||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Life Is Short: Do the Math
By: Dale Recinella
The huge metal door from E-corridor slams behind me
as I push the Catholic literature cart onto H-Wing. The corridor Sergeant bolts the door shut from outside. A wing officer bolts it from inside.
“What you peddling today?” laughs the inside Sergeant.
“Same as always: Good News. And it’s free.”
“Hope you’ve got some takers,” he opens the barred door to the mezzanine level of the three-story cell tier. The cart’s wheels duel with the corrugated metal of the catwalk thundering like car tires against the rumble strips on a freeway shoulder. The barred door and lock clang shut. I’m locked in and ready to work.
This wing houses men who have advanced beyond the solitary cells with solid steel doors in the behavior modification program. Their doors are only barred. With continued improvement in behavior, they will be returned to general population in other prisons.
The energy on this wing is refreshing after the depression and hopelessness in the long-term solitary wings. Sensory deprivation makes a man’s eyes hollow and his face empty. The men on this wing are getting their spunk back.
“Hey, preach!” yells a voice near the front of the wing. “Don’t waste our time. Tell us what you’ve got to say in ten words or less.”
The corrugated floors of the catwalk are perforated. The guys downstairs and upstairs are all listening. It’s show time. I respond loudly.
“Life is short. Eternity is long. You do the math.”
A downstairs protagonist cuts a teaser: “Is that ten words or eleven?”
All three levels explode in raucous discussion of the word count. I ease on down to the far end of the wing and hawk my wares: “Florida Catholic, Word Among Us, prayer cards….”
“Hey, Brother Ragu,” an intense, middle-aged man barks out my prison name, motioning me to a stop. “Why are you always writing against the death penalty? Don’t you know God’s Book says those guys deserve it?”
I park the cart against the barred wall between him and me and pull out the Bible. “Do you remember the time when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus for stoning?”
“Yeah, course I do.”
“That was our Gospel reading the other day at church. Jesus asked a different question than you are asking. Maybe that’s why He came up with a different answer.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re asking if the person about to be stoned deserves death. Jesus asked if the people doing the stoning deserved death.”
“Yeah, man, but you can’t work from that. We all deserve death because of sin. That’s why Jesus came to save us. What about the crime? What about the victims?”
“When Jesus told the crowd, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ was he approving of adultery?”
“No, Jesus doesn’t approve of adultery.”
“Was Jesus saying he didn’t care about the victims of adultery, the spouse of the woman or of the man she slept with?”
“No, Jesus hates sin! He proved that. He told her to go and sin no more.”
“He also didn’t argue about whether or not she deserved death, did He?”
The man pauses, gripping the bars of His cell door. “No, He didn’t.”
“Listen, brother, I think Jesus knows something very troubling about our fallen human nature. I think He knows that we all have a tendency to make ourselves feel better about our own sins by killing someone else for their sin. If we ask the question Jesus asked, every one of us is on the execution block but none of us would dare to be the executioner.”
First published: The Florida Catholic, May 10, 2001
© 2001 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
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.
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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