This post starts off talking about babies, but it’s really about prisons and what you can do about them. Actionable items at the end!
Having a baby is an emotional roller coaster, even when you’re not the one whose body was playing host. When our twins were born six weeks early in January, one was in the NICU for one week, one for three. Shortly after the first came home, they moved the little one to a different part of the hospital for babies who were considered low-risk. We did not think much of the low-risk part of the NICU. The main part was a much more loving environment. There were more babies, more family members, and it seemed to us, more attention from the very gifted nurses. The low-risk ward seemed very much like an afterthought. It was a converted patient room on the recovery floor with six or seven babies in incubators tended by two nurses. With a few notable exceptions, we did not find them to be as good as the nurses in the main ward. There were fewer family members coming and going. It seemed that our little baby was just in a glass cage all day, except when we were able to come take him out. I speak of how it seemed, not of how it was. Objectively, the care he received was perfectly adequate.
But when the place was first described to me, I was told that my son was basically in a cage. I knew that I might have a more optimistic assessment when I saw the place by the light of day, which in fact I did. But the night before I was able to visit, I was tormented by the thought of my son alone in a black hole.
I prayed fervently to God for him. And as I prayed, I gained some reassurance that my baby was fine. But then God helped me to understand that I had just experienced a very, very small piece of what torments too many millions of men and women whose sons are literally in cages, many of them alone, none of them receiving adequate care. God helped me empathize with the parents of the incarcerated.
That experience drove home something I already knew: that the prison-industrial complex is an evil and a cancer on my country. It is “devouring my people like bread” (Ps. 14:4, 53:4). It is destroying poor communities and communities of color, depriving parents of their children and children of their parents. It is fed by militarized police forces who persecute black youths with a vehemence that has never been applied to white hate groups. It is a system of slave labor and industrialized cruelty run on a for-profit basis. And even those who are released from it are never free. They are unable to find jobs. They are subjected to arbitrary revocations of parole. And if putting black men in prison actually made their communities safer, the west side of Chicago would be Mayberry.
The prison-industrial complex is an abomination, an affront to God. And if we do not put an end to it, God will come in righteous wrath and cast this nation into the fire reserved for the devil and his angels. Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 25 (it’s the nations that are judged; not individuals).
Tomorrow, September 9, there is something you and I can do. Prisoners all around the country are going to stage a work stoppage. Pray for them. If you are able to do so, go to a demonstration in support of them. Call your state and federal representatives and your state’s department of corrections and demand an end to solitary confinement, rapid access to medical care, and streamlined parole processes. Tell your members of congress that you do not support incarceration as a first resort. And (especially New Yorkers), call MDC and demand the release of the BX-120 (you can read this article, which includes a heart-rending letter from the mother of one the incarcerated boys. Edit: Alas, a behind a paywall. Go to http://www.bronx120.org/ for information instead).
May our Lord Jesus Christ break every chain!