My Afghan friend sent me an article from The Economist today, with the harsh comment: “NO COUNTRY imprisons a larger share of its people than America.” , which made me thing of my Afghan experience…
A few years ago I thought that one day I would be able to write about my experiences visiting an Afghan prison. I am one of those lawyers who has never seen the inside of a prison, except for some, like Robben Island, that today are museums.
Despite the time that has gone by, it is still all too fresh in my mind and I cannot quite capture the myriad of emotions I went through while visiting this place. It had to be one of the strangest, most surreal, perturbing, curious, worrying, enigmatic, perplexing, and frankly- bizarre yet hopeful experiences of my entire life. Am sure there are more adjectives to describe my emotions.
I had the rare opportunity to visit the cells, talk to the prisoners -the young ones in English, the older ones with an interpreter- and observe a selected few in their rehabilitation or vocational environments that involved working with metal, leather and wool.
The prisoner cobblers were working on creating charming women and girls’ shoes. There was something touching to see these men (all convicted hard-core criminals) cutting and gluing and nailing together all these shoes. There was a master cobbler who was teaching the prisoners how to be shoemakers.
We did not speak the same language. We come from different worlds. They were making useful and pretty things; some prisoners seemingly delighting in the novelty of a visit by strangers… others oblivious to anything other than tending to their craft with serious and meticulous concentration. One of these days I will share the entire experience. Indeed, it has all to do with Rule of Law. I just need to figure out how best to share this… These not-so=good photos were taken by yours, truly.
A prison cobbler tending to his trade.
Made in the largest prison in the world: a Cinderella slipper.
A prison loom.
Hand-made water heaters from corrugated metal.