These days, the pervading attitude towards inmates and even those who struggle with drug addiction is more uncharitable than I ever remember in my life. It’s like all those people are lumped into one huge pile of subhuman specie. If you have a family member who is struggling with addiction secretly, this uncharitable attitude would probably make them think twice before coming to you for help. Especially since a lot of them die anyway, as collateral damage in a drug war that’s becoming increasingly violent. Admitting your addiction may even put your life at risk.
I was in the middle of a hiatus from the prison ministry when this drug war commenced. I was overwhelmed with work and could not fulfill my duties in the ministry properly. But day by day I see people talking about addicts and offenders as if they have forfeited their right to live. All this made me remember my sisters in Las Pinas City Jail so I broke my hiatus (even though there was no change in my workload) because I could not stop thinking about them. These days we have to hold our bible study at the main corridor of the female dorm because we don’t fit into the visiting area anymore. I welcome this problem though. It’s a happy kind of problem. Everybody is welcome.
I realize how impossible it is to change the minds of people who are riding the wave of hate and violence. I cannot change the flow of the tide. I can only do my best to work with the inmates together with other people who are in the ministry with me, help them focus on the Word and remind them of how God sees them, instead of how the world sees them.
A lot of people say that nobody in jail will ever admit that they’re guilty, but that’s not true. A lot of people in my bible study group have owned up to their guilt, are quietly serving their prison sentences, and dealing with the regret of wasting so many years of their lives, aside from the years of incarceration that stretches ahead of them. Many of the inmates we work with are there because of drug-related charges. A lot have been there for years while still waiting for their first court appearance. While many may have been drug addicts, as you can see by the way years of drug use have ravaged their appearance, a lot are already in the process of waking up from the stupor. They’re realizing how they’ve damaged their lives, how they’ve hurt and alienated their family who now refuse to visit them. It’s like they’re waking up after a rampage and are only beginning to comprehend what they have done. Many have not seen their families for years and have endured…are continuing to endure incredible loneliness as part of their punishment. Prison is a dark place where people are soon forgotten.
Our bible lessons are always hopeful, helping them deal with the reality of their present as well as the possibilities of their future. As deep and dark as the pit may be, the light of Jesus still shines. And though the vast majority will treat them like vermin fit for extermination, we try to remind them of a simple truth:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17