June 28, 2019

Corrections Corner / Fr. Jeremy King, O.S.B.

‘Tails’ and stories of men and women incarcerated

Fr. Jeremy King, O.S.B.Spike is his name. He is a pit bull who was rescued from a puppy mill where he was born. He was adopted by a loving couple.

Spike’s personality was typical of his breed, but he was treated with great care and gentleness. He learned to play well with other dogs and kids. He was very protective of those who took care of him and never caused any trouble. His owners allowed him to mate with Pepper, and together they had a litter of six pups.

Jake is his name, and he was one of the six born of Spike and Pepper. Jake’s owner gave him a great home and treated him well, but Jake did not play well with others and got loose and ran with a pack of hounds. They taught him to fight and resist the love his owners showered on him.

Police were called many times by neighbors, and eventually Jake was impounded by authorities. Jake’s owners bailed him out and kept him in a cage at home, letting him out only when he was guarded and on a leash.

They walked him, and every time he pulled on the leash they jerked him back and punished him even when he was just wanting to play with another dog or child. They no longer trusted him, and from then on Jake started to lose all interest in anything. Sadly, he died because he got his leash caught on his cage and was strangled.

Teska, another of Spike and Pepper’s litter, was never adopted because she was born with one leg shorter than the other. She lived a quiet life, and Pepper’s owners were good to her. She never played with her other litter members, and she did not get attached to the children who lived in the house. In fact, she was annoyed by their attention. One day, the youngest child reached out to pet her while she was eating and she bit the toddler on the face. Her owners euthanized her.

These three pups’ tales are not so different from the stories of men and women who end up being incarcerated across our country. Many of them come from families who are good and solid, and yet circumstances arise that change the course of their destinies.

Some are born into extremely toxic and disastrous family environments and don’t have much chance to escape the inevitable. Many of the men and women I have met in prison and jails during the past eight years are extremely talented and gifted people. In fact, I can say that I have met some of the most talented, gifted and articulate people I have ever met in my life in jail and prison.

They have impressed upon me that they possess qualities to be outstanding citizens and members of society. It is our challenge to help them see that before it is too late.

(Benedictine Father Jeremy King is a member of the archdiocese’s Corrections Advisory Committee, and is a frequent visiting chaplain in the Indiana Department of Correction.)

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