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This morning when I opened my email I saw that Coss Marte, a man I highly respect, is doing something that's never been done before. It bridges those on the "inside" to those on the "outside" in a way that nothing else has in the history of prison in America.

(If you don't feel like reading this whole post, skip to the bottom and read the last paragraph, with link to Coss Marte 's incredible story. It's so good).

I was the only girl on the bus. When I was a teenager, my mom's neighbor took me along with his group of at-risk youth to a men's state penitentiary in CO as part of the "Scared Straight" program. I went because I was curious. I had never been inside a prison. A budding social worker, I went as a witness to the system. I felt a comraderie with the prisoners. I don't know why. The inmates were respectful of me; their focus was on scaring the young boys. I had a conversation with a prisoner in the laundry room; his words never left my mind. He said, "Don't ever get yourself arrested. Women's jails are way worse than men's. Women are vicious!"

Not long after that, my first internship as a social worker was with HIV+ patients and formerly incarcerated men. Around that same time, I started attending an inner city church in Ft Worth, Texas that served mostly men who had been recently released from prison and were looking for work. I started talking to people about what it was like "on the inside." I listened to their stories. I absorbed their experiences. Later, I worked for Amnesty International in DC as a field organizer--heard a bunch more stories about wrongful imprisonment. Then I moved back to Texas and became a case manager at a refugee agency. Absorbed a ton more stories about imprisonment, torture, and escape. wedding collections With Lace Appliques at discounted price

I suppose you could say the phenomenon of being a prisoner is something I'm very curious about. I don't know why. I once dated a former prisoner. His story of being put in solitary confinement for 3 days one time (for smuggling in organic fruit to his cell) was chilling.

One common thread emerges from all these encounters and conversations I've had over the years: people in prison are just that--people. Many of them are good people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only a small percentage are "hardened" criminals who may do something harmful again. Most criminal behavior in this country is the product of isolation, abandonment, abuse, and obscene pressures. Some people are there wrongfully to begin with; they never even committed a crime. And many prisoners world-wide are simply at odds with their government, people who are brave enough to stand up for what's right, and more.

What I'm fascinated by is the "good" that comes out of prison for some people. Some people take that hard, hard situation and turn it into gold. I think of the gorgeous, courageous souls who survived prison camps in Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Pinochet's Chile, prisoners of apartheid South Africa, political protestors from all corners of the earth...POWs. That they survive and emerge stronger, shatter-free versions of themselves...and become gifts to humanity is what inspires, enlivens and enthralls me.

Some of the greatest figures of history are formerly incarcerated individuals: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Elie Weisel, among many others.

Read about Coss Marte 's inspiring campaign here, the video is SICK (you may cry)>>

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