Monday, April 13, 2009

If Looks Could Kill . . .

I went to jail on Good Friday.

No, seriously, I went to jail. The Frau and I hauled my cello over to the Women's Correctional Facility and played for two Good Friday services - one in the medium/maximum section, and one in the minimum security section. As the Frau (who used to be a police sergeant) always reminds me, criminals rarely look like they are someone who would kill you. And while there were a few "rough" looking folks there (especially in the medium/maximum section), most were just nice, friendly ladies that made you think - what in the world did they do to end up here?

During the second service in the minimum security area, I actually had an accompanist. One of the inmates was a very accomplished pianist - a young Asian girl who was clearly very intelligent and friendly, in addition to her musical talent. Again, I wondered, what did she do? And memories of a rather tragic story kept tugging at me. But I'm in the MINIMUM security area. The chaplain introduced us and told me she had gone to a high school in a neighboring affluent district. We quickly established some folks that we knew in common. And that nagging memory resurfaced. Could there be two Asian girls from the same high school, the same age, who were talented pianists in the same prison? And if so, how could a sweet young girl like this, who didn't look like she would hurt a fly, have stabbed her mother to death? And if it was, indeed, her - how did she end up in the minimum security area? This girl did not have the look or the attitude of a killer.

But it was the same girl.

Playing for a Good Friday service - where we read scripture reminding us that Jesus was crucified in between two thieves. Poignant doesn't begin to describe the setting.

I found out a few more details later. There had apparently been a lot of abuse in her family, and while she was tried as an adult, and I don't mean to excuse the crime, even the prosecutor who fought to try her as an adult apparently had some compassion regarding her family situation. The final sentence and plea agreement attest to this. And she did start out in the maximum security section and "worked" her way into the minimum area. I can only imagine what those first months or years were like for her as a 17 year old.

I could have sworn she told me she was 23. But I have been so drawn to this girl's story that I googled what information I could find on her trial, and I don't see how she could be older than 20. In fact, based on her sentence, she will probably be released when she is around 23. So I either misunderstood (likely), or she is so focused on her release time that she finds herself thinking she is 23 . . .

I can't stop thinking about her.

1 comment:

  1. So many "wow!'s" in this post.

    First of all, I can't imagine the moving symbolism of sharing a Good Friday with prisoners; ministering and being ministered to. All of us 'thieves' of some sort.

    And I feel the fixation rising within you over this girl. I understand it because I had (have?) the same fixation on Debra Green.

    Mostly, how petrified must a 17-year-old accomplished pianist be in a maximum prison?! My mind cannot even comprehend her first few days. And I wonder how often it was music that kept her same.

    Yay for you and the Frau for feeding the beauty of music back into her soul.

    Possibly my favorite movie quote (of which, I am sure, you know well):

    "I have no idea to this day what them two Italian ladies were singin' about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singin' about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soured. Higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away...and for the briefest of moments - every last man in Shawshank felt free."

    I can't imagine that you and the Frau were anything less than Grace Carriers on Good Friday; doing the work of the man whose death it historically represents......