I’m currently in an eleven-week class sponsored by the Dane County Sheriff. It’s called a Citizens Academy, and I’m doing things that I never imagined would ever be part of my life! Like touring the county jail, getting a mug shot, learning about use of force, working dogs in the K-9 corps, gangs and drugs, visiting the county morgue and firing a weapon. (Seventeen shots from a 9 mm Glock, no less!)
So why am I doing all these things?!
As a Dominican, study is one of the essentials of our life. And as I get more deeply involved in prison ministry, I am reading a lot these days about the conditions in which the incarcerated are kept. So it seemed useful to have some understanding of the pre-incarceration world that is definitely more familiar to them than to my own middle-class American experience. This is why I consider these classes to be an essential part of my education. I’m meeting all kinds of people whose paths I’ve never crossed before, and who were largely invisible to me – except on TV shows like Law and Order or CSI.
Just as important, I feel like I’m also gaining an appreciation of the individuals in law enforcement who put their own lives at risk as they apprehend and jail people who have harmed others.
Ultimately, this is my goal: to better understand the huge population of both those who are incarcerated as well as those who are part of the criminal justice system in this country, so that I can minister to them all more effectively and advocate for them in the political system.
Has your life led you in unexpected ways and taught you things you never imagined you would need to know?
Ruth Poochigian, O.P.