Maud Booth on Liberty

empathy for prisoners

Maud Ballington Booth: her own words

"Liberty! How much that word means to all of us! It is the keynote of our Constitution. It is the proud right of every citizen. The very breeze that flutters our starry flag sings of it; the wild forests, the rocky crags, the mountain torrents, the waving grasses of the wide-stretching prairies echo and reecho it. Yet much as we may think we know of the fullness, sweetness and power of that word, we cannot form an estimate of its meaning to one who is in prison. He has lost the gift and those who have it not, can often prize the treasure more than those who possess it.

People have talked to me about the prisoner becoming quite reconciled to his lot, and in time growing indifferent to the regaining of liberty. I think this is one of the fallacies that the outside world has woven. I do not know from what prison such an idea emanated. So far as my observation goes, I have yet to find the first prisoner who did not long with an unspeakable desire for freedom. Even the older life-men who have been in long enough to outlive all their friends, who have no kith or kin to return to, and for whom there is no home-spot on earth, plead earnestly for the chance to die in liberty. They hope and plan, they appeal and pray for pardon, though it would send them from the familiar sheltering walls into a strange, cold world, but the world of free men. In every cell are men who count all dates by one date, the day coming to them in the future when they will be free again. Sometimes it is very far away and yet that does not make it any less vividly present in their thought. The chief use in the calendar is to mark off the passing days and some have even figured off minutely the hours that stand between them and liberty." learn about our reentry programs here.