Armed Services, Healthcare and Prison Ministries
 
 
 
 


Prisoners Respond
 
Table of Page Contents
Prisoners and the Horrors of 9-11: A Report by Val Hymes, coordinator of the Prison Ministry Task Force, Diocese of Maryland
Letter to the editor of the Monterey County (California) Herald from (The Rev.) Connie White, Salinas, California
Executive Director Victim Offender Reconciliation Program
Email to Bishop Packard from Michael G. Hackett,
Angola, Loiusiana
Prisoners and the Horror of 9-11, email from Texye Charleville




Prisoners and the Horrors of 9-11: A Report
by Val Hymes, coordinator of the Prison Ministry Task Force, Diocese of Maryland
She lives and writes in Edgewater, Md., and is a member of St. James' Parish, Lothian, Md.


While the world focused on the destruction of the twin towers and the thousands of victims lost, the effect of those horrors on the nation's nearly two million prison inmates was largely forgotten.

The Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Bishop Suffragan to chaplains serving the military, healthcare and prisons, said he was concerned after one deacon dismissed inmates' reactions by saying, "They have televisions and safety behind bars."

Calling that reaction "a naive and patronizing view of what a human being's requirements are in such emergencies," Bishop Packard said being able to watch the tube occasionally "does not satisfy the essential needs of sharing, connecting and reflecting."

"Are the incarcerated not part of this society?" he asked "Do they not worry about their families but unlike us cannot easily check on them? A national emergency is no time to look past persons in confinement as if they are invisible."

A short survey showed that many prisoners were deeply affected by the tragedies and demonstrated their patriotism.

One resident of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola lost his son and his son's wife, leaving six children without parents, wrote Michael G. Hackett of the Church of the Transfiguration inside Angola. "Television brought all of the events right into the whole population, so they were following it along with the rest of the world.

"A number of other residents have close family that have been lost through this event," he wrote. Yet in those first few days "a collection was made and $15,000 was sent to New York for disaster relief-a staggering amount since the normal wage per hour is between 2 and 4 cents."

Inmates at a Maryland medium security prison, however, say the warden did not permit them to collect and send money or to donate blood.

Mary Ann Armstrong of Transfiguration said the volunteers and inmates held prayer intercessions for families and victims at the first Tuesday October service.

Another Transfiguration volunteer, Texye Charleville, wrote that a 25-year-old inmate named Jimmy Williams sent her $10 for the Red Cross. "Jimmy is horrified, shocked saddened, just as we are, by the Sept. 11 attacks," she said. He was 17 when he committed the crime that sent him to death row. "He shed tears as I did for our country and the victims" she wrote.

"The death row inmates," she added, "really believe their only hope is our justice system, so when our country was attacked, many could not participate in the religious services around the country or donate to charities. They felt a sense of helplessness for the victims and hopelessness for themselves. The incarcerated are indeed very human and felt the same horror that we felt on Sept. 11," Charleville said.

A pre-release counselor at a "boot camp" in Southern Mississippi wrote that the young, male first offenders "are not allowed TV, radios, newspapers or reading materials other than the Bible." She said the chaplain and some of the drill instructors and teachers informed the inmates, but that she is not allowed to discuss those matters formally and could be fired for bringing in a newspaper. She said if asked, she provided verbal or information from the Internet.

"Although many people prefer not to think about the million-plus people in our prisons," wrote Connie White of the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, St. Francis Academy, Inc. in Salinas, Ca., "the inmates certainly think about us."

An inmate population of fewer than 2,000 women at the California Institution for Women in Corona "recently collected and sent $6,000 to the victims of the WTC disaster," she wrote. "Along with the money, they sent hand-painted murals saying, 'United We Stand' signed by hundreds of inmates ... dolls, teddy bears and blankets, all handmade by the women."

The jobs they hold in prison typically pay 25 cents to 45 cents an hour. "This is not a one-time thing for these women," she added. "On a continual basis they raise money for causes such as cancer and AIDS...they volunteer in programs to sew hats for children who have lost their hair from chemotherapy and make blankets and layettes for indigent babies. "These women feel they are patriotic citizens. I hope we return the sentiment," White said.

A devotion for Prisoner to Prisoner written by inmate Bill Hamann at the Marion (Ohio) Correctional Institution, said he wished that people who believe prisoners are "anti-social anarchists" could have been in prison with him Sept.11.

