Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gorilla worth more than prisoners?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not an animal hater.  I’m completely in favor of being kind to all creatures, great and small.  The problem I have is with the high international interest in the story about taking the life of a gorilla allegedly to save the life of a child.  And meanwhile, topics of abuse of human beings, many of them behind bars, hardly cause us to raise our eyebrows. 

Where is the hue and cry on behalf of the mentally ill, for example?  We’ve closed many of our mental institutions, and now our prisons are loaded with mentally challenged inmates, who are being cared for by personnel who have had little or no training in this field.  Cruelty and abuse are rampant.

Why do those of us in prisoner advocacy have such a difficult time focusing any attention on the terminally ill?  For decades people have been dying in our prisons alone, without the benefit of bedside visits by family members, and without any type of hospice care.  Many of these men and women should have been granted compassionate releases, enabling them to spend final days and hours surrounding by loved ones.

When will start focusing more attention on battered women, many of them behind bars for killing a spouse or boyfriend before he killed or maimed them?  National statistics show that women who kill men receive significantly higher sentences than men who kill women.  They also show that 90% of women who kill men are victims of abuse. 

Why has it taken so long for us to show any concern for pregnant women behind bars?  Shameful shackling of women giving birth is still prevalent.  Provisions for these women to see and care for their babies are often lacking.  Compassionate sentences that enable new moms to do their parenting at home are few and far between.

Juveniles behind bars are finally getting some attention, after years of horrible treatment such as solitary confinement, life sentences without parole, and incarceration in adult facilities. 

This is just a sampling of in-prison irregularities and mistreatment that should shock and concern all of us.

It’s true:  I’m in the business of showing kindness and compassion to prisoners, so these issues are in my face every day.  What will it take to draw the kind of concern that people are showing when the life of a gorilla is taken?  Just as an aside, you can be sure that such attention does wonders for the coffers of animal rights organizations.  Meanwhile, those wonderful agencies doing their best to show kindness to people behind bars consistently face financial struggles.

St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying:  If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.


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