15 January 2018

Openly, Lovingly

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Sermon from Deacon Dennis Dolan (written down – as verbatim as possible – immediately after Saturday’s Catholic mass service).

“Go into the library and read the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’ It’s in there. If you can’t find it, ask Mr. L. [the librarian] or one of the other inmates to help you find it. That’s what he was fighting for. So that everyone would be educated enough to find their way around a library.

Don’t tell me that: ‘Martin Luther King fought so we wouldn’t get treated like this’ because Martin Luther King, Jr. never wanted you in jail. Yeah, he doesn’t want the C/O’s abusing you because you’re a human being, but MLK wasn’t about prisoners’ rights. He wanted you to break unjust laws, not just ones. If you break just laws, then you pay a price and that might include having to deal with a C/O who isn’t concerned about your past.

You pay a price when you break unjust laws, too. And you suck it up. Going to jail becomes a small price to pay when there’s a big principle at stake.

What he said was that, if you break the law, you’re down for the penalty; that’s what he meant about breaking the law ‘openly and lovingly.’ You accept it. He said that people who break immoral laws and then accept the punishment are actually the most law-abiding people around, even if they’re locked up, especially if they’re locked up. How about that?

What would it look like if Martin Luther King was protesting segregation, got arrested and then complained about getting arrested for what he had intentionally done? It would mean I didn’t really mean it, that segregation was okay as long as he didn’t suffer. What he was saying from the Birmingham jail was  ‘the penalty is worth it because it means I’m not conspiring through silence with you anymore.’

You need to read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ because it teaches you that your ‘YES’ is only as good as your ‘NO.’ That your ‘Sorry’ only means something when it’s attached to a little bit of penance.”

If you want to read King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” click here.


Trump et al. threw together a last minute confab on justice reform on Thursday with a few leaders in the field. It included Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback who had the balls to tell the press that Trump’s crew was the first administration to work on criminal justice reform. I have always said that the way to get Trump to work on justice reform is to tell him he doesn’t want to get bested by Obama, who has the record for the most – and the most progressive – reform measures enacted by any presidential administration. Read what Gov. Brownback said yourself.

On Friday afternoon, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to end a pilot program that required anyone sending a care package to prison inmates to buy it only from one of six state-approved vendors. The decision had been caught in a debate over prison censorship and contraband but that had nothing to do with what was about to happen in New York’s state prisons. This was about how mass incarceration strangles free market principles. There’s yet another reason why the Trump Administration to push for reform beyond Thursday’s photo op.

And “Love After Lockup,” a reality show about people who get engaged to their prison pen pals, premiered on Friday night on WE TV. Pay special attention to the story of Scott and Lizzie, who’ve been together for two years and Scott’s sent her $20,000. That’s slightly less than $200 per week on commissary crap, if she spent it all. I have mixed feelings about this show. As much as it might be exploitive, “Love After Lockup” also is a non-schmaltzy look at re-entry. Not a terrible way to spend an hour.





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Posted January 15, 2018 by chandra in category "Lessons Learned

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