Archive for the ‘Criminal Justice’ Category

“It’s a deal!”

February 1, 2011

First the freezing rain, then the freezing drizzle, and soon the snow accompanied by high winds will arrive. Anywhere from 7 to 20 inches are expected, a major storm for this part of the country.

My first trek to the driveway was to push around a few inches of ice crystals. The consistency was that of sugar. Better to keep up with it from time to time rather than wait for the storm to pass.

When I came in for a break and rest, I set the oven timer for two hours, an appropriate recovery interval before I would return for more shoveling.

A moment later there was a knock on the front door. “Would you like me to keep your driveway clean throughout the storm?” There, with smiling face, stood our neighbor’s son.

“What compensation are you looking for?” I asked.

“I will return three times for a total of 25 dollars.”

“It’s a deal!”

His family has, perhaps, the only snow blower in the immediate neighborhood. This is contrasted with the area we grew up in, Minnesota, where one is more than likely to be the only one without a snow blower in any given neighborhood.

The work is being supervised by is father, and I envision a budding business being set up for several winters coming.

But I still think I’ll purchase a snow blower. We’ll see.


In the meantime, I imagine there is an offender looking at the snow through his narrow window. He can’t see far, just as far as the adjacent wing in his housing unit.

I wonder what he is thinking as the snow swirls among the buildings. This coming weekend could be his last as he approaches his execution date on February 9.

And for the rest of us, a snow storm is coming.


Reflection of His mercy

December 18, 2010

Seven offenders and I spent 45 minutes yesterday sharing what the following Merton quote means in our lives.

The solitary life is a life in which we cast our care upon the Lord and delight only in the help that comes from Him. Whatever He does is our joy. We reproduce His goodness in us by our gratitude. (Or – our gratitude is the reflection of His mercy. It is what makes us like Him.)  – Thomas Merton

There must be some hurry

October 20, 2010

Even though the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Roderick Nunley’s stay of execution yesterday, and the U.S. Supreme Court did likewise, Missouri’s Attorney General will continue to press for his execution. The state has until midnight tonight to complete the  execution on its planned date of October 20.

I wish, often, that our legal system was as interested in justice as it is in vengeance. Why, if there are legitimate legal issues surrounding Nunley’s case, would anyone want to press on toward taking his life? There must be some hurry I don’t understand.

A small attempt to be present

October 13, 2010

Missouri has an execution scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on October 20. I have known Roderick Nunley for nearly 5 years, and we have talked on a regular basis during my chaplain visits at his cell door.

On the evening of October 19, I will hold my own personal vigil as a small attempt to be present to the reality of what’s happening in that space and time.

We can only do what we can do

September 19, 2010

A rainy, dreary day – a Sunday – and a good day for watching football. But if the grass dries out a bit, I’ll be out there grudgingly pushing a mower as my TV chair beckons. Purring in the background will be the washing machine.

Also on my mind, and adding to the dreariness, our state has a man awaiting execution on October 20. My thoughts are with him every day. Our last execution was May 20, 2009.

He and I began talking on a regular basis nearly five years ago. Those five years for him  have been spent in solitary confinement. While I’ve never been alone in a cell 24/7, I do believe visits at the cell door would be most welcome. I can only hope my visits were welcome to him. They seemed to be.

If his execution is stayed, I will resume seeing him as often as I am able. In the meantime, a combination of institutional policy and my availability has prevented my spending any time with him in his current environment and pre-execution status. It’s frustrating, but we can only do what we can do.

Whether or not I ever see him again is beyond my control. We shall see.

Much convincing and prodding

September 6, 2010

My quiet time each morning is from 6:45 a.m. to about 7:30 a.m. Lately I have been spending the time with the daily Lectionary readings and one of Thomas Merton’s books: Thoughts in Solitude. The book’s chapters are short, and one or two at a time usually does it.

Today is Labor Day.This morning as I sat down I was wondering why I was thinking about going down to the prison to visit the men in solitary. I wondered why I was going down there when I could/should be relaxing on the patio and enjoying the beautiful weather. Going down there at all usually requires much convincing and prodding on my part. After a few minutes, something inside me said, “Do your readings.”

In Merton was this quote on page 103: “Whatever may be our vocation we are called to be witnesses and ministers of the Divine Mercy.” There it was. A clear and unequivocal statement of why I felt the pull to drive 1 hour and 20 minutes south to stand in a noisy wing trying to listen to some offenders through solid steel doors.

I went. It was good.