Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wish we had Solomon!

Solomon doesn’t work in our office.  We don’t have his expertise to fall back on.  The author of First Kings tells us that “all Israel” held King Solomon in awe, because he had the “wisdom of God” to make decisions. 

We don’t have two women fighting over a baby, but we do have a prisoner wanting to say goodbye to her dying father.  We have an elderly mother who saw the system work against people of her race, and is convinced that her son has most of his life behind bars for a crime that someone else committed.  We have an old duffer who died in prison and who was brought back to life, and who now should be out, but who remains behind bars because our Parole Board thinks he might be a threat to society!

That’s why we not only ask for dollars, we ask for prayers.  We’re not asking for general prayers for sentencing reform, or Parole Board reform, or justice for the wrongly convicted (although those prayers are important also).  We’re asking for guidance as we deal with specific issues involving individual prisoners.  Lots of them.  Every day!

Ms. N. is serving 3-15, and her earliest release date is a year away yet.  But her elderly father is dying.  Details of the crime are not important here, but suffice it to say that family ties are strong, and both father and daughter are hurting.  Doctors give the man a week to live, but Hospice personnel think that he’s holding on so that he can see his daughter one more time.  Some kind of interactive computer program like skype could be wonderful in a situation like this, but the prison system isn’t equipped for that.  Her family can request a bedside visit, but that requires the hiring of off-duty corrections officers who would be willing to make this trip, and that’s doubtful for two reasons:  the women’s prison is very short-handed; and, the cost would be prohibitive for this family.  Simple words like “I love you” and “Goodbye” are so important at a time like this.  How to help?

Mrs. H. is an elderly African American mother who watched as a wealthy young, white college student who was a serious suspect in a high-profile murder case, was spirited out of the state by his attorney-father.  She’s convinced that her son, who has served 33 years, was a scapegoat and is innocent.  These poor people have had no funds for proper representation.  I realize that many people believe that all prisoners claim they are innocent.  But in this case I’m getting a feeling similar to that which I had when working on the Maurice Carter case.  People who work in wrongful convictions often make the claim that you get the justice you can afford.  How to help?

Mr. C. is a 72-year-old prisoner who died more than once in prison, and was resuscitated.  He’s like a cat with nine lives.  In 2005 he had heart bypass surgery (five bypasses!).  He’s got serious osteoarthritis problems that force him to go short distances by cane or long distances by wheelchair.  He also has prostate cancer.  In his 47 years behind bars, he became a Christian, got his paralegal credentials and spends his time helping other inmates who cannot afford lawyers.  But his physical condition is poor, and thus his time on this earth is limited.  We became aware of his plight when the warden of his prison asked if we might be able to help him spend his remaining days as a free man.  We tried, with personal intervention with a member of the Parole Board.  The angry board member would hear nothing of it, and decided he should spend a little more time thinking about his crime before he gets released.  How to help?

We have 50 professional men and women who are helping us as volunteers.  But they cannot take the place of Solomon, either. 

My point is simple.  Your dollars are critical for our survival.  But what we really need is your prayer support.  Now.  Because there’ll be more cases like this tomorrow!

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