[There are now more corrections officers (29,000) in California than there were state prisoners 20 years ago (24,000) when the individual featured in the article below went to prison. During that period, the prison population has increased more than six-fold, to 160,000. The cost to society to imprison these folks, many of them who belong elsewhere, and the wasted human potential they represent, is breathtaking in its scope.
The article below, printed in this month’s “Street Spirit – Justice News and Homeless Blues in the Bay Area” (a publication of the American Friends Service Committee), highlights the destructive and inhumane nature of our prison system… and also the difficulty that even truly redeemed and repentant individuals face in obtaining parole from a system politically biased against it. I’ve excerpted several paragraphs from it, in the hopes that STF’s readers will be inspired to read the full article off the Street Spirit web site.
An extensive and moving interview with the Rev. James Tramel is also available on their site. -Thomas]
From Prison to Priesthood
With a little help from his friends, Rev. James Tramel makes the journey from darkness to light.
by Terry Messman
In ministering to prisoners who were dying the loneliest deaths imaginable behind the prison walls of the House of the Dead, Father Tramel found friendship, a new reason to live, and a hope that could not be buried, not even behind the fortress walls of some of the nation’s toughest prisons — San Quentin, Folsom, Solano State Prison, and Vacaville. […]
Father Tramel is a man of many firsts — the first man ever to be ordained as an Episcopal priest while in prison; and the first prison inmate ever admitted into an Episcopal seminary, the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley.
He was also the youngest prisoner in San Quentin when he was locked up in the notorious California prison in 1986 when he was only 17. He spent his entire adult life in San Quentin, Folsom, Vacaville and Solano prisons until his release on March 12, 2006, after serving more than 20 years for second-degree murder. […]