- from Connecticut:
On Being In Prison
From the Christmas 1999 newsletter of the Hartford Catholic Worker
In St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians the way of love is described. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (I Cor. 13:4-7). To a great extent what love is, prison isn't.
Prison is the use of fear, threats and coercion to keep people in line - both prisoners and guards. Prison is the rudeness of almost constant noise - deafening at times; absent only in the earliest morning hours when most prisoners are finally asleep. Maybe the shouting and loud talk are used to keep the demons of fear and boredom at bay. Nevertheless, the lack of peace and quiet is a fact.
Prison is the pomposity of most of the staff on power trips big and small. Prison does its best to deaden hope and kill the spirit. But the razor wire and locked doors, the guards and high security used to keep the prisoners in can't keep God's presence out. The Lord of Love, Life and Hope makes all things possible. And so prison can also be a manifestation, however dim, of those qualities that love is.
Prison is a community of suffering where prisoners display much kindness toward one another. Prison is a place where the spark of hope can't be totally extinguished - where patient endurance is encouraged from one prisoner to another. In prison, prayer and Bible reading are as much in evidence as the tattoos which festoon the arms and torsos of most prisoners. And although many are quick tempered, blowing off the steam of stress and frustration, most prisoners don't brood over injuries but rather they use humor as a means of working through difficulties. Laughter is a vital survival tool in prison.
St. Paul tells us that love never fails. I saw the evidence of this fact manifested among the prisoners I shared the journey with for a time. If love fails it fails in the filthy rotten system. And prison, friends, is an integral part of that system. Mark, Cal and I thank everyone, family, friends, and community, for your loving support of us while we were in jail. God bless you all!
Finally, please keep all those who are in prison in your prayers. Thank you.