As Donald Trump ends his presidency with a round of legalised murders, ex-prisoner Adnan Khan tells of a show of solidarity, empathy and humanity that invites reflection from those of us on the outside who turn our backs on offenders, whatever they may have done.
Khan tells how 700 men live in the ‘Condemned Row’ units of San Quentin Prison, California. As they’re escorted round the prison, other inmates are forced to face the wall so as not to look at them. Khan wonders how they feel at this literal turning of backs, confirming the rejection they’ve already experienced from society at large.
‘But we would still find a way to attempt to acknowledge their humanity and offer some sort of solidarity when facing the wall’, says Khan. ‘We’d slightly turn our faces, peek, try to make eye contact and give them a nod. Sometimes the nod was just with our eyes. That subtle. And they’d nod back the same way. That was our only contact with them and our only form of communication … And that simple, subtle nod relayed a message of care, empathy and moral support and most importantly, each other’s worthiness of humanity’.
Who knows what risks Khan and his fellow inmates ran as they strove to give death row prisoners a moment’s respite from the relentless routine of rejection? Removal of privileges? Reduced chance of parole? Solitary confinement? Whatever, they reckoned it was worth it to return a smidgen of pride and self-worth to those whom a dehumanising system of ‘justice’ has permanently ostracised.
So what of those of us on the outside who can make Khan’s gestures of care, empathy and moral support to casualties of the criminal ‘justice’ system at absolutely no risk to ourselves? More particularly what of those of us who deliberately refuse to do so, even when handed the opportunity on a plate? Because it happens …
We could try taking a leaf out of Khan’s book, coming down off our high horses and doing a bit more of what we profess to do: care, empathise, and spread some love.