The oft-quoted text from Hebrews, …remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison… deserves a really broad interpretation. In our humble view, this also refers to the loved ones of prisoners. Many of the requests for help that come into the HFP office are from family members or spouses.
The mother of a mentally ill prisoner begged us for assistance after she was denied personal visits for a period of time, and when she learned that her daughter was being seriously abused.
And speaking of visitation, another mother contacted our office saying that she hadn’t even spoken with her son for over a year. There may be some legitimate reasons for this lack of visitation and communication, but the problem is finding out what those reasons are. Corrections people have a long way to go when it comes to treating loved ones in a civil manner, and keeping them informed.
A wife learned that her husband was transferred to a psych unit recently, but is unable to get a lot of information as to why, and how he is doing.
A 7-year-old boy is bummed because his birthday arrived this month, but his mother couldn’t be at his party. She’s in prison. He hasn’t seen her in two years!
We tried to help the wife of a terminally ill prisoner. She knew he was near death. She tried to go visit him, and they told her he was no longer there. But they wouldn’t tell her where he went!
The adult son of a woman behind bars contacted our office just the other day asking where he might fight legal help. His mother was shamefully treated by the system simply because she needed a special diet for medical reasons. He hopes to hold someone accountable for this unacceptable treatment.
The mother of a wrongly convicted special needs prisoner called me a few days ago. The man has serious breathing problems, but for some reason known only to the Department of Corrections, they stopped giving him an inhaler. He might be able to get the proper breathing equipment over a period of time, but he must exhaust all three levels of the grievance process. How long will that take? And what does he do for breath during that time?
I write this piece, in part, as a prayer suggestion. Many of us pray for those behind bars, remembering their many needs and problems. But those needs and problems extend to family members and loved ones as well. And they need our prayers, too.
And when we cry for prison reform, this must include communication with and treatment of those loved ones and family members on the outside.
That, it seems to me, is the unwritten message attached to Hebrews 13.