By Cecil G. Truman
[Editor’s Note: The following story mentions suicide]
This is a true story about a kid we will call Max. I met Max a few weeks ago in Bible study. Upon speaking with Max, I could tell that his heart and mind were very young. At the age of 19 Max was sentenced to 40 years for what he was convicted of. Furthermore, Max was very young and even I could tell that Max was suffering from the pressures, trauma, and stress inflicted upon him from the unfair things in life—many of which he was powerless to prevent and were not a result of his choices.
Max suffered domestic abuse for God knows how long, killed a family member, and was condemned to pretty much the rest of his life in prison. All of these things thrown upon this young man are more than anyone would wish to bear. Max killed himself. In this heartless, cruel, and inhumane criminal justice system, this young man was mercilessly condemned, his emotional and mental needs were ignored, and he was thrown in prison stripped of hope and justice. Anyone could see that this young man—barely older than a child—needed help processing the tragedies and suffering this life afflicted him with. Instead Max was thrown in prison. Max was a level 3 and they were raising his security to a level 4. It is truly a tragedy that Max would be in high security prisons and no care to his safety or mental and emotional state considered.
Please don’t let Max be forgotten. He deserved a sentence that would have allowed for his rehabilitation. He deserved a life, but because of the heartless atrocities of the Commonwealth of Virginia he was given more than he could bear—more than any 19 year old kid should have to bear.
The prison system in Virginia does more than incarcerate people: it kills hope, deprives humans of dignity and justice, it is the enemy of truth and crushes the light of Love (charity) at every opportunity, it promotes death in its practices, and in every way steals life from the human heart. It stole Max’s life and has broken the hearts of his family and friends.
The Commonwealth of Virginia condemned Max to die and now the world is less without him. I am less without him. We are less without him.
The inhumanities of the sentencing practices combined with the neglect for the mental and emotional care of the human beings coming through these prisons is just too much. Our prisons have become an industry for profiting. The hearts and lives of the human beings incarcerated are ignored and the whole of our society suffers because of it. We are enslaved, deprived of the basic care needed to promote healthy living and productive social growth. We are made to live in unsafe conditions, fed an improper diet conducive to mental and emotional development, and in all confined to hellish conditions. There is nothing about prisons that helps human beings become healthy and more productive citizens upon release. We need to really examine what is being done in our criminal justice system, and for the sake of society and the human condition, start progressing towards real change to heal the hearts and minds of so many of us suffering human hearts that the criminal justice system has labeled “criminal.” ■