Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Women in Prison...Guilt by Association" -today's afterschool special

I have the genuinely sweetest women for friends. Yesterday I was at lunch with three of them, two of whom devote many many hours of volunteer service in a women's prison near our area. We talked for quite a while about their service, their training, the background checks and all the work they do to prepare themselves for this particularly difficult ministry.

One of the ladies is well into her 70's (been all over the world) the other in her late 50's (the wife of one of the world's foremost experts on illegal substance law enforcement and also sexual crime prosecution); both are intelligent, witty, wise, and hard working. They told stories of how small mistakes led the inmates towards larger transgressions and eventually the grievous sins and crimes that led to the incarceration of their charges. They talked of the feeling one gets as they walked through the corridor that has steel doors slamming shut every few feet. They talked about the "yard" being open, yet if a prisoner walks to the west of a particular sign they are warned at gunpoint to get back into the protected arena used for outdoor activities. They talk about the women and the lives they lead while under their terms of correction.

There were the stories of how after many hours of training, the hugs still continue between the prisoners and visitors. They told me stories of conversion and repentance and some of hardness and bitterness that still lingers. They expressed kindness and love towards these women they consider friends; and how much the inmate women look forward to visits and love they receive. They try to sympathize with the loneliness that comes with losing your children, being without your husband, family or friends. How most of these women are from another state, so familial visitors are rare if at all. How the prisoners need to establish rank and defences so that certain abuses don't take over what life they do have within the system.

One of the ladies said that she had many stories from inmate experiences that she chooses to forget once she leaves the facility...and added an expression that led us all to wonder what she was trying to forget. The other lady acquiesced with her subtle nod. Now we were very curious; and the first consented.

"Well, there are activities that our friends out there participate in that are not allowed, yet these women are SO isolated and oppressed they just can't let an opportunity go by that would give them a little feeling of, what is it?" leaning to the other one for the words.

The other nervously giggles and hides her head in an embarrassed "I'm not going there!..."

So the first finishes in struggled searching for the right words..."Well, oh this is terrible! It's just that they are so lonely and aching for friendship and love. They do things they wouldn't do if they were out in the world. (literally blushing at this point) And if the authorities knew I knew about this -we would be in such trouble! These women just need companionship. They are looking for a friend. (long pause to screw courage and confess) The women tell us that after they have cleaned up in the kitchen, they sneak over to the fridge and steal extra desserts to smuggle back into their cells! (eyes wide open at this confession of guilt) It's kind of a 'if one of us gets caught we all get caught' so they just go along with it! In reality it's not that bad, but it does break the rules!"

Man, my mind was not in the fridge. I have seen way to many made for t.v. movies.

I need to go repent now. And boil my brain.

add to sk*rt


ilovejazz said...

Well now, this is interesting. I was reading along, completely going in another direction than the fridge and extra desserts! I also will boil my brain. :)

s'mee said...

hey Jazz...gguess who told this story??? The wife of the guy who took over your hubby's church calling after y'all moved! hah! Still I was cracking up inside.