Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Brothers and Sisters in Prison

A journalist of the Catholic Times recalls Jean Valjean of Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables and the many other ex-convicts in our society. After 19 years at hard labor, he was returned to society with a criminal record and a yellow passport that recorded his past prison life. This made  life difficult, eating places and inns  would refuse  entrance. It was a bishop who went out to Valjean, "I am already familiar with your name you are my brother."

The journalist  reminds us that the United States is an example of a politically mature society. However, when we study the right to vote given to women and the blacks, we uncover something different.

It was only in 1920 that women received the right to vote, and the blacks did not receive the full right to vote until 1965. It was much later than our own country, which gave the right to vote to all in 1948. In the States, the  prevalent thinking was it was not  proper to give the vote to women and blacks. At this time, in history, it is  hard for us to believe.

Last month, the Catholic Committee for human rights petitioned a change to the voting  law which they say is in violation of the constitution in disfranchising those who are in prison, given a  suspended sentence or on parole. The committee showed from the constitution itself that  present voting laws were in violation of the constitution.

More than finding reasons to change the law from the law itself, we forget that the prisoners are our brothers and sisters, and the present law is a relic from the past.  Pope John 23rd in his encyclical  of  1963 ' Peace on Earth' said that the right to vote is one of our basic rights, and related to  loving our neighbor. The columnist ends the article  reflecting that one day in the future  we will look back on the present and be surprised in  the way we saw those in prison.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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