I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Guiltys Innocence

Tamie and I teach a creative writing class each week at the Kosciusko County Jail. One is a men's class, the other is a women's class. Each week we try to read the writings of each of our students and type up a response to their writing (not a grade). The goal is to help them become expressive of themselves and alert to their experiences, their "world." We try to stir up creativity and imagination.

Through listening to the stories of these inmates, I have been shaped, in no small way. One starts to see patterns of how people react to lives of domination, exploitation, manipulation, and low expectations. I am forced to deal with the reality that some people simply are left behind in life, from the moment of their birth to the moment of their death. They suffer neglect and abuse as children, they turn to crime and drugs as teens and adults, and then they wind up doing time. What are the ramifications of this for my spirituality and my theology? It's an ongoing answer-less question. One thing is true, though: I am far more sensitive to the context from which a person emerges. We are so fragile.

Through this experience I also find myself with added energy in my contemplation of the system and the powers that run this system. Many people need help. They are addicts, or they are in need of education, self-reflection, spiritual attention, jobs, and a bit of grace. Deprived of some or all of these things, people sit in cages like animals for years on end. When they get released, many go back to the same life. Often they are more hardened than before, hardened by the brutality of their lives in prison or jail.

We have been accumulating a good deal of writings, and we have been posting many of them on a blog. I may have linked to the blog before, a few months back, but I thought I would call it to your attention again, so that you also may be able to hear their voices and listen to their stories.

The Guilty's Innocence

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