Close Proximity

I’m a firm believer that we learn why justice work is important by hearing from the men directly.

Their stories are incredible, different experiences and similar ones. Their humanity and ability to share was stripped from them for so long. I believe it is important that we give that power back. As a social worker, I really wish I could take credit. I really wish that I could say that I am using all the correct techniques, that I am using all the right tools, that I am an expert due to my work. But I mostly just listen. And make appointments. And drive. They guys do most of the true legwork. I’m just here for support.

My journey with Joseph House started in April 2019. I didn’t begin my work as an intern until August, but I interviewed with Dustin for the first time. I spoke to him about this work, and what I hoped to get out of an internship. One of the first things Dustin talked to me about, when I was preparing to begin working with Joseph House, was the idea of “proximity” discussed in the book Just Mercy.

The “being there with” part of working is what inspired why I wanted to become a social worker in the first place. It takes people being beside someone to navigate everything the system throws at a person. Joe often says to me, “We must be family; we’ve got the same last name!” “We used to,” I always empathize, reminding him that my former last name, which we had shared, was now my middle name.

But you do become family with the people you welcome back into society. I found that first and foremost. I have been referred to by some of the guys as a “little sister.” There’s something about being proximate in such a stressful process that immediately ties you together in some way. People always remember who picks them up from prison, or who picks up the phone they call from inside.

We learn best in relationship with others. We may make mistakes, we may get it wrong, but it is important to have that relationship to practice within. To know that you can experience safety and security with others. That is how we try to show a different way at Joseph House. It’s not easy, and it isn’t simple. But it’s worth it to ensure that others are reentering the world alone.

— By Raching Bunting, Mission Coordinator at Joseph House

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