Sean Kirst wrote a column today on Frank Woolever, the most recent Syracusan to go to jail for protesting the School Of The Americas–the U.S. military school that teaches repressive governments how to kill and torture their citizens who dare to stand up and speak for democracy. Frank will spend the next 3 months in federal prison.
I’m praying tonight for Frank Woolever (and I’m not a praying kind of guy.) Frank is in his seventies and not in perfect health. If there is any justice and karma in this life, Frank will come through his sentence very well. Among the many causes that Frank has invested his time, dedication and love is assistance to the incarcerated and their families.
I met Frank as a VISTA volunteer in 1992, recruiting other volunteers for the educational, counseling and religious programs at Auburn Correctional Facility. Frank had helped put together a local program sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension called Family Matters. This was a hardy group of family members with incarcerated relatives. They acted as a support group for each other and pooled resources together for transportation to often far-flung prisons. Frank always seemed to know of a church with a spare van or bus. He was able to keep family members in good spirits, as well as help them deal with the depression, guilt and frustration that was never far away. I was invited to one of their meetings and just kept coming back every month. They were one of the few rays of hope I saw during my 18 month tenure in the correctional system.
In later years, Frank helped to bring the Altamont Program to Syracuse. This very successful program started in Albany and its goal is to help ex-cons returning to their communities avoid returning to jail. Combining addiction counseling, housing and employment this program has helped hundreds of inmates become contributing members of their community. Locally, the group purchased and manages the Lemoyne Manor in Liverpool–training for jobs in the hospitality and restaurant industries.
Anyway, Frank Woolever is a genuinely decent man, I am privileged to know him. Our community is richer for his contributions and we need to listen intently to the rationale for his great sacrifice. We owe Frank that much.