I’m a dad who, but for the grace of God, could be observing Father’s Day behind bars. I’ve been talking a lot about the wrongly convicted in recent days, perhaps because there have been a couple of high profile exonerations in the news. It’s still on my mind.
As I write this blog on the evening before Father’s Day, I’m sitting in my tiny office in the lower level of our modest condo. My little buddy hummingbird sips from a feeder that I have positioned outside the glass sliders. I’m having fun watching a kingfisher diving for fresh fish in the nearby pond out back. It could be different. I’ve never been in trouble with the law, but…
My friend Matt is a wrongly convicted businessman. He had never been in any trouble, either, until a tragic weekend when he got blamed for a crime that never even occurred. Some innovative police officers and an ambitious prosecutor changed this man’s life forever. That was nine years ago. He’ll be observing Father’s Day in prison for four more years. His grown kids are out of state, so there’ll be no visits this year.
My pal Anton is likely to be in prison for the rest of his life, unless the Innocence Project reviewing his case is able to turn things around. Anton has some learning disabilities and couldn’t read or write when he was wrongly convicted. I’m convinced the bullying cops got him to sign a document which he couldn’t read, and which turned out to be a confession. He was a teenager then. He has a daughter and a grandchild living in the inner city now. Once again this year, he’ll have no visits on Father’s Day.
For Harold it was a different story, and one that we’ve seen several times, where an aggressive prosecutor turns a tragic accident or a tragic suicide into accusations of a homicide. A legal team is hoping to undo the damage, but this professional person suddenly found himself surrounded by armed officers, then was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. That was 17 years ago. His kids are grown now, but a daughter hasn’t appreciated having an incarcerated dad and won’t speak to him anymore. It won’t be much of a Father’s Day.
These are three true stories. With 2.2 million people in jail or prison in the United States, do you think they are isolated examples?
I pray for a special group of hurting dads this year…dads who are in prison, dads who have family members in prison, and dads who love their kids just as much as you and I do.
May they feel warm and loving hugs of the Heavenly Father.
There may not be much else.