Over the years I have met a few people who have dedicated their entire lives to helping “prisoners.”
I never fully understood why they would do this….
I understand now.
It is because the people they are helping aren’t actually “prisoners”. They aren’t even “criminals.”
They are often children who were neglected by society.
They are often scapegoats in a community looking for someone to blame.
They are often victims of racism, classism, and prejudice by society, police and the justice system.
They are often people who have been abused and raped and have developed mental instabilities.
Many of them are completely innocent.
Simply put, they are human beings, every bit as deserving of their humanity as you or I.
What I have known for quite some time is that creating prisoners doesn’t truly help the victims, you, me or our society as a whole. It doesn’t reduce crime. Rather, it creates a vicious cycle of crime. The US justice system, while maybe good in theory, is truly an injustice to our society.
I now understand that fighting for them is fighting against a corrupt “justice” system that works for the wealthy and white and is stacked against the Black, Brown and financially poor.
I have understood fighting the injustice of our system for some time, but now I understand fighting for each individual, the ones even I had discarded. Working to help people on death row is working for all of our humanity. But it is equally fighting for the humanity of each of these individual humans. Because they are humans, just like you and I. They are deserving, just like you and I.
As Bryan Stevenson says, “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” I’m learning from leaders like Bryan that the way we treat our most vulnerable is one of the deepest representations of who we are as a society. Working to help them, treating them as the humans they are and showing them compassion and love, is working to lift up humanity as a whole and fighting for our collective humanity.
Last night I finished reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, a man who has become a hero to me. I strongly encouraging reading this book and taking action from his words.