God don’t make no junk!
50 years ago, long before those words appeared on rock music album covers and on t-shirts, I saw that phrase scribbled with crayons on a white sheet of paper. It was tacked up on the wall of a tiny office, occupied by a sweet woman who worked with challenged youngsters. I never forgot it.
I’m thinking of those words today, seething, after receiving an absolutely devastating report on one of the prisoners we helped obtain freedom. I’ll just call him John Doe, because his isn’t the only story of its kind. It happens to incarcerated John Does every day.
As a young black kid John got into some petty crime. A white judge decided he was going to make an example of him, and sent him to prison with a heavy sentence. It was more than 40 years before John was able to get a parole, and that was thanks to some help from our gang. But, I’m afraid the damage was irreparable.
Research shows that life behind bars can and often does eliminate meaning and purpose from the incarcerated. On top of that, the appalling conditions common in prisons and jails — such as overcrowding, solitary confinement, and routine exposure to violence — can have further negative effects, such as “Post-Incarceration Syndrome,” a syndrome similar to PTSD. It simply means that, even after serving their official sentences, many people continue to suffer the mental effects.
Well, it’s been a year since this 60-year-old walked out of that prison. Since that time he
-has had numerous girl friends
-has been accused of domestic violence
-has owned 5 different cars
-has been taken advantage of by all kinds of unsavory people
-has burned bridges with friends who helped him
-has been in and out of trouble with his Parole Officer
-has spent some time in a mental hospital
-has tried to take his own life
has even fathered a baby!
Today, one year later, he’s back behind bars.
You're going to have a hard time believing this, but he's a nice man! I've assured him our friendship will stick. But here's the deal.
Once again, the system has failed. Once again, those of us who look the other way and say it’s not our problem have failed! We put people in cages for decades, let these appalling conditions ruin them, and then offer no special counseling, no guidance and little or no assistance upon their release.
And we call them the criminals!
God does NOT make junk, but I can’t say the same about prisons.
I’m not all that happy, either, about what more I could have done.