Beauty from behind bars

Beauty from behind the bars. I have had the privilege of seeing inside the souls of those who have been caged in this country. I have been allowed into the personal lives of some of the most extraordinary people who give me hope that goodness, decency and compassion still exist in this world.

They are an extreme contrast to those who sit in judgement; those who condemn burdened down by their overstuffed backpacks of bigotry, hatred, self-righteousness, ignorance and inexcusable lack of mercy. They are the jailhouse lawyers who could never sit at the same table with designer suits, pretenders and liars who assist in handing out plea deals (forced confessions) with the enemy for a lucrative living.

I have received poems, artwork, confessions, memoirs and yes, even the occasional “love letter” from those who live in the very dark and inhumane conditions inside our prisons. Three of my desk drawers contain hundreds of letters over the years and I can’t seem to throw any of them away to make room for new ones.

It was earlier this week, I was speaking with someone about the prisons being a Petri dish for all kinds of germs including the Covid 19 virus. I shared about the number of cases (almost 15,000) and the rising death toll. The comment was, “I haven’t heard anything about that.” Not surprisingly as our ineffectual and pathetic excuse for what passes as journalism on main stream media rarely informs us about prisons and those souls who struggle to survive.

What I have learned is that most people in prison have a story. They are not evil incarnate. Drugs, immaturity, broken homes, abuse, trauma and a list that goes on are contributors to why people commit crimes. And, yes, I do write those who are innocent. They have been falsely accused and betrayed by a corrupt and farcical system that has become much like the historical Soviet Union—a painted veneer of democracy and justice hiding its corruption, decay and immorality.

I have been given a precious gift. I listen to the hopes and dreams of my brothers and sisters in prison who are often the least judgmental and the most grateful, honest and compassionate people I have come to know. Quite frankly, I would rather throw my lot in with these “sinners” than with those who claim to love others and don’t know the first thing about loving others.

Beauty behind bars. I hope I have helped my caged friends know how beautiful they are and how they have inspired me to be beautiful like them. Thank you, God, for them.

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