Maria Telesco Spends a Lot of Time in Prison These Days

Maria Telesco Spends a Lot of Time in Prison These Days
Maria Telesco

Dear Everybody:

I heard through the grapevine that someone mistakenly thought I was incarcerated and wanted to do something to help me get out. When I learned of this, I did not take offense. Actually, I think it’s hilarious that someone thought I got busted, and very kind and generous of those who wanted to help me get out. Your compassion is sincerely appreciated, though unneeded.

When I go to prisons, to work with prisoners, some of my friends say, only half-jokingly, that “She’s in jail today.” Technically, that’s correct, except that I get to go home at night. But jail is jail. Actually, though, I’m in prison, and there’s a big difference between prison and jail. I won’t bore you with the details. If you have a burning desire to hear the boring details, you can take me out to lunch at Irene’s and I’ll let you in on the secret.

I’m a “Religious Volunteer.” That means we are mostly treated like employees, except we don’t get two things: paychecks and keys. We use staff bathrooms and eat in the staff cafeteria. We can stroll over to the warden’s office to say “Hi” and call the captain by his first name. We even get to park in the staff parking lot. Pretty cozy, eh?

Prisoners are humbled by the incarceration experience; so are we. While on the job, my most humbling humiliation is this: When I need a trip to the ladies’ room, I have to ask a male prisoner to go find a male officer to come and unlock the staff bathroom door, because I’m not permitted to leave where I’m at right then. The officer with the key has to stand in for me in the chapel or classroom while I’m using the potty. Now, you men reading this will probably say, “So what’s the big deal?” But you women reading this will fully understand the meaning of “humility” and empathize with the excruciatingly humbling aspects of this scenario. Nonetheless, I love my job.

If anyone would like to experience more of what prison is really like, I’ll buy you lunch at Irene’s if you’ll agree to become a volunteer and work with me and the prisoners. It’s an experience that will touch your heart, broaden your mind and soothe your soul.


Maria Telesco or 559-237-3223 (leave a message)


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    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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