Inmates’ courage to wield the pen brings to mind a letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. from Birmingham jail: “Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
Inmates are remanded by judges to the care and custody of institutions where they will be housed “safe” and secure. Are they really? Especially now during the heightened risks of a life-threatening pandemic, these sort of basic human rights violations and squalid living conditions are what we read of in the jails of China, Iran and countries led by brutal regimes and we should be deeply perturbed.
Having a son in state prison, recently officiating a funeral for my uncle who served a life-sentence in southern California prisons, and myself being a youthful offender, obliges me to, “Remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews13:3).
Heinous acts and crimes may have been perpetrated but let us not forget, these are our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, granddaughters, grandsons, nephews and nieces. Their well-being, health and fair treatment is concerning to us who wait for them.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed on municipalities and localities, there is no entrance of religious volunteers into institutions who rely solely on volunteerism for programs proven to reduce recidivism.
New Mexico state prisons adopted an Angola Model for prison reform and rehabilitation. Inmates who successfully complete a seminary program are pod-walkers, providing pastoral care, positive spiritual leadership, and facilitate programs to inmate population. If we on “the libre” have been enormously impacted socially, economically, and overly concerned about the future, imagine the least of these incarcerated who have limited or no contact with loved ones, access to services and programs.
I was incarcerated during my adolescent years and spent a two-year (1994-96) stay in the New Mexico Boys School in Springer, of which I am not proud. Probation officers, and staff at the School said, I would graduate to prison, and had nothing to offer.
While in the School I met chaplains and volunteers who reminded us we could be forgiven, they loved us unconditionally and helped me reclaim my life. I owe a debt of gratitude to such individuals and because of their influence, the trajectory of my life was changed for the better. I became a volunteer at the age of 18 to the School and state prisons.
To all incarcerated in our state, we remember you in our prayers, we hear you. You are not forgotten. You are loved and thought of
Use this as an opportunity to learn, to change and then go back to change your world. Inmates wanting to receive free Christian correspondence by mail are encouraged to write The Rock Christian Fellowship, 919 N. Riverside Dr., Española, N.M., 87532.
Mr. Arellano is a pastor at Rock Christian Church.