and the Horrors of 9-11: A Report
Val Hymes, coordinator of the Prison Ministry Task Force, Diocese
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
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
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
"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
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.