Peace & Justice
Restorative Justice: Building Relationships
Who Ministers to Whom?
by KC Young, OP
|Sr. KC Young|
Maureen McDonnell, OP; Mary Therese Johnson, OP; Marie Louise Seckar, OP; Associate Jana Minor; and KC Young, OP, explore new meanings on what “relationship at the heart of ministry” can mean for the incarcerated and for those who listen, who learn, and who are open. Here are their stories.
“I have been writing to H for four years. As a young man, he was initially sentenced to 200 years for a series of armed robberies. No one was physically injured in these robberies. Another judge reduced his sentence to 50 years. H is a diabetic, has trouble breathing, and was unable to access healthcare. At separate times, myself and two others visited him, and we all found him to be sincere and honest. He admits his mistakes and takes responsibility for his past behaviors. They moved him to a maximum-security section and did not inform him why. His experience underscores how very much the prison system is in dire need of reform.”
“I began writing to one man because of seeing his artwork. I heard his story from a woman who taught at Edgewood College (Madison, WI). After I began writing to him, he asked if I had friends who might want to write to other individuals who had no one from the ‘outside’ to write to them. I invited others to write letters, and many generously responded. His request touched me because this individual in maximum security was caring about other incarcerated persons.’”
“Being a pen pal to someone incarcerated has opened me to the wider world. My pen pal is inquisitive, ambitious, eager to learn, and an artist. Relationships though develop slowly when there cannot be in-person contact.”
“We had been invited to start a class on nonviolent communication at a maximum-security prison. The first class we always stood and shook hands with each student as they entered. Most were unable to look at us. At the end of class, a gentleman came up to thank me. He told me this was the first time in 17 years that another human physically touched him!”
“Bud contacted me because he had not heard from his prison pen pal James. His name has disappeared from the Department of Corrections website. One day, a letter came from the person who had been Jim’s cellmate. He shared that James had died from COVID and how much James enjoyed writing to Bud and how they had become such good friends. Bud and James had touched one another in a profound way.”
“There are many incidents of inhumane mistreatments in our prisons. I know that this is not unusual. Yet even when disheartened, I know that I am blessed by the warmth, honesty, and willingness of incarcerated women and men to grow.”