I was standing before a group of high school seniors, doing my best in trying to explain how we treat prisoners, and why. I wasn’t sure if I was getting through to a young girl sitting in the front row. Our eyes would connect for a minute. Then she’d drift off. Was I so boring she was falling asleep? One never knows when trying to communicate with teens.
But then it was time for questions and answers.
From that young lady in the front row, as she thought back on my account of the Maurice Carter story which led me into this business: “What was the connecting factor? Why did you keep on going? When you thought you had done everything you could for Maurice, why not just quit?” My answer: “Because something happened that I had not planned on…we became dear friends, and that changes everything. You can’t just explain to a very close friend that you’re sorry, and you’re going to stop helping now.”
She seemed to understand.
And moments later, two related questions. Number one: “Do you believe that some people belong in prison?” A quick response: “Yes, of course.” And then the heavy punch: “For those people who really belong in prison, the persons who committed bad crimes, do you just tell them, ‘Sorry, we’re not going to help you?” And my response was just as quick: “No. What we must remember is that incarceration is the punishment. We have no right to inflict additional punishment. If, for example, a prison doctor were to say to the inmate, ‘I’m not going to give you medication for your pain because of the nature of your crime…you’ll just have to suffer,’ we would go to bat for him or her. If a prisoner, no matter how vile the misdeed, is being treated cruelly, we’ll extend compassion.”
This was a public school setting, so I couldn’t expound as I might when speaking to a church group. The answers that I gave her were not only the philosophy of HFP. They’re the heart of the gospel. This is what Jesus did for Matt and me. This is why we do what we do!
I think she got it.