Thursday, May 14, 2009

Judge visiting prisoner: a fantasy

I made a prison visit yesterday. I believe God calls me to do that, and I believe that your financial support and prayers affirm my action. Yesterday was unique because the prisoner was 15 years of age, with the mind of a 9 year old. He was arrested at age 13 for being involved in sexual activity with a 6 year old cousin, charged by an aggressive prosecutor, and sentenced to 9 to 15 years in prison by a judge who must have thought this child would be a threat to society. What other reason could there be? He certainly cannot get appropriate treatment for mental illness there; he cannot be rehabilitated there.

My mind was busy during the six hours spent on the highway. I wondered what it would be like if I could take that very judge to the prison to visit the boy whom he had sentenced.

Thank you, Your Honor, for agreeing to make a prison visit with me. With grand-children of your own, this should be meaningful. I'd like you to meet this young man. You chose to send him to prison, even though his mind was only that of about a 6-year-old at the time of the activity that you and the police and the prosecutor called a crime.

We arrived at 2:15 PM, and it's now 3:30. I know your time is valuable, but there are several possible reasons for the delay of our visit: 1, the prison system may not have the same concern for your time constraints; 2, maybe the young man couldn't find his shoes; and 3, perhaps he was watching a good TV show…you know how little kids can be.

Look at him as he walks in, sir. His great big black shoes make him walk like a clown. When asked about the problem, he shrugs and says the shoes and some shirts were missing after he was transferred into segregation. This is what they gave him for the moment. "Now I have to buy new ones."

And remember how grandkids always seem hungry, Judge? Our $10 won’t cover it today! We continue to deposit quarters as the lad devours two Lunchables, a large A&W root beer, and three Payday candy bars! He prefers that to the fish dinner he is scheduled to receive, which he labels “awful!”

But let's listen to his words, Your Honor. It shouldn’t be a surprise that his behavior sometimes doesn’t meet prison requirements, so for 13 more days he must remain in his cell for all but two hours a day, getting out only for medicine and meals. He shows us a scar on his arm caused, he says, by the jab of a ball-point pen of a guard.

How did it feel to be admitted at Jackson at the age of 14? "I was scared to death! I thought I would have to spend my whole sentence there. Some prisoner saw me in my cell, and shouted, 'Hi Peaches.' I hated it!"

Has he seen unpleasant situations in prison? "You don't know the half of it!”

Does he see a therapist? No.

Has his appellate attorney contacted him? No.

Does he get visits? About once every two months. His mom doesn’t come. His grandmother, wheel-chair-bound, is always welcome, but she lives out-of-state.

What are we doing here? Punishing? Treating the mentally ill? Making an example so as to prevent similar incidents?

Is this the best solution to this problem, Grandfather Judge? How would you feel if this child was a member of your family?

Luke 17:2 It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.


William Newmiller said...

A moving account. Keep speaking the truth, Doug.

Joanne said...

Doug, you deserve an ATTABOY for this one. Joanne