Best-selling novelist Michael Connolly is putting one of my favorite detectives on TV: Harry Bosch. I don’t agree with Harry when it comes to the death penalty, and I find his attitude toward criminal defense attorneys distasteful, but I love his dogged determination to solve cases! I especially like his feelings re the murders of people who don’t rank very high socially. His slogan: Everybody counts or nobody counts!
That slogan came to mind this week, as I was working on some copy for a book I’m trying to write. In a chapter dealing with the work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, this very subject came up.
I cited two cases where, by all outward appearances, HFP failed. Two prisoners who we worked so hard to help reach freedom dropped the ball after they got out. One was immediately recaptured by the addiction demons that got him in trouble in the first place. He died in a drunken stupor, frozen to death in the middle of a field one cold November day. The second case was worse yet. The former prisoner, claiming all along that he had been wrongly convicted, appeared to be a poster boy for HFP upon his release. I brought him with me to public speaking engagements, got him started in business, found friends to surround him in church…while the whole time he was scamming us. He was stealing stuff under our noses, committing burglaries by the dozens, and finally---after authorities caught up with him once again---took his own life while sitting in a county jail. Both of these young men died at the age of 44.
Board members asked me if situations like these dimmed my vision, and my prompt and firm response was NO!
For those rare cases where we tried to do what was right, only to learn that evil triumphed once again, there are dozens and dozens of wonderful experiences. When I held the door open for Gail when she walked out of prison, she said it made her feel like the “most important person in the world.” When I welcomed Joe with open arms after serving 39 years behind bars, he said---with tears streaming down his face---HFP was like the Red Cross for us in there. You were there for us when there was no one else!”
I have spoken to Grand Haven High School seniors in a class called PAY IT FORWARD on two different occasions. In the first session, a student asked me if we would help anyone, regardless of creed or color, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. Of course we will, and we do. And in the second session, the teacher asked me just how we determine whether a prisoner is leveling with us. I had to point out that sometimes we can’t. That still doesn’t mean that the prisoner does not deserve humane treatment. We must constantly remind our supporters that incarceration is the punishment. Even the person guilty of the most heinous crime, even the most brilliant of con artists behind bars, still deserve proper medical care, edible food, and protection against cruelty and exploitation.
Harry Bosch refuses to admit that he’s a spiritual person.
Yet, his slogan is very Christian in nature. Matt and I certainly buy into it, and try to practice it every day!
Everybody counts or nobody counts!