Welcome! It is always a privilege to share with you each month. In the United States of America, a week is set aside each year to focus on those victimized by crime. Although it is all about the victims and their families, some share their hearts with groups of inmates in prison, especially in California. This is not only a healing balm for the victims, but for the inmates who get in touch with their feelings, gain compassion and learn to empathize.
VICTIMS’ RIGHTS WEEK…
This week was a three day event in April for those housed at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP), especially for those involved in the Victims Awareness Offenders Program (VAOP). Each day, Staff members escorted family members of victims into the chapel to speak to a group of inmates, but none were victims of inmates at MCSP.
Some question the ability to trust an inmate in such a setting. But be assured, the three VAOP learning phases equip the men with four core values: respect, care, trust and humility. We have learned to listen intently and to ask appropriate questions when called upon. Our motto is: “NO MORE VICTIMS!”
The men were mesmerized by the sharing of members from four organizations:
These outreaches deserve tour support and prayers for their readiness to help those who are affected by crime.
JIMILA & MAGGIE…
At the age of 15, Maggie was raped by two teenage boys from school in 2011. Her impact statement was read by her mother, Jimila, since her daughter wasn’t cleared on time to enter MCSP. Her statement revealed the pain and humiliation, plus her shunning at school to a point she had to home school and miss her prom and graduation festivities. She conveyed from that single tragedy what would be a lifetime horror.
The mothers reaction to her daughter being blamed among her peers escalated the trauma. One of the boys took responsibility, and accountability for the harm he created, but the other mocked the system and the situation. It was evident that she was more open to forgiving the accountable one, who received only 8 months in county jail. The other got off with probation and is still unrepentant.
Jimila beautifully expressed a parent’s love and support for her hurting child. The men encouraged her to bring Maggie next year, where many being parents themselves could share their support and empathy. (The men do financially support several organizations through food sales and walk/run-athons.)
MISTY & DAVID…
Misty’s brother David was killed by an unknown assailant over 23 years ago. Still, the crimes hasn’t been solved. As far as she knows, he could be one of us.
For the past three years, Misty has shared her story and pain, which has helped with her continual healing. It was commented afterwards that she seemed more comfortable this year with the inmates. She felt we were all here for a reason – accountability and recovery, since most men will be released back into society.
The men felt and experienced her lasting pain as well as her enduring strength. In her heart she may never find closure – understanding – but as she continues to grow, she finds more peace. The men were thankful for the privilege to experience such helpful dialogue.
JUDY & JENNIFER…
Judy has just returned home from burying her step-daughter, who has died from an illness. That night, Jennifer, asked if she could go to a party, and her mom said “no”, since she felt everyone should rest. While begging her mom, her boyfriend Jeffrey spoke up, promising to take good care of her. Judy trusted him, so she reluctantly let her go. Within a few hours, the authorities showed up with the bad news: Jennifer had been killed by a drunk driver – Jeffrey.
“The two had just turned 18. Leaving the party, Jeffrey was driving 75 mph in a 35 mph speed zone, sideswiped a vehicle, and ran into a utility pole. Jennifer was killed on impact” (Inside CDCR News, posted on April 11, 2014).
Having just buried her other daughter this was unbearable news, “To this day those memories of that night still haunt me”, said Judy.
She asked, “Have you ever driven impaired?” Almost all of the hands rose. (Most inmates are incarcerated due to impaired decision making.) Although Judy was extremely angry at first, she relayed that Jeffrey never intended to kill her daughter that night, but that is the danger of impaired driving – we don’t consider the risk of loss.
Jennifer lost the rest of her life: college, marriage and children, plus a lifetime of family relationships, friends and memories. In remembrance of Jennifer, her mother is determined that her daughter’s death would bring greater awareness to this growing problem in society.
SCOTT & HANNAH ROSE…
Hanna Rose was a 16 month-old joy, who fell victim to “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (SBS). Her father, Scott, gave a heart agonizing, vivid testimony on how he and his family’s life was turned upside down by a completely preventable act of a long-trusted nanny.
It was a typical day; Scott at work, his wife was on a 15-minute errand trip, and the nanny called staying something was wrong with Hannah. She dashed home where Hannah was being rushed to the hospital. Scott met them there, running along side the gurney; he whispered in Hannah’s little ear, “Daddy loves you”. The doctors confirmed from the brain scans their suspicions that the problem was SBS. They asked Scott and his wife to pray and decide whether to remove Hannah’s life support. He wasn’t a praying man, but he went to the hospital chapel to seek God for comfort and wisdom to make a very difficult decision – to let Hannah go.
For a moment all were suspects, but the nanny was charged the next day. His animosity against the nanny is less now than it was at first. He asked the nanny to confess so both of them could work to eliminate SBS, but after two hung juries, she was set free and deported. Hannah has a twin brother, plus Scott and his wife had another daughter years later, but nothing can stop the pain of Hannah being taken from them.
Scott spoke to us as dads, not inmates. He conveyed in so many words, that whether a tragedy like his or incarceration; don’t let it destroy your life, use it as a stepping stone to be an asset to society. This became a healing process for everyone. He was asked if he had forgiven the nanny. He paused and said, “no”, but that if she would repent, “maybe”. He asked us to put the word out, which is my reason for sharing this with you:
“Don’t Shake Your Baby!”
All these victims fought off the temptation to be vengeful, because all conclude that it would only create more victims, and possibly waste their lives by going to prison themselves.
A PRAYER FOR YOU…
Heavenly Father, I thank you for having the opportunity to experience this insightful dialogue between victims and inmates. Truly, You are the Restorer of wounded hearts through the gift of Your amazing grace. We ask that You awaken hearts all over the world through Your compassion, so there will be “No more victims”. In Jesus Name, Amen.