One of the people in prison that I stay in touch with, Kenneth, killed a man in the course of a robbery. Kenneth was 14 at the time and he's been in prison about 23 years now. He has a life-with-parole sentence.
Despite a good prison record, staff recommendations and a home plan, the Parole Board continues to deny him parole. At his last hearing, one of the hearing officers asked him how they could release him against the surviving family's desires.
Kenneth called me last night, just to talk. He used his own meager pay from work in the geriatric unit to make the call. He wanted to know what I was doing and thought it was very funny that the raccoons have eaten all of our tomatoes. He told me about the dogs that men in his housing unit have taken in from the local shelter to train for adoption -- a new program that had been an enormous benefit for the dogs, for the local communities and for the inmates.
It was such an ordinary phone call that, thinking about it this morning, it breaks my heart.