What do you think of when you first hear the word, “prisoner”?
Do we think of words like crime & punishment? Or do we picture drugs & violence? Do we hear danger, murder, or robbery? Or perhaps those old-time prisoners wearing the black-and-white stripes come to mind. In whatever way we think of it, the words we associate with prisoner usually are not positive.
Yet, recently I’ve been looking into volunteering at prisons to help prisoners. Which a crazy thing to do, right? Why would anyone want to help people who have committed dangerous crimes? Why would someone help the very people who’ve hurt other people? I mean, it’s natural to want to stay away from prisoners – from criminals. After all, there’s a reason they’re in prison.
But just because people are locked up in a cage, doesn’t mean that they’re animals. They are humans - they are someone’s friend, maybe a dad, this person’s cousin, or that person’s neighbor. And when a crime is committed, do we just help the victim? Do we just pray for the victim? Care for the victim? Is that who needs the most help? Because the problem didn’t start with the victim.
When a person commits a crime, maybe they’re doing it for a selfish reason, or, scarier yet, no reason at all. But sometimes it’s also a cry for help, a cry to be noticed; because that’s the only way they know how to get attention. Maybe something is wrong, someone treated them wrong. Of course, it's no excuse, but it’s a reason.
And that’s what I want to find out. I want to know prisoners personally, ask them why they did what they did and how they got to where they are. I want to show them – prove to them - that there’s a different way, instead of avoiding them. I want to explain that I haven’t given up on them, and they still have a chance to change their lives. I want to help the people who perhaps need the most help, and yet don’t get much of it.
Some might think I’m the little do-gooder who goes around thinking that everything is good, until the day where everything builds up to a crescendo, and I break. But push hard enough through skin, and there’s hidden steel. A heart, it’s something that loves, but it’s also a muscle strengthened by use.
So, what do you think of, when you hear the word, "prisoner"?