Thursday, July 13, 2017

Inmates are the Scourge of the Earth

To most people, inmates of prisons are the scum of the earth.  How many times have I heard the “He did the crime, he must do the time” and how often have I heard derogatory remarks about prisoners?  We watch the news or read the newspapers and actually get a kick out of reading about another person who is put in jail for a long period of time.  Inmates are viewed as the scourge of society and I am going to do my very best to show the world that prisoners are people too.  I think the worst thing I heard being said about an inmate is that “I hope he rots in jail”, or “he does not deserve to be treated like a human being and therefore should have no human rights”.
I made a commitment today – a commitment to the young and old men in Medium B at St Alban’s Prison.   I have committed myself to be their liaison officer, their mentor, their go-between, their friend and their confidante.   Against doctors’ orders and the absolute horror expressed by my mom and my husband, I went and did a three-hour workshop on debating, reviewing and writing skills for approximately 25 men.   I don’t know who had the better time – they or I.  I had an amazing time spent with such an incredibly diverse and yet coherent group of men.  Not once did I feel threatened in any way.  I was in a very safe space, no wardens around and just the inmates and me.
I prepared nothing – I was skating on my arse with the experience I already had.  They had prepared so many things for me; two reviews on one of my books, a Capella with rap, poetry written and recited to me … they were amazing.  And Heinrich van Rooyen organized all that to take place.   A huge big thank you must go to Mr PC Plaatjies, the warden who made this all possible.
We were serious, we laughed, we squealed with delight – there was nothing but sheer joy in that classroom for three hours today.
Those are not animals in there, as I have also heard them described.  They are gentlemen; they are intelligent, pleasing to the eye and most entertaining.  And each and every one of them have crept into my heart.  As I always have to have something greater than I am to live for, I will be living for this group of amazing human beings as well.

Who amongst us all, have not committed a sin?  Who amongst us all, have never made a mistake?  It was a privilage and an honor to spend those three hours in their company.  Those are my boys now!
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