Saturday, March 21, 2015

On saving animals, caring for prisoners

This is Albert Schweitzer’s premise, and I agree with it:

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.

And I have no problem with wanting to rescue dogs, or to save whales and elephants.  There appears to be a huge majority of people who not only care about our wildlife, but who are willing to put their money where their mouth is.  Click on these worthy causes, and you’ll find big agencies with wide appeal and fat checkbooks.

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, on the other hand, focuses on disenfranchised people, and that subject isn’t nearly as popular.

Witness the discussion at our Board of Directors meeting yesterday.  “Maybe we’ll have to just level with our supporters and explain that a lack of funds will mean a severe reduction in our services to inmates.”  “Our appeals are getting stale.”  “How can we put a new spin on our work, to touch the heartstrings of the public?”  The problem is staring us in the face:  We’re broke!

I don’t know how to put a new spin on trying to help a prisoner with Parkinson’s Disease to get an appointment with a neurologist;  or trying to help a mentally retarded senior citizen who is being terrorized by young prisoners;  or trying to help a mentally ill woman who has been cruelly abused by prison staff;  or trying to help an inmate with limited writing and spelling skills in filling out his commutation application form;  or trying to assist a mother behind bars in finding her long lost daughter.

I have a hard time figuring out how goals like this can sound appealing to generous donors and foundations:  Seeking improved hospice-type care and bedside visits for prisoners dying alone in cold and lonely infirmaries;  seeking compassionate releases for terminally ill inmates thus allowing them final, dying moments with family and friends;  working toward changes in our judicial system that puts women away for life after they finally take action to end years of domestic abuse;  begging for reforms that would obtain release for deserving paroleable lifers;  and seeking parole reforms that would let other agencies care for seriously ill geriatric prisoners.

Perhaps Matt and I could take a course or attend a seminar to figure out how to put a Madison Avenue “spin” on these unpopular efforts.  Perhaps.  But that would take us away from the work that we feel is so very important.

HFP is adding one new Michigan prisoner per day to the list of inmates we are helping!  Our assistance is sometimes limited, but our presence is so appreciated by those behind bars!  I call it “Jesus work.”  It’s lonely down here in the trenches, working one-on-one with these deserving and needy people.  And if we can’t figure out some way to unlock pocketbooks it’ll be even more lonely. 

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