We learn from our mistakes, they say.
What of the mistakes of others? My friends that live behind bars teach me every day. They teach me about regret, and strength, and love. They teach me about redemption, and forgiveness, and compassion. They teach me that we all deserve a chance, people can change, and common decency can be lost in some places.
They teach me that after twenty years in a cell – you are no longer the person you once were. Guilty or innocent or harshly punished – the people I know are no longer the people they were when they were incarcerated.
A few have taught me to toughen up. A few have taught me not to be naïve. A few have disappointed me. But, most have taught me about what it means to be human. Most have made me look at myself and what is important in life. Most have made my life fuller through their friendship.
Some are innocent, some are guilty, some were punished far beyond reason. But – they are all just as human as me. Those that treat them less than human, are sacrificing their own humanity.