"In a prison environment that is incessantly chaotic, we watched our (television) sets in stunned silence. In our harsh world of stone and iron, where 'convicts don't cry,' I saw tears stream down men's cheeks. In a perverted society where prisoners and staff are often at war, I watched a Warden console an inmate, and a Deputy offer a hand of compassion.

"In a place where many think God is dead, I saw His nurturing presence in a single hand-clasped prayer circle of Jews, Muslims, and Christians wearing their communal prison shirts.

"In the midst of the chaos, confusion and heartache we saw on television, I realized that we are very much a part of our society and of God's earthly creation. Even as prisoners we are God's children and when his people are in trouble we suffer and cry and pray with them.

"Only God can accomplish this!" (To read in entirety, www.sudley.com)

Praising the Ground Zero and crisis intervention support he and his teams of chaplains have received, Bishop Packard said, "But I don't want the prison population out of the loop."

As for prisoners having a "secure place to ride out the crisis," the bishop, who served in Viet Nam and at the Pentagon, said, "That turns incarceration on its ear. There's nothing cozy about any of the confinement facilities I've visited."


The following is a letter to the editor of the
Monterey County (California) Herald printed on 18 October 2001

from (The Rev.) Connie White, Salinas, California
Executive Director
Victim Offender Reconciliation Program

“Inmates Show Patriotism”
Although many people prefer not to think about the million-plus people in our prisons in this country, the inmates certainly think about us. The women incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona recently collected and sent $6,000 to the victims of the WTC disaster. Along with the money, they sent a hand-painted mural saying “United We Stand,” which was signed by hundreds of inmates. In addition, dolls, teddy bears and blankets were sent, all handmade by the women.

The $6,000 came from an inmate population of fewer than 2,000 women. The jobs they hold in prison pay typically 25 cents to 45 cents an hour. Do the math and figure the proportionate giving. This is not a one-time thing for these women. On a continual basis they raise money for causes such as cancer and AIDS. They also volunteer in programs sewing hats for children who have lost their hair undergoing chemotherapy and making blankets and layettes for indigent babies. These women feel that they are patriotic citizens. I hope we return the sentiment. United we stand.

 

 

Email to Bishop Packard from Michael G. Hackett, 24 October 2001


Right Reverend Sir,

I just thought I would send this small update about the population of Angola, Louisiana State Penitentiary since the disaster of September 11, 2001.

Television brought all of the events right into the whole population so they were following it along with the rest of the world.

There are a number of the residents that have close family that have been lost through this event. So it came very close to home. I understand that one resident lost his son and his wife leaving six children without parents.

With all that went on in those first days, a collection was made and $ 15,000.00 was sent to New York for disaster relief. The amount is pretty staggering since the normal wage per hour is between $ .02 and $ .04 per hour.

I don't feel that this population group is out of the loop.

Peace to you and please keep us in your prayers, Michael G. Hackett
________________________________________________________________ To forgive is to abandon your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin. It is a loss that liberates the victim. -Archbishop Tutu


 

Prisoners and the Horror of 9-11
, email from Texye Charleville

My name is Texye Charleville. I was a friend of a man who was executed in 2000. Through him, I’ve become friends with another man, Jimmy Williams, at Angola, Louisiana’s Deathrow. He is 25 years old and committed his crime at age 17. Jimmy sent me $10.00 to donate to the Red Cross. He is very upset and confused at the attacks of Sept. 11.

I think that for the deathrow inmates, they really believe their only hope is our justice system so when our country was attacked, many could not participate in the religious services around the country or donate to charities. They felt a sense of helplessness for the victims and hopelessness for themselves. I know Jimmy is horrified, shocked, saddened, just as we all are.

Jimmy is currently working on his GED and I hope he will be taking some college courses by next year. He has been so focused on the GED, the attacks actually put it into some perspective for him (I know I reevaluated my life after Sept. 11th!).

I’ve heard that the “lifers” at Angola raised money to donate to the Red Cross, I do not know firsthand.

The incarcerated are indeed very human and felt the same horror that we felt on Sept. 11. Jimmy said most inmates were glued to the television as we all were. Jimmy shed tears as I did for our country and the victims.

Sincerely,
Texye Charleville
 
   
   
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