||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
2nd in a series of six articles|
A Face In A Window
By: Dale Recinella
Confinement. Corridors of thirty cells, fifteen per side.
These cells have solid steel doors instead of bars. The doors are mounted on a track so that they slide open sideways. When the doors are shut, there
are only two openings.
One is the feeding hole, a rectangular window
at belt height in the middle of the door. It’s large enough to admit a feeding tray or a toilet brush. Because a bottom-hinged steel flap is padlocked shut over the hole (except at mealtimes), the opening is called
The other opening is the unintentional slit,
about a quarter-inch wide, that results from the imperfect marriage of the door and the wall. Called the “crack,” the slit runs from top to bottom. The flap is only opened for those receiving Sacraments. The crack is
the medium of communication between us and non-Catholics.
Each door has a small, wire reinforced Plexiglas window. It’s too narrow and too short to fit a man’s entire face. We can either see his mouth and
nose or his eyes and nose, but we can never see his whole face.
Confinement is where a man goes when he breaks the rules in prison. The inmates call confinement “jail.” Some men spend thirty days in confinement.
Some spend years.
I know a man who spent three years in one of these cells. He tells me he missed the electric chair by one jury vote, that he was an animal when he
came to prison. After three years, he was moved from confinement to a regular maximum security cell with five other prisoners. One of them brought my friend to Jesus Christ.
That was eighteen years ago. My friend is still in prison and will be for a long, long time. He and I prayed together every week for over five years.
We still do whenever we can. His efforts to live his faith in the most hostile of environments, refusing to return evil for evil, ministering to the new men, his constant walk with Jesus in the midst of so much darkness,
humbles me and shames my easy faith. As Fr. Joe and I work from flap to flap, crack to crack, my friend and his three years behind that steel door are on my mind.
One young man asks to go to confession. Father puts his ear by the feeding hole. I step two cells away to give them privacy. Then, I hear a man’s voice
from behind me.
“Brother, if you’re a man of God, please talk to me.”
It is a tall black man in the cell behind me. His face is scrunched against the crack.
I move to the crack and ask him if he is a Christian. He nods “yes.”
I ask him if he would like me to lead him through a prayer. He chokes back a wobble in his voice and says, “Please.”
I tell him to put his hand on the window, and I place my hand on the outside of the window, opposite his. He places his ear by the crack. I place my
face by the crack. We pray.
We pray forgiveness.
We pray healing.
We pray deliverance.
We pray protection.
We pray hope and perseverance.
We pray the Name that is our Victory.
We pray the Blood that is our Protection.
We pray the Empty Tomb that is our Hope.
We pray the Spirit that is our Strength.
After we finish, he whispers through the crack, ‘Thank you, brother. I needed to pray so bad, but I didn’t know how to get back. Thank you.”
First published:The Florida Catholic,, November 11, 1999
© 1999 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
Did You Know?
Since 1992, The Innocence Project has used DNA to establish the innocence of at least 180 people who were wrongfully imprisoned in the U.S. In addition to summaries of every case, The Innocence Project website offers expert details about the roles of mistaken identity, false confessions, bad lawyering, jailhouse snitches, faulty science, and official misconduct in wrongful convictions.
The link for The Innocence Project http://www.innocenceproject.org/
has been added to the www.iwasinprison.org
webpage to provide our readers with a valuable source of accurate and constantly updated relevant information.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed