Here’s Kerry Weber, talking about her experience of visiting a prison:
Here are three phrases that stood out for me:
- “[prisoners] have identities outside of this single act they committed”
- “[it was difficult to] reconcile the things I was reading about people with my interactions with them”
- “how much we identify people by a single crime”
Have you visited anyone who was imprisoned? How does a person go about this today? Kerry was able to go into San Quentin through her Jesuit connections with a ministry there. I confess that I don’t know how I would go about visiting someone who wasn’t a family member. Ordained priests and ministers are allowed visitation. Depending on the prisoner and the situation, there are limits on how many visitors can be admitted, if any at all. And I’m sure there are variations between local lock-ups, state prisons, and those institutions designated “maximum” or “minimum” security.
And when you visit someone who is incarcerated, what should the purpose be? What needs do you expect that person to have? If you were locked up, what would you need that could be provided by a visit? For some of us—certainly for me—this is an area of unknowns. I can’t imagine much that would be worse than life in prison, and the thought of even being in the building is intimidating. Which is why I need to delve into this whole topic. Jesus told us to visit those in prison, so I can’t just pretend that this doesn’t apply to me.
Help! With our collective wisdom and experience, we can help one another carry out this much-needed work of mercy.