Aren’t there some decent people about?
Mother Antonia Brenner, who has died aged 86, was a twice-divorced former Hollywood socialite and mother of seven who, in 1977, gave away most of her possessions, put on a homemade nun’s habit and went to live in a Mexican prison.
At first the Roman Catholic Church declined to give her its support; indeed for many years, as a divorcée she had been unable to take Holy Communion. Nothing daunted, she left her home in Ventura, California, packed in her job, made her vows in private and moved into a bunk in the women’s wing of La Mesa Tijuana, a prison housing 7,500 male and 500 female prisoners, later moving to her own 10-by-10-ft concrete cell.
La Mesa was a notorious hellhole where rich drug lords ruled the roost while hundreds of their poorer brethren lived in the cold and squalor amid rats and raw sewage, with no beds, food or even lavatory paper unless their relatives brought supplies. Brutalised prison guards contributed to the misery, mistreating the mentally ill and administering cruel interrogations.
Over the next 30 years “Madre Antonia”, as she came to be known, transformed the atmosphere. Armed with a Bible, a Spanish dictionary and her own unassailable moral authority, she waded into riots and gun battles; shamed prison authorities into improving conditions and brought human rights violations to the attention of newspapers.
Or no longer about, as the case may be.