Many of us read the story this past week about the six prisoners on a Georgia work detail who came to the aid of the stricken guard who was supervising them. When the lone guard fell to the ground, the men could have grabbed his gun, shot him, or just left him there to die as they fled. After all, this was their big chance. So what did they do? They administered CPR and used his cell phone to call for help. Why? The speculation is that they were serving short sentences for minor offenses and that it just didn’t make any sense to run. I’m sure that factored into it – but I also know of people serving short-term sentences on Rikers Island – a year or less – who have tried to escape. An escape attempt here didn’t make much sense, yet some still tried.
No, I think there’s more to this, and I think it can be found in the words of the local sheriff who said about the prisoners, “They really stepped up in a time of crisis and showed that they care about my officers. That really speaks a lot about my officers too, how they treat these inmates. They treat them like people. Like family.”
They treat them like “people!” Wow! And what a contrast to Rikers Island where these “people” are routinely referred to as “bodies” and “property.” And the result is right on the front pages for all to see – depravity, brutality and unimaginable human misery. It was my experience on Rikers that the more you dehumanize, the more inhumane the place becomes.
A little dignity and kindness goes a long way, as we saw in this moving display of humanity -- of captives coming to the aid of their captor. We’re all in this together, folks -- why not?