Hannah S. was in mission in Chile until November 2009. In the following letter, she shares with us her feelings on this experience among the most wounded.
We also visit the prison every week along with some others from the local parish. I usually go to the women’s section. It is really an eye opening experience. There are people there for every sort of offence and of every age. You can see the suffering and lack of dignity quite clearly there, but there is a lot of laughing and friendship as well. I look forward to getting to know them better, one-on-one. We also hope to do some small crafts and drawing with them as many have told us there is nothing to do during the day. Some have the option of having jobs inside the prison, but in the section we visited, the women do not work. They have less privileges because they do not have good behavior.
Every time I visit, I talk to a woman in her twenties, known as “Pelu”. She is loud and acts kind of like a teenager like many of our friends there. She has been there for two years and has at least five to go. She talks very fast in the prison-version of Spanish and I have to concentrate hard to understand. She tells me about her three children who are staying with relatives while she is there. She also describes what life is like in the prison and what the guards are like. Last week she gave me a bracelet, like a little kid: “This is for you to remember Pelu”. I am always amazed at how open our friends are, to share their thoughts and lives with us, especially the people in the prison.
For me, I do not like to show my weaknesses and failings to other people, but these people teach me that we need each other and no one is perfect. They are so welcoming and hopeful too. Despite their suffering I notice a kind of hope in the prison-they know that the others are in the same situation and they seem to always hold on to a better future. In fact, there is clearly hope for many of them. One of our friends in the men’s section, Caceli, who we often visit and drink maté with, is now allowed free weekends due to good conduct. It is in an effort to slowly assimilate into normal society again. This last week was his first time out of the prison in 18 years!-Incredible.