathering on October 27, testimonials, presentations, displays, and a video bring to light the price of prison and the power of positive choice in the lives of young people.
This is the second year Winston has hosted this event, which is an extension—and a hoped-for alternative—to his ongoing prison ministry.
“The overarching theme,” says Winston, “is to raise awareness of the social and spiritual needs of offenders, ex-offenders, and persons affected by incarceration.” He goes on to say that the gathering, and his ministry, have as their aim to “identify ways to keep kids safe in the community,” and to “engage law enforcement personnel to improve relations and partnering to prevent crime.” A further objective is to “recognize correctional and law enforcement personnel” for particular excellence in service to the community.
Yet the most prescient attendees are the young people; emcees Trenton Phillips and Taja Miller, 10th and 8th graders respectively, and 7th grade speaker James Miller. Their generation’s leadership will help end crime and incarceration.