Hearing 1Prisons of any kind are not for the faint of heart, regardless if you are an inmate, resident, family member, victim, survivor or staff. It takes amazing strength, physical and mental, to simply endure to the next day. Some wonder how they do it. Sadly, some do not.

The Kansas Department of Corrections, not unlike many departments throughout the country, provides the physical and psychological evaluation of the convicted of felons. The process of evaluation results in, among other determinations, choosing the appropriate facility for the inmate. The security those in the institution as well as the inmate being evaluated is top-of-mind.

God and/or religion and the part they may play in the inmate’s life become a factor of the psychological evaluation.  As with any of us, the perceived roles are many and varied: punishing, forgiving, gentle, loving, judging, powerful, etc. If God plays a role, that role may very well help determine the depths of remorse, responsibility, guilt, love and even the hope of rehabilitation.

I was privileged to be part of such a team some years ago.

Hours were spent listening to the stories, reading and writing reports, discussing the cases and evaluating the work. I was doing well, or so I thought. I was listening to inmates, staff and team members only to discover I was not hearing them.

The pride and process of the work deafened me to the human beings I encountered each day I “went to work.” The desire to impress with the perfect report blocked the pain, fear, abandonment, and anger that inhabited the very soul of inmates and staff alike.

I was a good listener, but I had a lot to learn in order to be a good “hearer.”

Hearing 2In this Jubilee Year of Mercy we are being asked to VISIT THE IMPRISONED. The prison may be constructed of concrete and steel bars, or it may be the rooms of a nursing home.  It could be the house down the street or one in the inner city. It is possibly our family or even us.

We are being asked to pray for the wisdom to hear the cries of those on the margins, especially those imprisoned by us. May we comfort them with the loving God of mercy, forgiveness, healing and hope.

Thanks in particular to parishioner Ms. Dee Baker for her ministry to those imprisoned in jail.