Remorseful, repentant, restored

by Jeanne Bishop

Homar Fajardo is a native of Waco, Texas, who became a husband and father at age 15.

To supplement the meager income he earned to support his young family, Homar made a terrible choice: to become part of a chain of distribution of cocaine.

Federal agents raided his home and arrested him. A federal judge sentenced him to 24 years in prison.

Homar was remorseful and repentant even before his sentencing. He was overcome with regret over the grief he had caused his family.

In prison, he returned to his Christian roots, led a men’s ministry, took every class that was offered, worked in every prison job he could get. He wrote and called and visited with his wife and their three children, counseling them not to do what he had done.

He has had not a single infraction while in custody. So trustworthy is he that, when it came time for him to transfer from one federal prison to another, prison officials released him from custody, gave him money to buy a bus ticket, and ordered him to report to his new facility — all of which he did, knowing that he had about a decade left to do of his sentence.

Homar works every day in his new prison in Big Spring, Texas. He has his own driver’s license and drives from job to job.

He misses his family. They miss him. He is now a grandfather of grandchildren he has never seen in freedom. There is a job, a place to live and a community waiting to receive him when he comes home. He would harm no one. He would never return to the life of crime he regrets.

I know all this because I am helping him prepare his petition for executive clemency, seeking a reduction of the long sentence he was given.

This has everything to do with my profession and my faith.

I am a lawyer. I started my career following a path I chose for the same terrible reason as Homar’s: money. I worked as an associate for big corporate law firms. The salary was great, but the work meant nothing to me.

Consequently, I was terrible at it, and failed both my clients and my employer.

Then, my younger sister Nancy and her husband Richard were murdered. She was three months pregnant with what would have been their first child.

That tragedy taught me an indelible lesson: Life is short. We have not a moment to waste on anything as small as money. We are put here on earth for a reason; in living out God’s purpose for us, we find our greatest joy.

I left the corporate law firm in the wake of Nancy’s murder. I became a public defender, a job that brings me close to prisoners every day.

I see some people who need to be locked up to prevent society from harm. But I see many, many more who should be released, who are rehabilitated and remorseful, who should be restored to their families and communities. Punishing them further — and paying to do so — serves no further purpose.

I am a lawyer and also a Christian. My faith tells me that everyone is beloved of God, endowed with dignity and worth, precious and capable of redemption.

One of my heroes of faith, Sister Helen Prejean, Catholic nun and author of “Dead Man Walking,” says that every person is more than the worst thing he or she has ever done.

It is true. We are what God calls us to be, what we become when we heed that call.

I am no longer a corporate lawyer. Homar is no longer a drug dealer.

It is time for Homar, and so many others like him, to come home.

Jeanne BishopJEANNE BISHOP is an attorney and author whose work has appeared on Huffington Post, CNN.com, Sojourners and The Christian Century.

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