While studying for the ministry, David G. Sarles began substitute teaching in the New Haven public schools. He began running also then, up and down East Rock, and has been running more or less since then. But his running pales in comparison to those inmates who circle prison yards thousands of times to compete in marathons.
When a young friend of mine got pregnant, she knew that in her situation as a single parent, she was not going to be able to provide for the child. Massachusetts’ forward looking laws helped her determine to give up her new, yet to be born baby for adoption to a Massachusetts family. The laws require the birth mother to stay with an in-state Massachusetts family different from the adopting family for the last few weeks of her pregnancy. There was no cost to the birth mother.
Just before the birth, while living with her Massachusetts host family, my young friend wanted to find an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting to continue her dedication to remain dry. She had wisely given up alcohol as soon as she became pregnant. The meeting nearest her host family was at a Massachusetts prison, and included so-called hardened criminals. It was, though, an open meeting, meaning the public was invited. Not unlike a CLTL class, which is guided by a probation officer, judge and facilitator, the prison AA setting was supervised by prison staff and included a few outside AA facilitators and members like my friend.
When my dedicated young friend attended the meeting, she was ready for anything. She had endured threatening city streets and had honed her survival skills. She was not afraid. As she entered, nine months pregnant and the sole woman, the inmates (all males) rose and one, “Tiny”, 300 some pounds, came to the door and took her hand. He led her to a chair in the reception room. He reassured her that she was safe with them.
The meeting proceeded with testimonials and speaker. My young friend was gratified with the support offered by the group of convicts and the few AA local members. The experience bolstered her courage to proceed with the birth and gave her a sense of direction.
The birth of my friend’s child went without a problem. The infant boy was adopted by a couple who were not able to have children. Although she was forbidden by law to meet them, my young friend knew that this couple had been carefully screened and were ideal parents for her baby.
My friend’s experience resonates with the CLTL classroom discussions as found in several of the blogs posted and in CLTL publications. Her prison visit says much about the need to reexamine incarceration and bring the public to a greater awareness of compassion across the human spectrum.