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Marcus has given me permission to tell his story. It is one of the most moving I have ever heard. Maybe the most beautiful story ever.


Marcos is a giant of a man. He has some rough looking tattoos on his very dark skin, but he is also a gentle man who speaks intentionally and sparingly. When it was his turn to share his idea of accountability in our healing circle at California Men’s Colony Prison last week, he quietly started by telling us: “Well, I was found suitable.” This means the parole board decided he was fit to be released from prison and reenter society. We all gasped and broke into applause.  But then he went on to say, “Well, that was about 6 months ago.” We were puzzled because he should be out by now.

     Marcus went on to tell us that the family of his victim was furious at the idea of him ever getting out. They thought life meant life. They were emotional and said that they should have been told this could happen and that they needed a few years to adjust to this idea. Marcus in his quiet way told us that he asked to speak with his lawyer privately. He told his lawyer that he wanted to respect the needs of these survivors and give up his freedom for them. He told his lawyer to tell the board that he would come back in two years and go through the process again. He told the family that he wanted to put their feelings ahead of his own for once. He said they all cried then.

     The group sat silently stunned.  All anyone wants is to get out of prison and this man gave up his freedom for the well-being of his victim’s family.  I asked Marcus, “What does your family think of this?” He said that his son was angry and told him that Marcus cared more about his victim’s family than him. He has shut Marcus out saying, “I’ll talk to you in 48 months.”  Marcus slowly shook his head side to side and said, “I told my son that I had to do this. This is how I live in dignity now. I owe them this.”

     I was crying now and said, “Marcus this is an act of love. I’m quite sure this gift will accelerate their healing too. I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes faster than you think.”


This is restorative justice and what these circles of healing offer men; opportunities to transform and become their best selves.  It is the work of my life, and I am so grateful for this Healing Dialogue and Action program.

     This program is never about shaming, there has been enough of that in these men’s lives. It is about liberating. When a person who has caused harm can really open up to the pain they have created in others they can begin to heal. Then they begin to imagine how they can create a life we call “living amends.”

     Some of the men in these healing circles share about their crimes for the first time. Courageously and with great vulnerability men name of their victims, tell the group what they did and the impact this harm had on their families and the community.  Some of it is hard to hear. Many of these men are ex-gang members and have left a wake of destruction behind them. But these men sitting in this listening circle with me are not the same person as they were 20 or 30 years ago. They are no longer on drugs or have a criminal mindset. They are no longer furious at the world for the horrors they faced as children. In fact, they are trying hard and succeeding in becoming the best version of themselves possible.

      This is what the ripple effect of healing looks like. Spreading love not violence. Although this is a secular program, the men know I am a Christian and I ended the group telling the men, “I see God in you.”

Sister Greta

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