This week, many of us will celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in ways we’ve never done before — alone, at home, no family or friends. The pandemic has caused us to change our behaviors, but no matter what is happening, we must still remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the reason for the season! This is when we show love for one another, for caring for others, especially the needy. We take the time to help others, as we ought to do year-round, but Christmas brings out the best in us. This is an excellent time to remember those who are incarcerated.
Matthew 25:43 KJV says, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” A few weeks ago, a guest on my radio show, attorney Shelore Williams, shared with listeners of how she is working with Saymendy Lloyd, chair of Women’s Wing, a group fighting to find a way to get our D.C. incarcerated moved to other states closer to their hometown.
During the interview, I asked Williams what she would like to see the mayor and other elected officials responsible to do. She shared that it would be fantastic if they started treating incarcerated people “like human beings, to realize they exist and that most of them will be returning to our communities, therefore, to help them maintain the family unit and to provide substantive and positive programs during incarceration that will help them be productive citizens when they return home.”
She continued, “For those serving time for felony offenses, it also means that their incarceration should be closer to the District. We should not continue to allow the Bureau of Prisons to house these inmates all over the country, as far away as Texas, New Mexico, California, etc., where the cost of their loved ones visiting them becomes prohibited.”
Throughout the pandemic, we have been fighting to protect our health and the health of those around us. Yet despite the daily turmoil of life in this stressful time, we continue to celebrate the common milestones of life such as birthdays, graduations, and holiday celebrations.
Some celebrate Hanukkah, a recognition of the triumph of the Maccabees over the powerful Syrian Army. Some celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the faith of the first holy family, and the precious gifts of the Three Kings. Others celebrate Kwanzaa, an African-American tribute to African heritage. Yet during these holiday celebrations, we have forgotten many others who share our roots in this community. Unfortunately, this group is out of sight, out of mind.
Who are these forgotten souls? They are District of Columbia inmates who have been convicted of felony offenses and misdemeanors.
The forgotten include the male and female inmates housed in the D.C. jail. Inmates are confined in deplorable living conditions in an environment not fit for housing human beings. Rather than maintaining and strengthening the family unit, the District’s current practice destroys the family unit by separating inmates from their families, their loved ones and their support system while forcing them to live in a physically and mentally unhealthy environment.
You might ask, am I my brother’s keeper? I believe that if you have convicted a person of a crime, incarcerated that person, relocated him or her several hundred miles from family members, with the result that this individual depends on you for food, housing and medical care, then my answer is yes, you are your brother’s keeper.
Our community should organize to convince our local government to bring D.C. inmates closer to home, and secondly, to remedy the inhumane conditions at the D.C. Jail. This would be a welcome holiday gift to those whom we must not forget.
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.