Against my will
by Radha Stern
Radha Stern's son Christopher was murdered in 1996. This is her story of how meeting with prisoners, and eventually with the man who killed her son, has helped her find relief and comfort.
Getting into a prison is intimidating. Accompanied by my prison escort, I went to the first gate, presented my ID to a guard who carried a gun. I signed in, was approved and went to the next gate to meet another armed guard and pass through a metal detector. After that gate, I went to another entrance with a guard and gun, signed in, was checked in and approved by the computer, was scanned with a hand-held metal detector, and stamped under the left wrist with the daily stamp. Then I went into a Sally port a large cell – where a huge door slams shut with a resounding “clank.” I was held there until the opposite door opened with another loud “clank,” and I entered another Sally port, which then unlocked and allowed me access into a large open quad.
The meeting room was a dilapidated cement tomb, with barely enough room for all of the prisoners (17) to sit with Jacques, my friend and spiritual advisor, Bill Glenn, and I. The prisoners, dressed in dark blue jeans and light blue denim shirts, started to fill the room. As they came in, I introduced myself to each one, looked him in the eye, and shook his hand. I was surprised to find they all had kind faces. I told the men that I was surprised by how they looked. “I have to admit, I had an innate prejudice that murderers look mean and ugly. But I would ask any of you on the street for help with a flat tire and directions. I want you to know that.”
I slowly told my story of Christopher, including photos and personal tales, over the course of an hour. As I spoke, I looked at each person’s face around the circle.