Friday, July 15, 2011

I was in prison and you came to visit me

As a little child attending Mass with my family, one of my favorite hymns was written around the theme found in Matthew Chapter 25. "Whatever you do for the least of my people, you do for me."

Jesus was  very specific:  I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

The lesson, as I understood it, was to offer what was needed with love, no matter the circumstances and without judgment.   And in doing so, I was showing my love for Jesus. 

Jesus embraced the most despised members of his society, people considered too evil, soiled or broken to be considered part of the community.  I have opened my heart to many types of persons with a variety of needs, but never in my life have I had direct contact with a more hated and abandoned class of people than Pelican Bay SHU prisoners.  These men are so hated that we are allowing an institution to strip them of every dignity and in our name engage in all manner of inhumane treatment.

My friendship with Bryan isn't about what he did or who he is about a man who is my brother and deserves to be allowed to be fully human, even as he serves out his punishment for his crimes.  I have read most of Bryan's file, which he mailed to me in full disclosure.  I have read his six year inactive review paperwork, I have read his appeal to the courts,  I have a clear understanding of his original crime and his prison activity.  And yet, in all of this, I see no justification for the conditions he endures in the Pelican Bay SHU.

As I go in to visit with Bryan on Saturday, day 16 of the hunger strike, I want to put aside thoughts about rallys, core demands, CDCR policies, retaliation and the horrors of the SHU.  I just want to visit my friend in prison and show him that he is worthy of love, compassion and humane treatment.

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