Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Email From A Man With Questions

In Response to:

As you do these pieces remember your own words. If you do as you state them you will have a larger readership. You might take a moment now and imagine yourself as the sister or close friend of a victim of these women. Now, you should reread what you wrote from that perspective. How will you write to include this audience in your readership as well?


I will quickly say that I have been a sister of a victim of a crime. It is not easy. In addition, I have been a neighbor to victims, as one's community problems are all of our problems...crime affects all of us.

However, as a compassionate person -- who now sits with a group of other compassionate women on Monday mornings in prison -- I see that people most certainly have the ability to change.

Sure, for some, it takes a couple of years in therapy, solitude, and in a rigid environment that does not offer hugs or kisses for their mistakes. And usually that is why they are there. One women said to me "the only difference between me and you is circumstance." As I said in a previous email, we have all done things that could have ended in fatal results, and could have landed us in trouble with the law.

Further, approximately 80 percent of women in prison are there because they were in abusive relationships all of their lives. While it may be hard to see it from their perspective, when one is degraded, and told be submissive, treated as less than a human, it is hard to make a rational decision such as simply running away. For many of them, their core self-loathing stems from men in their lives who have hurt them. Living in a patriarch is not easy. Women, despite successes in the 1970s still live under a glass ceiling, we still make 80 cents to every dollar a man makes, we still get raped, abused and told to stick to our roles as wives, mother, and housekeeper. And most importantly: to shut up.

The idea of premeditation, which is part of first-degree murder (the sentence that puts these folks behind bars for LIFE), in many of these cases seems null. Why? Because as stated above, their lives have spiraled out of control thanks to literal brainwashing by unsupportive, abusive men, and women, in their lives. Who is the real victim here?

Lastly, I will say that I am not a fool. There are most certainly people out there that snap, and they need to understand that they had choices, and moreover, that there are consequences.

However, what kind of consequence is two, consecutive, life sentences? They should be punished in the afterlife too? Their coffin should sit in the prison cell for another 70-odd years? Is that what happens to us when we make a mistake?

In England, the life sentence is 14 years. That's right. Just about a quarter of a century. Across the pond people suffer, pay their dues, learn to make changes, get help in transitioning, and then can come back to their lives, to their families, their passions, their kids. No doubt, they are heavily monitored via probation, parole, etc. but they are can live as they were born: AS HUMANS.

As a journalist, I will always seek the other side; forever putting my feet in someone else's shoes. This is the process. You learn to understand and value histories and environments. No one is one-dimensional. Instead, we are complex, 3D individuals. There is a lot going on in America: capitalism, materialism, abuse, the rise of conservative republicans, the cutbacks of important programs for proletariat groups, drug addictions, homelessness, racism, classism, sexism...and it is my contention that we must all understand that.