My inclination was different. I felt I had a clearer idea of the justice system in most lands. I had read Camus and Koestler and had the interest to find out the way capital punishment operates in many countries. Rich, resourceful criminals are almost never executed. It is the poor, who belong to a backward or minority group, who are hanged, injected with poison or killed more slowly in soul-killing confinement.
I took the part of my work that related to prisoners very seriously. I set up a routine of monthly or bi-weekly visit to the prison, read up in advance about the prisoners’ background and case history, and even took vitamin tablets or preferred cereals for the American prisoners.
My other object was to underline the uncompromising nature of human rights that every person, in all circumstances, was entitled to. It was far beyond my power to guarantee it to every person, but by insisting on overtly displaying it to American prisoners I hoped to generate a broader awareness of among the entire prison population. I knew I had created some talk, when the prison wardens spoke of their surprise and sometimes even changed the way they treated their wards. The corporal punishment that prison authorities inflict on their hapless wards is an abomination, and I was glad that I could persuade some of them to acknowledge their error and try to work in a more humane way.
I reflect on the hours I spent behind prison walls as a great learning experience. Learning of others’ pain is one of the better ways, I believe, to remain determinedly human.