The second in my three part series on ministering to students facing court and/or incarceration went live today over at YouthMinistry.com. It was by far the hardest of the three to write, mostly because of how personal it is. I hope it can be a benefit to others. You can read the whole thing here.
My brother agreed to plead guilty in exchange for lessening and dropping some of the charges. We were naively hopeful. What we thought would be a quick appearance before a federal judge, most likely some sort of suspended sentence and a celebration afterwards turned into something else as the prosecutor unexpectedly started ripping into my brother, demanding a harsher sentence than what they had alluded to. This hadn’t been part of the deal.
It was our worst nightmare. And my brother had already pled guilty.
Those moments will be seared into my memory for ever. The judge sentencing my baby brother to two years in federal prison. The gasps of shock from others present. My mother sobbing, my dad sitting there in helpless shock. My brother looking numb, choked up. He had been a top athlete, class president, school president, active in our state politics before things fell apart in college. The kid I used to wrestle with, play in our fort together, and babysit when our parents went out was going to be locked up with who knows what kind of criminals, the worst our society has to offer, in a prison that wouldn’t be disclosed to us until later.