My friend Roger thinks he knows why many people do not contribute to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. He and his wife read through the long list of appeals for help that we recently published in a newsletter. Many of these pleas for assistance describe terrible conditions in prison. Roger said his wife concluded: "If these prisoners just thought about this ahead of time, maybe they never would have ended up in prison." And that's the type of thinking that we must counter all the time. There's no quick answer.
There are no hard data to quickly drop on people who make these statements. We cannot tell, for example, just how many people have been wrongly convicted. But let's be real about it. If our judicial system is accurate 90% of the time, the flip side is that 10% of the judgments were wrong. A wise man once said that if one innocent person is in prison, I am not free. Well then if 10% of the prison population is innocent, that is indeed an outrage. I have a friend who was freed by DNA testing after he served 9 years for a crime he did not commit. He insists that the number of wrongly convicted may be as high as 15%.
I deal with this on a daily basis and that's why it makes it so hard for me to bite my tongue when someone just assumes that people in prison belong in prison. In addition to the wrongly convicted, we also have no hard data on the number of mentally ill who have wrongly been incarcerated. Then think of the number of addicts who are in prison, because some prosecutors and judges decided that the way to treat alcoholism and drug addiction is incarceration. Now we're getting into high numbers of prisoners...hundreds of thousands of prisoners.
So it's not just making a simplistic statement about prisoners any more. Thousands upon thousands of prisoners have no business being there, and have no business being treated the way they are. As a fellow member of the human race, it's your job to remember your brothers and sisters behind bars. As the president of HFP, it's my job to daily focus attention on the needs of THE LEAST OF THESE.
We need you as a partner.