Thoughts on Darryl Burton and the need for radical prison ministry and prison justice


Darryl Burton

Imprisoned for life–but innocent

Last night I met Darryl Burton.  He was speaking at Lockerbie Central UMC/Earth House

Burton was released from prison this past November. He had served twenty four years of a fifty years to life sentence.   Turns out after all these years that  he was innocent of the 1984 murder charge that almost landed him on death row.

 Here is a detailed story on the crime and trial that sent Burton to prison for a crime he didn’t committ.  The story was written in 2004 and he was finally released in 2008. 

The original prosecutor still hasn’t apologized.  But being poor and living near the crime scene was enough to send Mr. Burton to jail.  He was convicted using testimony from two witnesses whose own multi-felony crime history was deliberately hidden from the jury.  He had a daughter who was a few months old when he got sent away.  Burotn never got to see her grow up.  

Prison Ministry that challenges the prison-industrial complex

The amazing thing is that Mr. Burton never gave up.  He became a jailhouse lawyer and wrote hundreds of letters to anyone who might listen.  Nobody did at first, and then he  met  Centurion Ministries.  Founded by  Princeton Seminary grad and Vietnam Vet James McCloskey, this ministry is committed to “seeking freedom for the imprisoned innocent.” It took a long time but eight years after initially contacting Centurion Ministries, James Burton is a free man.  Here is a nice article about McCloskey

 Burton’s perseverance and McCloskey’s committment to challenging the prison-industrial complex shows how important 

What Would John Wesley Do? 

it is for emergent and missional Methodists to challenge the prison system.  It is a broken system that nearly destroys all that it touches.  And perhaps that is why John Wesley spent so much time working in prisons:

Just how familiar John Wesley was with the prisons of his day can be gauged from the fact that in a period of nine months he preached at least 67 times in various jails — institutions that he had been known to describe as nurseries of “all manner of wickedness.” Indeed, it was because of Wesley’s often fearless criticism of prison conditions that he was sometimes banned from visiting inmates there.


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