Thad Bereday, host of the Redemption Radio podcast, a former corporate lawyer and former prison inmate, and his pastor, Rev. Justin LaRosa of The Portico, a non-traditional, social justice-focused church in downtown Tampa, both joined Shelley on MidPoint to discuss the meaning of “redemption” and the need for criminal justice reform.
Redemption: What is it? Who needs it?
Thad was a high-powered corporate lawyer who had risen in his career to be General Counsel for Wellcare Health Plans in Tampa when 200 FBI agents raided the company in 2007 looking for evidence of what the government said was essentially a Medicaid fraud scheme. The raid was followed by indictments of the top executives of the company, all but one of whom were eventually convicted at a trial in 2013. But, Thad’s own trial was delayed when he learned he had leukemia and needed treatment. After beating cancer– twice–he had had enough of the uncertainty and the pressure of the criminal case still hanging over his head. When the government offered him an agreement with the possibility of a lower sentence in exchange for his guilty plea, Thad took it. He then spent 6 months in a federal prison camp, a year on house arrest with an ankle monitor, and a period of supervised release before he was surprised by a Presidential pardon from Donald Trump. It was a gift of mercy that motivated Thad to use his freedom to promote more compassion, justice, and mercy to others in the criminal justice system. He is now a full-time advocate for criminal justice reform who is called by his faith to believe that redemption is available to all of us, “even to people like me who’ve made mistakes.”
Thad felt called to service after prison and Pastor LaRosa was among the first people Thad looked to when he was released so that he could be “taught to serve.” According to Thad, Pastor LaRosa’s church, The Portico, is a “citadel of social justice warriors” where Thad found his new spiritual home.
“Charity is a lot easier than justice.”
To Pastor LaRosa, redemption is about “restoring relationships, between you and a higher power, between you and yourself, and between you and others,” and maybe fixing the systemic inequities like those “that we’ve been talking about in criminal justice.” The Portico, as a faith community, has among its many resources for the underserved community a justice ministry through which it does “charity,” as in helping individuals and doing “good works” for people on the margins or edges of society who are suffering. But, as Pastor LaRosa emphasized, “Charity is a lot easier than justice.”
Listen to the full episode here: