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Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Letter From An Atlanta Jail

Yes, any implicit self-comparisons to Martin Luther King Jr. stop with the headline.

But seriously, last week I went to jail. Not for a civil rights protest, and no, not for being a great sinner, although I’ve had plenty of great sinning days, too.

I went to jail to visit a woman who is there because she was caught shoplifting $93 of merchandise ($93 of beer in fact, which is when you can chime in with “93 bottles of beer on the wall”…). She was shoplifting because she was drunk, and she was drunk because she is an alcoholic.

But I digress, because what I really want to say begins as I sat in the waiting room.

A clearly poor—(for a moment I thought he was homeless)—African American gentleman came in and sat down with his little boy. We began to talk. He was visiting a family member who had been languishing in jail for weeks and weeks now because of a sentence (a minor drug possession charge). They couldn’t pay the bail fee, but she had been assigned a public defender. The only problem was that the public defender didn’t seem to care about her legal predicament. He had never called or come to visit. So there she was in a kind of legal limbo land behind bars.

The take home for me? If you’re poor in this country and find yourself in trouble with the law, justice is often elusive.

Which is why tomorrow I hope you’ll tune back in for a very special treat—an interview with someone who is working to rectify this problem.

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