Tony Lowden was at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Thursday, speaking to the County Commission.
Today, the pastor of former President Jimmy Carter was introduced as President Donald Trump’s appointment as “reentry czar” to help former prisoners as they step back into society.
The appointment came during the President’s speech at the North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit in Charlotte.
“I would have never thought that my path, my GPS that God gave me, would lead me to be the spiritual adviser to one president who is a Democrat and be the policy adviser to a president who has an ‘R’ by his name,” Lowden told commissioners after delivering the prayer to begin their meeting on Thursday.
The post to which the pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains, Georgia, was appointed today is designed to implement and coordinate efforts to aid former prisoners in reentering the workforce.
It is the latest government appointment for Lowden, who was twice appointed by Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to reform prisons in Georgia.
“That’s special,” he said, “because we’re living in a time when we have to have common ground if we’re truly going to have a beloved community. There are just some things we don’t have to put ‘R’ or ‘D’ by. We have to do what is right by our children and what is right for our future.”
Lowden helped transform the Peach State from being dead last in prison overcrowding to being No. 1 in the nation around prison reform.
Lowden, a chaplain in the U.S. Secret Service, was helped in that effort by Monique Grier, who came from Georgia to be director of Jefferson County’s G. Ross Bell Youth Detention Center.
“We have a crisis in our country, especially throughout the South … where the prison population and the general population is growing, especially around our youth,” the North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native said. “One of the reasons I came here is I believe our juvenile detention centers should become therapeutic detention centers, where no matter what the sentence is, we’re getting them ready to be positive children in our community.
“It’s one of the reforms I think the whole country should look at,” he continued. “We allow too many kids to come into our jails; they end up coming back out worse than when they came in. Whether they’re found guilty or innocent, I believe we have a role as a community to make that happen.”
Lowden said he hopes he’ll be able to do that on a federal level. He said he’s excited about the opportunity he’s been given. He acknowledged that the appointment “came out of left field. The last few days have been a whirlwind for me,” he said.
The pastor said corrections has become a misnomer in the United States because prisons and detention centers have become warehouses instead of places of corrections.
“I think the only challenge is to do everything in the spirit of excellence, and that’s what I want to do,” Lowden said. “That’s what I want to do for this country. That’s what I want to do for the president, to do everything in the spirit of excellence, to make sure we have some change in our country as pertains to mass incarceration in prison.”
The “reentry czar” said there are 6 million people incarcerated in the United States. That, he said, means the largest population of incarcerated people any place in the world is in America.
“We have to look at ways that are better and different,” he said. “We have to lock up those that are violent that want to continue to do violence. More importantly, those that are nonviolent, we have to look at ways to bring them home and make sure they come home differently. That’s what corrections should be in my mind. We should correct those behaviors and allow people to get back on their feet.”