And the Opportunity to Lift Spirits
Joe Barragan first learned about the Order of Malta Prison Ministry Pen Pal Program during his Year of Preparation. That experience; reading about the lack of effective rehabilitation programs in this country; and talking to his brother, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff of 35 years, all led him to become a pen pal.
“My brother, Phillip, worked in prisons, and he enlightened me as to the real things that go on there, how lonely the prisoners are, and how desperate they are at times, feeling so abandoned by humanity.” To Joe, that abandonment is unacceptable. “The teachings of Jesus tell us that we are all redeemable.”
Joe said his pen pal is a regular Bible reader, and they sometimes share Bible passages “He’s a prolific writer. He’s yearning to have some contact outside of the prison, and he talks about wanting to start a new life. I just keep reminding him he can do that. If he stays true to the Bible, there’s no reason why he can’t come out and have a different life.”
While Joe said every time he writes he tries to think about how his letter can be helpful, how it can lift spirits, he thinks that maybe he is gaining more than he is giving. “Rereading some of the Bible passages in light of having this pen-pal relationship, I find much richer meaning in them,” he said.
In the end, it’s really just about doing his part. “I don’t know if I can move the needle by a lot, but if I could just touch one person or two persons and let them know that somebody does care about them, it’s worth it.”