Friday, March 29, 2013

Bad news on Good Friday

It's Good Friday, and my preference might be to quietly meditate today on what Jesus did for me.

But instead, I'm dealing with serious issues that are troubling some of the people he seemed to love the most: persons in prison. In fact, he likened the way we treat these inmates with the way we treat him.

Problem #1 comes from the women's facility in Ypsilanti, where two of our friends---both model prisoners---have studied law and taken upon themselves to help other prisoners with their legal issues over the past decade.

One particular issue was so troubling that the ACLU jumped into the fray and managed to get a policy change. But the former practice of strip-searching female inmates was so outrageous that it traumatized many women, especially those in prison who had been raped or sexually abused. And so these two experts in the field of law assisted in preparing a class action lawsuit against the State of Michigan.

Today, one of the girls tearfully informed me by telephone that all of their legal documents have been confiscated; four footlockers full of stuff! No one is saying why, but it's obviously retaliation. The state doesn't like people suing the state. Understandable, except no one may legally deny prisoners access to the courts. The issue is especially urgent because there are court deadlines coming up. And there is no assurance if or when these documents will be returned. Meanwhile, there's no doubt that all of the supposedly confidential material is being read by the staff.

Then comes Problem #2 across our desk, from the parent of a young prisoner. She says her son was beaten by gang members and his life threatened for non-payment of money demands. He broke free, and obtained a transfer to another prison. He has remained in segregation at the new facility for fear of his life, but is now being poked fun of by some staff members, being threatened by other staff members...all of this while struggling with mental issues. He's already passed his early release date, but with all the problems, his parents fear that he won't get out, and they worry about his safety.

"Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

May our risen Lord bless us as we try to reach out to these hurting people on Easter weekend.

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