In Mathew, Jesus is talking about Judgement and there are some things He says He will ask. One of those is if you visited Him in prison. What will you say?
In America we have a higher percentage of our population in prison than any other country. 2.3 million people are locked up in American prisons. That’s more than China who only has 1.6 million, and a much higher population. 751 of every 100,000 Americans are in prison or jail, so if we only count adults, 1 out of every 100 people are locked up. These numbers are insane. Actually they are more than insane, they are evil.
We have an attitude in this country that if you go to prison you deserve it and whatever happens to you in there. I bet if you asked the average person on the street if they thought it was ok for prisoners to get raped on a daily basis, they would say something like, oh maybe daily is too much.
What people don’t understand is that not everyone in prison is there because they are a violent sexual predator. I knew a guy who had a fifty year sentence for marijuana. Not selling it, just possession. Right now you are thinking, that can’t be right, no one gives that much time for pot. Well in Texas if you have a prior felony they can enhance your charge to a higher one, thus convicting and sentencing you to a crime you didn’t do. So because of his prior conviction, which he had already served his sentence for, they enhanced his charge to a first degree felony and gave him his fifty years. For some weed.
A friend of mine got an 80 year sentence for check forging. He died inside. They were treating him for heart disease when he actually had cancer. By the time they figured out that they had messed up, it had spread throughout his body. He died on the way to lunch less than a month later with blood pouring out of every orifice. His name was Harry and I still miss him everyday.
The unit I was on was a training unit. New guards were trained on our unit before going off to other units around the state. One day I overheard the one teaching the others, “treat these men like they just got done raping your sister,” she said. That’s the attitude of the guards. They feel like it is their job to punish. People got so angry about the abuses in the army prisons in Iraq. That stuff happens all the time right here in Texas. I remember a guard stripped me out and made me stand naked on the sidewalk in the dead of winter because someone yelled an insult at her. She picked me out at random. So for about twenty minutes I stood there naked in front of guards and offender, men and women, in the cold. I won’t go on and list all the other things that go on, you get the point.
You here about the death penalty. What you don’t hear about are the men sentenced to life. Old men, whose families have all passed away, wandering around in our prisons. Whatever they did, they did it so long ago. They are harmless now, but our justice system has no mercy. They die in the back of the infirmary. I know because I had to clean up after them.
What would Jesus say about America’s prison system? More importantly, what do you think he would say about our attitude about it? Honestly, do you ever even think about the men who suffer and die there? I admit, I didn’t. Not until I went there. Mercy and forgiveness were the hallmarks of Jesus’s teachings. It is our nature to want to judge and condemn prisoners, but as Christians we should at least try to ease their suffering. Visit a prisoner.