Prisons are places where people are defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done. The stigma sticks for the rest of their lives.
We, free people define ourselves by the best we can be. If we hate sinners it is because we are not as they.
But we are. There is darkness in all of us. It is only its unenactedness that separates us, and it’s only self-restraint or inhibition or luck that has held us back. That’s not a firewall, it’s a skein. All wickedness is weakness. There, but for the grace…
Our hatred of sinners is a species of self-loathing born of fear. We are all the same, the best and the worst of us, brothers and sisters under the skin. Our natures comprise beauty and ugliness, a potential for admirable aspiration and for grievous self-betrayal.
So we shouldn’t be surprised to see the beauty of the human spirit manifest itself in the worst of people, neither should we be surprised at its loveliness, for it is born of suffering.
The photo above of prisoners massaging a terminally ill inmate was shot in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where 85 per cent of the inmates will die in jail. See the rest of this extraordinary sequence here.