Our friend Matthew Harper reflects on a recent thirty-day stint in solitary confinement.
Grace and Peace to you all.
Sorry I’ve been incommunicado, I spent the last thirty days in segregation. Someone had been urging our band to do the Humble Pie song “Thirty Days in the Hole,” but we put it off. I guess I should have played the song. Instead I did the thirty days.
I have been incarcerated for 14 years and the more I read the Word of God, the more I realize that my former traditions of celebrating Christmas were in fact not Christlike at all. The corporations of the globe have seized and confiscated this day to exploit consumers and enslave them to worship this holiday solely based on materialism. Continue reading
by Hugh Brown
Perhaps the most challenging Christmas in prison was the first one. I had only been incarcerated four months so my adjustment to this environment was far from being completed. The only gift I wanted for Christmas that year was to be home. Well, there was something else I wanted, but I couldn’t turn back the hands of time to undo the hurt I’d caused. As the years have passed, Christmas away from family and friends has a new meaning. Yes, I’m physically separated from my biological family; however, I’ve been blessed to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas with the men around me – my extended family.
On his 1973 album Sweet Revenge, singer-songwriter John Prine attempted to capture the despair and hopeful longing that he imagined simultaneously occupied the mind of a prisoner at Christmastime.
Whether or not “Christmas in Prison” is an accurate account might be debated. This year in lieu of Advent devotions we’ve invited prisoners around the country to reflect on what Christmas means behind bars. Some share stories of their first Christmas as a prisoner or one that is most memorable. Others offer their perspective on the ways Christmas is kept “on the street.” May they all remind us that wherever Christmas comes—to rich and poor, young and old, free and prisoner—it marks the birth of a child who would eventually die as a prisoner. Who knows? Maybe prisoners have some special authority on the matter.
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, we offer the following contribution by CM. The author—a male prisoner incarcerated in a maximum-security prison—reflects on the theme of violence against women by engaging in a close reading of 2 Samuel 13, the horrific story of Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar.
“Tamar’s Tears” by CM
I am a 40 year old man who has been in prison for 22 years. I have met men who have committed some of the most horrific acts one could possibly imagine, and many others who were indeed falsely accused. Yet, one thing that is true for everyone in a maximum security prison is the fact that our presence on this side of the wall represents a victim on the other side of the wall; another human being, victimized by his or her fellow man, even if not the man charged.
As one who finds solace in the words written in the Bible, I turn to the text of scripture to discover a way to make sense of this experience and grasp this dynamic relationship. This interplay between perpetrator and victim. The workings of the mind that grants one the proverbial green light to move forward and alter another’s peace.
by Dean Faiello
As I lined up with other prisoners in a brick passageway, six Attica guards huddled in a group, wearing blue latex gloves and gripping wooden clubs. They stared at us as we waIked in pairs through the sepulchral corridor without speaking, like Franciscan monks on their way to vespers. Heading to a Quaker meeting in the school building, I looked forward to talking with the Quaker volunteers, witnessing their compassion, learning more about Quaker tenets.
This scripture reminds me of faith and the works that follow. Vision is defined as “the ability to perceive something not actually visible.” Being incarcerated with no programs on reform or education, how can one perceive hope of a better life? This is a question that is in the forefront of my mind daily.
INSIGHTS, 17 YEARS IN PRISON
by Matthew B. Harper
A month ago I met with two wonderful clergy, and our conversation meandered into fruitful territory. An important conversation, it was also the kind you can’t prepare for. So when our wandering words brought us to an important precipice, and I was invited to jump off, I quailed. Seventeen years of incarceration and over thinking about my crimes has led me to an untold number of insights and revelations so imagine my regret when, after being invited to share some, I failed at the task.