Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, June 01, 2015


This is a blog that is more confession than admonition. Meaning, I don’t know what I think. I just know I need to give it some thought. A lot of thought…and sooner rather than later.

It’s about prisons.

One of my dear friends in life, Chuck Colson, gave himself to this after his conversion to Christ. Chuck and I engaged on many levels, but ironically never on this, his foundational missional calling. We talked about church and culture, the seminary for which I was president and he served on the board, and much about various leaders and trends.

But never about where he spent time incarcerated.

I regret that.

More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in US jails and prisons, a 500 percent increase over the past 40 years. Although the United States accounts for about 5 percent of the world's population, it houses nearly 25 percent of the world's prison population. The per capita incarceration rate in the US is more than six times the rate of neighboring Canada.

And get this:

840,000, or nearly 40 percent, of the 2.2 million US prisoners are African American males.

No matter what you may think about such things, no matter your politics, no matter your notions, “the facts remain stubbornly the same.”

I don’t know the answer.

I don’t know the solution.

I only know that,

…we have a problem.

James Emery White


“Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges,” Jed. S. Rakoff, The New York Review of Books, May 21, 2015 issue, read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.