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Listening Without Prejudice

Yesterday’s assignment involved interviewing two officers and two inmates at Guam Department of Corrections. The conversation was some of the most piercing and fascinating in my life. My head hurt from listening so hard.

After an hour of hearing the two inmates share their stories and hopes for the future, I expressed sympathy for the challenges they’ll face after they finish serving their time.

“Would you still feel bad if you knew why we are here?” one of them asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully.

One is serving seven years for robbery with four years left on his sentence. The other was incarcerated nine years ago at age 16 and has 11 years left on his sentence for aggravated assault. Neither are eligible for parole.

This knowledge did not change my feelings of sympathy. Because after they serve their punishment they’ll be released into a society that is not likely to let them forget they were convicts. It’s just a different kind of prison.

Yesterday I was reminded of the importance and value of listening without prejudice. On the way home I put Marvin Gaye on in the car:

Talk to me so you can see what’s going on.

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