Prodigal Sons: We Are Living Question Marks

For those of you interested in the plight of those incarcerated in the American prison system, I've been made aware of a new blog that you may want to bookmark and follow.

The name of the blog is Prodigal Sons: Voices From the Inside and it is extraordinarily unique in that its content is being written by actual inmates sharing their stories and experiences from inside the prison walls.

A selection from one of the first posts entitled "Who We Are and What We Want":
We don’t want people to feel sorry for us. We are not complaining. We don’t want a free pass. We don’t want to do any further damage to anyone. We are men who have sojourned a long time in a desert land for our sins, and we want redemption. We want to bear witness to the things we have seen and experienced. We want people to see our fragile humanity. We want our suffering to have meaning. We want a chance to heal as much of the harm we caused as is possible. We want to reveal the great and unnecessary harm which is further being done to our society in the name of justice. We want a chance to be restored to the communities we love and long for.

We are living question marks. What is the point of all this? Are we still human? Is there any value in our lives? Is there any forgiveness, any redemption for those who have truly repented? If not, what does that say about us all?

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5 thoughts on “Prodigal Sons: We Are Living Question Marks”

  1. As one who has a brother serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison, I have had to listen to people over the past thirty years make the ignorant statement, "Oh, they have life grand in prison. They have color TV, movies, free healthcare, and we are paying for it!!" Yes, even in this day and time when you cannot buy a TV except one that is color, some people have a need to express their anger that prisoners watch color TV.

    There were times I bit my tongue; but I also had opportunities when I asked, "Have you ever been inside a maximum security prison? All the color TV and free healthcare your may imagine does NOT make it a rose garden." Usually their response is an angry stare for putting them on the spot.

    One of the things my brother loves to read in my letters to him is how God is there. We can write about sports, the weather, and politics. And believe me, because of his mental illness, his letters are not easily understood. But the one thing he loves to express and hear, other than the love of our parents, is how God is there.

    No, he has not become an angel, and sometimes his comments regarding other inmates cause me to fear for his safety, even his life; he has, numerous times, been punished for his words and actions. yet, he still needs to know that God is there; and even if his words "praise God!!" are right in the middle of a paragraph of anger and rant, they are still there.

  2. The parole process, which already exists, is designed to find that subset of the imprisoned population that fits the description offered by the excerpt. We can certainly debate the relative merits of the attributes of that imperfect process in different jurisdictions, as well as the possible improvements that could be made, but fundamentally, the parole system embodies society's historical, religiously informed acknowledgment that the hope for redemption and forgiveness is essential. What am I missing? Is there a significant, mainstream cross-section of our citizens who disagrees with that prisoner's basic sentiments?

    Recidivism shows that this prisoner's aspirations are not universally held. How might we learn just what proportion of the incarcerated shares his/her sentiments? Surely he/she does not presume to speak for all...

    Further, as we know when we discipline our children, time spent without enjoying full privileges provides the soul an opportunity to reflect and rethink, to focus the mind. No doubt the excerpt is a result of just those (Sabbath-like) processes. Are we being asked to short-circuit those essential processes?

    Tell ya what. I'll read the blog. These are just initial reactions, admittedly premature.

  3. I recently read a short novel, "Within Prison Walls" by Thomas Osborne, which was written in 1914. Many of the issues he writes about are the same today. As Paul and I work with more paroled folks through FaithWorks, we are seeing a different side to the "argument." This is a blog I will definitely be adding to my reading. Thanks for sharing it, Richard!

  4. Parole has been taken away for many decent men. The laws are to blame. Thank you for your open mind.

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