Tonight the men each spoke for a few minutes to introduce themselves. The idea is that each knows his own story best, so can be fairly comfortable talking about himself.
The men chose to talk about what brought them to prison. Their stories were startlingly similar: Parents who cared but didn't know what to do with children who didn't; lousy, loving parents who placed unfair (no, not little stuff...really, really unfair) demands on their children; parents with big huge, moral failings of their own; drug addiction, abuse, violence, murder, robbery. Yah, these guys are doing big time and they know why.
And yet—remember, we got the best of the best—most of them see a chance to make a real, positive difference in the world. Meet a murderer and see a guy with a tremendous sense of humor and a love for others. Meet a drug abuser and see a man who wants to make it right with his girlfriend. Meet a bank robber and meet a man who thought, hey, do I want my kids to have to tell their friends their dad is in jail because he robbed a Safeway???
Am I saying they should all be let out tomorrow? Heck no. They're doing their time, fair or not fair, and I am not in a position to determine how able each is to function in the pressures, the huge, ugly extra pressures of being an ex-con with a lousy paycheck or unemployed, in the free world.
What I am saying is, through all they've been through, people they've killed, banks they've robbed, women they've abused, children they've neglected, families they've hurt—through all of that, they are our brothers. Funny, sad, quirky, joyful, perverse, loving, or just plain twisted, they are human.
And because I am human, a caveat: One of them, I think, should never, ever, ever, ever, be let out, ever. And I'm thinking that maybe that's why God tells us to be kind to prisoners.