The Faces of Felons – “Faces in the Visiting Room”

”Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured, be we can reduce the number of tortured children”   Albert Camus

“ I long to see you again for I remember your tears as we parted,   And I will filled with joy when we are together again”   2 Timothy 1:4 NLT

He was a clean-cut, well-groomed boy of 10 or 12 and he was sobbing quietly, his face in his hands.  His father sat next to him, holding on to his son and holding back his own tears. With moist eyes, the boy’s mother looked on silently from the chair on the other side of the father.   His older sister rubbed his back affectionately from her seat next to his, as she looked across him at her father with a solemn expression.

I glanced at the father’s face and saw him staring down at the floor with red-rimmed eyes, his expression speaking volumes about the pain he was feeling.

Last  July 15th my son Anthony posted something I had written entitled “Father’s Day Felons”.  In that article I said  “. . . .and while I am convinced – as I have said – that there is some degree of darkness in everyone’s soul, I am equally convinced that there is also some degree of light.  The light of goodness and love, compassion and concern, happiness and joy.”

It was this light that I saw in the father’s eyes as he undoubtedly felt at a complete loss to be able to anything to ease his son’s tortured soul – tortured over his incarceration and absence from his life.

Albert Camus probably had a different kind of torture in mind when he wrote the words I quoted, but if that man’s son were to be asked if not having a daddy home was a form of torture I am certain the answer would be an emphatic “YES!”.

This moving scene took place on a spectacularly beautiful Spring day here in Oakdale in the visiting room where I was able to spend a glorious several hours spread over 2 days with my sister, Kathy and her husband, Larry.

It was the 1st visit I have received since arriving here just over one year ago and I still thank God daily for it as it has renewed me in many ways.

The scene with the boy took place on the second day of their visit which also happened to be my sisters birthday.  I’m grateful she chose to spend her day with me, surrounded by approximately 140 other people, and odd mixture of inmates, their friends and family, and the correction officers.

The previous day we visited about 5-1/2 hours and, as luck would have it, my friend Aaron was also blessed with a visit by his mom and stepdad.  As I have said previously, Aaron is a good person, so it came as no surprise that his mother was extremely nice too, as was his stepdad.  Super people and If I took too much time away from you and your son, I apologize.

For whatever reason – perhaps it was just because there was so much to talk about that 1st day – I didn’t really observe the dynamics of the families around us as much as I did on the second day (Ed Note:  I did notice the dynamics and they very much the same on both days).

I suppose the scene with the young boy crying caught my attention because they were sitting very close to us.  This seemed to have heightened my awareness and really caused me to start looking around and contemplate all that was happening around us.

There was, of course, much smiling and laughing and lap-crawling going on in addition to any tears that were being shed.  More than one inmate had multiple children visiting and they seemed intent on climbing – and holding-on to Daddy as long as time permitted.

For myself, it was rejuvenating, refreshing, revitalizing.  I had a good time and I love them both for doing it.  Had it been one – or both – of my children here, I don’t know.  Instincts tell me It would have been both wonderful and painful at the same time.  Besides – they are both well beyond lap-crawling age, buy if they were here and that’s what they wanted I would have had to say “bring it on!”.  Till we got yelled at, of course.

This is not a good place to be even on the best of days, but to have to see your young children in  here has got to tear at the very core of your being.

I pray for all of the families I saw – mine included – that God protect them and blesses them while their father-husband-brother-son-uncle-friend remain behind bars.

For the little boy I saw whose tears reached into my heart, I will say a special prayer. I pray, son, that the Lord helps you to smile each day, knowing your daddy loves you and that you will soon feel his arms around you on a daily basis,  I pray that you will forgive him for not being there for you and I pray that you will one day understand his pain.

I also pray that you will not repeat your father’s mistakes and that you will grow up knowing the Lord and trusting in his wisdom, love and grace.

And for Larry, Kathy, Joy and Dave,  and for all the other people who travel the miles, sacrifice the time and money (some driving long distances week, after week, after week. . .) and enduring the waiting, lines and discomfort of the visitation experience – for all of you I say prayers of thanks for the gift of love you share with someone who needs all the love they can get.

And perhaps all of you will join me in praying for all the children everywhere who cry themselves to sleep because daddy isn’t there to tuck them in.

Then let us all pray together that the Lord help those men and women whom we entrust to govern our society find the wisdom, courage, strength and desire enough to do what is right and seek intelligent and effective alternatives to mind-numbing years of separation and isolation from family, friends, and society unless and individual is violent, has harmed someone physically, or poses a threat to society as a whole.

Money spent on monitoring, treating, rehabilitating and education is a lost more effective than building more rooms for little children to cry in their Daddy’s arms.

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