Posts Tagged ‘prison’

A reminder of the men I visit in segregated cells

March 8, 2018

I was reminded of this quote when a book was returned to me this morning. The second sentence is, to me, very rich in meaning, very relevant.

‘Many prisoners find themselves stuck within a present that seems to go nowhere, with little to lose and little to look forward to, waiting for a future release that may never come or that, when it does, might not deliver the longed-for sense of freedom. They find themselves haunted by a past that cannot be undone and that may return obsessively to dominate the present and drain the future of hope.’

Lisa Guenther, Solitary Confinement: social death and its afterlives

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A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48

February 16, 2017

A reflection on Matthew 5:38-48 delivered during a prison communion service

We seem to be living more and more in times of division – deep division. There is a tendency, a human tendency, to group and label anyway. In scriptures we find the bad and the good, the just and the unjust, your neighbor and your enemy, the sheep and the goats.

So if we look at today’s society, we have divisions that are pretty normal. But there seems to be, now, an animosity, a distrust, a disdain, a willingness to judge rather than engage and listen.

There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground in many instances. There are those who love the Packers, but hate the Patriots, love the Cardinals but hate the Cubs, love or hate Democrats or Republicans, love or hate immigrants, refugees, people of color, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, unions, Planned Parenthood, the NRA.

But don’t we live in a pluralistic society with many philosophies, many viewpoints, and many beliefs? Brothers, that should be our strength, not a crack in our foundation. I am reminded of the strength when different entities are brought together. In biblical times, mud and straw made bricks. Today, carbon fiber-reinforced compounds are used to build jet fighters.

Why shouldn’t a society made up of many separate parts be stronger, more effective, more resilient, more growthful, and more life-giving? Sometimes what is needed is more confidence in our own principles and beliefs so that we can respond to differences with more tolerance, more patience, more humility … more love … that we may all reveal ourselves to be children of our heavenly Father.

Can’t withstand the light of day

March 26, 2014

I posted this earlier today on Facebook:

Missouri execution: another death, another grieving family. Is that what balances the scales of justice? Could it be mindless revenge instead? What are we looking for?

Five in a row … uninterrupted. Seems like we’re trying to run the table. Florida and Texas are pulling away in the race.

So, citizens of Missouri, name the man executed in November. What did he do? Then name the ones in December, January, February. What did they do?

Can’t remember? These deaths are being done in your name. Is this whole death penalty thing working for you? Are we safer? Are victims’ families happier? Has grief been dissipated? Are we more respected and admired as a state? Or do we applaud and cheer when the governor gives his “thumbs down”?

Let’s move forward. Dead-of-night and secretive taking of life that can’t withstand the light of day and accomplishes nothing awaits our collective rejection and abolishment.

Condemned

February 10, 2014

—∞—

 

When was
His
Last
Breath?
 
As a child
When the
Sexual abuse
Began?
 
Or when
No one moved
To Stop
It?
 
As it continued
With others
And he stood
Helpless?
 
Or when
He began
Beating the old woman
Who befriended him?
 
Some may say
It was on the gurney
In the blank white room
At the prison
 
When was
His
Last
Breath?

 © 2014 Thomas W. Cummins

If not me, who?

November 17, 2013

I’m preparing to travel to the prison where an execution will take place at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 20. In my role as a ministerial witness, my arrival is to be around 11:00 p.m.

The man scheduled for execution is Joseph Paul Franklin, a hate-crime serial killer. I have known Mr. Franklin for more than 12 years, and I have visited his isolation cell countless times.

Some may ask, Why bother? That question calls to mind a couple of lines from the movie, Longford, about which I have blogged previously. Lord Longford was on a radio show and was being challenged about his long, frustrating and futile efforts to free Myra Hindley, one of the notorious Moors Murderers in the early 60s. The crimes were horrendous, grisly.

Lord Longford: … Forgiving her has proven difficult, very difficult. Not for what’s she’s done to me, that’s neither here nor there; but for the terrible crimes themselves. Forgiveness is the very cornerstone of my faith. And the struggle to deepen my faith is my life’s journey. In that respect she has enriched my spiritual life beyond measure, and for that, I will always be grateful to her.

Lord Longford: If people think that makes me weak… or mad… so be it. That is the path I am committed to. To love the sinner, but hate the sins. To assume the best in people, and not the worst. To believe that anyone, no matter how evil, can be redeemed… eventually.

So, I told Mr. Franklin I would be there for him. And if the execution goes through, I will be.

An Immeasurable distance

January 23, 2013

I must admit that this came forth very painfully. I’m supposed to be writing for my book on prison ministry, but this came out instead.

 —0—0—

An Immeasurable Distance

A young black face
Male
In profile
Through the narrow cell window
Just his profile
He was leaning
His back against the wall
Standing
Less than two feet away
But the door
The cell door
The solid steel cell door
Imposed an immeasurable distance
Between us
A gulf socioeconomic, judicial, racial
A span of years, experiences, hopes, dreams
Fears
Separated us
 
He spoke softly
“It’s hard,” he said
“I know,” was my only reply
Tears
Flowed instantly
Glistening on his dark skin
Catching the light from the small window
Twelve feet away
I also wept … inside
Silently, invisibly
Carrying on my own tears
Hundreds of young men
Hidden behind those doors
For the past twelve years
I’ve stood at those doors
 
This young man facing life
Without parole
Wept
Now 25 years old
He was eighteen
The day I first knocked on his door

 © 2013 Thomas W. Cummins