...How to navigate the ins and outs of Bolivia’s jail system. Definitely a lesson I neither asked nor expected to learn, but it’s been quite the education.
The week after writing the below, 4 friends were arrested. Along with the one who went in a few weeks ago, that makes 5 friends in as many weeks to FOUR different jails. [Note: since I wrote this yesterday, two MORE have been arrested!]
My “Codigo Penal” and newly purchased “Codigo de Procedimiento Penal” have become my new constant companions!
The first couple of weeks as I got everyone settled and untangled the mess of which lawyer was on each case (both sides) and what the next steps would be, I spent hours every single day in jails. In all but one place I have other friends (also from the street), so its non-stop conversation and questions about their friends on the “outside” the entire time I’m inside with them.
I also get constant calls now from all of the jails. I imagine that the women’s jail phone booth opens at 7am because I often get a call right at that time: “Senorita, are you coming today??” (Even though visiting hours don’t begin until 9am!)
When my best friend Amber left in October after another Bolivia visit, the verse she left on a card was more prophetic than I think either of us realized at the time:
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; …I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
Apart from being quite the balancing act, it’s been emotionally exhausting. It’s rough to go from having daily contact with your friend to BAM! In jail! And having to wait for visiting hours, suffer through police pat-downs, present your ID, pay money, etc., just to try to talk in a seriously overcrowded warehouse of humanity… On the streets at night with the others, I still expect to see them around any corner. Almost any picture we look at of fun times together, at least one in the picture is currently in jail.
Pray that I know how to show tough love. After the hearing of two of the girls, as they begged me to “save them” from their fate, I looked them right in the eye and said "I love you two and you know it, but I hate what you do".
It’s been a month of constant shake ups at the bridge where I work, as well. At some point every month I record a simple list of who is currently at the bridge. From mid October to now in November, the number has dropped from 17 people to 8. The reason? Three have moved to different street communities, two are currently home with relatives, two are in jail, one has died, and last night the baby was taken away from her mother.
As hard as it all is, I LOVE "filling the gap" with the most down-and-out kids of the city, being their mother, lawyer, best friend, nurse, social worker, and whatever else the situation calls for. Thanks for your prayers!
Adios, Shana and Hillary - Thanks to Carla Booher for the blog! :) Wednesday night we had a "going away" party for two of our volunteers. Shana is from Texas and has been touring...
2 years ago