In 1921 Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison. No prison
was tougher than Sing Sing during that time. But when warden Lawes
retired some 20 years later, that prison had become a humanitarian
institution. Those who studied the system said credit for the change
belonged to Lawes. But when he was asked about the transformation,
here's what he said: "I owe it all to my wonderful wife, Catherine,
who is buried outside the prison walls."
Catherine Lawes was a young mother with three small children when her
husband became the warden. Everybody warned her from the beginning
that she should never set foot inside the prison walls, but that didn't
stop Catherine! When the first prison basketball game was held, she
went...walking into the gym with her three beautiful kids and she sat
in the stands with the inmates and.
Her attitude was: "My husband and I are going to take care of these
men and I believe they will take care of me! I don't have to worry!"
She insisted on getting acquainted with them and their records. She
discovered one convicted murderer was blind so she paid him a visit.
Holding his hand in hers she said, "Do you read Braille?"
"What's Braille?" He asked. Then she taught him how to read. Years
later he would weep in love for her.
Later, Catherine found a deaf-mute in prison. She went to school to
learn how to use sign language. Many said that Catherine Lawes was
the body of Jesus that came alive again in Sing Sing from 1921 to 1937.
Then, she was killed and a car accident. The next morning Lewis Lawes
didn't come to work, so the acting warden took his place. It seemed
almost instantly that the prison knew something was wrong.
The following day, her body was resting in a casket in her home,
three-quarters of a mile from the prison. As the acting warden took
his early morning walk, he was shocked to see a large crowd of the
toughest, hardest-looking criminal's gathered like a herd of animals at
the main gate. He came closer and noted tears of grief and sadness.
He knew how much they loved Catherine. He turned and faced the men,
"All right, men, you can go. Just be sure and check in tonight!" Then
he opened the gate and the parade of criminals walked, without a guard,
the three-quarters of a mile to stand in line to pay their final
respects to Catherine Lawes. And every one of them checked back in.
By Tim Kimmel