When Did We See You In Prison?
When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, he stated that loving God with your whole being and loving your neighbor as yourself constituted the two concepts on which the law and the prophets were based. A little farther in the Gospels he delineates characteristics that are signs of these two commandments: feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, acts of charity to strangers, visiting the sick and people in prison. By engaging in these acts, we demonstrate our love for our neighbor and by extension to Jesus.
Over the past several months, I have been visiting an inmate on death row Rather than trying to enumerate what is involved in this work, I want to share a few observations that might help you when visiting in prison.
Justice Is Not Blind-Legal representation, ethnicity, and wealth often have more to do with whether a person is on death row than the crime committed. There are people in our society who have committed the same crime as many of the people on death row, yet they are free. There are more factors than a heinous act that result in people being condemned to die.
Conversion Is Not The Objective-The person I visit is a Muslim, but it's not my job to convert him to Christianity. My responsibility is to set an example that hopefully constitutes Christian behavior. Actions, not words, convert people to Jesus' message. By being his friend and sharing my beliefs through action is what I'm called to do.
Ministry Is A Commitment-Befriending a person on death row is a long-term commitment. Never become a visitor on death row unless you're committed to spending years working with an inmate. The man I visit is 39 years old and has been in jail for nineteen years. This ministry puts a face on men and women who oftentimes have been forgotten; they will, however, return you love.
The Death Penalty Must Be Abolished--The
United States was the only country in the Western hemisphere or among the G8 nations to carry out executions last year.
Too many people are being released from prison due to DNA testing alone to justify the continuance of the death penalty. Moreover, I do not believe that a reading of the Gospels can justify the death penalty.
Please share your prison visitation experiences with The Abolitionist so they can be printed to help others as they undertake Jesus' command.
Ronald T. Clemmons
Death Penalty Abolition Action Group