“If Someone Doesn’t Break The Law, Then They Won’t be Incarcerated”

Comments like that are why all comments require approval on this site.  In this little chunk of the internet – that’s not allowed.

I read those words today after I read an article about a man who was killed by his cellmate.  The victim was incarcerated for burglary.  He was not violent.  Yet, he was placed in a cell with a man that was 6’4” tall and known to be violent with inmates.  He was murdered, as the other inmates watched and called for help from their cells.  It was a tragedy, and it should have never happened.   The judgment of the guards was not questioned, no one was found at fault.

I could go on for hours about how heartbreaking, cold-blooded, tragic, pathetic, immoral, and disgusting what happened was.  Not today though.  This is about the commenter.   This is about the mindset that makes change so hard.  A mind that can read that story, and all they have to say is, “If someone doesn’t break the law, then they won’t be incarcerated.”  

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  When I have no words, the Bible is where I go.  And – I simply don’t have the words to combat such a coldhearted lack of compassion.  A man was killed.  He was murdered in a cage by another human being.  A man lost his life, screaming for help, surrounded by men screaming for help from their cages, all begging someone to stop the killing of another human being, a man – a man just as human and fallible and vulnerable and imperfect as me and as that commenter.

We – not one of us – is without fault.  Not one.  Not even close.  The comment itself is a testament to just how imperfect we are.  The lack of regard, the callousness of a comment that suggests that another individual who has made a mistake should expect to lose their life at the hands of another for making a mistake – that is sin.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

I sin every single day I breath.  I forget God. I forget what’s important.  I follow my own desires, without always regarding others. So does that commenter.  So did that dead inmate.  So does that man who killed him.

The corrections officers who allowed that situation to even be possible, all of them, everyone reading this, not one of us – not one – has a right to say, ‘you deserved that horror, you shouldn’t have been there’.  How dare he?  I want to scream with the fury I feel right now, that not only was this comment made – but I read comments just like this all the time.

Is a woman responsible for a rape because she was in a bar in a dress?  Is a child responsible for his or her abuse for being born?  Is someone who dies in a car accident responsible because they entered a vehicle?  Since when is someone who is hurt guilty because of their presence?

The prison system in this country is a sorry mess, and I pray for mercy for all those caught up in it.  Some of them aren’t even guilty. Some can’t afford the bail to get out.  Some are drug addicts.  Some have been victims their entire lives – who was there for them?  Would the commenter also think it was their fault for being abused at the age of three or four or five.  Some grew up in foster care, some grew up in the streets.  Some were just ignorant and immature and made stupid mistakes.  Not all, but for many, that is the situation. Once they get in the system, their chances of succeeding in the future aren’t that great.

In my heart of hearts, I know that God is closer to those without power, those broken and fragile.  Those hurt.  In my heart of hearts, I know that God cannot want us to throw stones at these powerless, broken people.  I know that, in my soul.

I pray that this fury I feel over that comment doesn’t ruin me.  As I sit here, I think of a friend of mine that shared a story with me.  He’s in prison, and he’s going to be put to death some day for his crimes.  I asked him about his earliest memories.  He told me what they were.  I promised not to share them without his permission, and I won’t.  What I will say is that his earliest memories are what nightmares are made of.  He was four years old.  He was just a fragile, vulnerable little boy.  Things happened to him that I can’t even think about without my heart breaking.  Things happened to him that no little boy should ever, ever endure.  He didn’t get help though.  His life didn’t get better.  He had no heroes.  Not one.  The world is at fault for what happened to that little boy and the consequences of how that formed his reactions to events in his life.

Until that commenter and every single commenter like him wants to live through what that little boy lived through – don’t say that any one of us deserves to be murdered or victimized or dehumanized for our location.


“LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Death of Ricky Martin.” Northwest Florida Daily News, Northwest Florida Daily News, 3 Sept. 2017, www.nwfdailynews.com/opinion/20170903/letter-to-editor-death-of-ricky-martin.

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