Are the men and women behind bars just derelicts of society and should be put away and forgotten? Jesus Christ has not forgotten these men and women for He left His glory and splendor in Heaven to come down to save sinners which we all are. He is in prison with the inmates, and He enjoins an awesome responsibility upon His church (you and me who profess His name) to visit these inmates and to make known to them His mission, His love, His mercy, His grace, His salvation.
What can we do for the men and women behind bars? Many do not know the Lord and need to be led to Him; some have found the Lord while incarcerated and need encouragement in their walk with God. It is not easy to live one's faith in prison, so we need to continually lift them up before the Lord in our prayers. At one time, we had a program in our church called "Adopt a Grandparent" program. Why not start an "Adopt an Inmate" program at your church to write letters of encouragement to the inmates and/or visit them.
There are many sites in the Internet that provide excellent character-building short stories and Bible verses that would be enjoyed by the inmates. If you have any talents, you can share your talents with the inmates. I heard of a harpist who regularly makes her rounds to the various prisons to share her God-given talent. What are talents for but for sharing with others, isn't it?
Let the inmates know that you care--that they are not forgotten, and that they are loved with an everlasting love by their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He knocks at their heart's door seeking entrance. When the inmates are blessed with something we do for them, however little, we, in turn, are blessed ten-fold not only here and now but in the hereafter.
Many people are not aware that there are needs in prison that are not being met. I recently received a letter from a man who mentioned that the inmates are given only a pitifully short time frame of not more than ten minutes to eat their meals in the dining area. When this time frame is up, they are forced to leave the dining area.
He writes: "As we go outside, to the left are 40 gallon trash containers. There are between two to three hundred pounds of swill (left-over, uneaten food) which is sold to a local pig farmer. So the guards have great incentive to chase us out without eating." Naturally, the more food uneaten, the more money to be realized. He said that the prison is there to make money and does not care for the welfare of the inmates.
Many in prison go hungry and rely on the monies sent to them by relatives and friends to get something from the canteen. Inmates cannot get balanced meals this way. And why are the prices of food items in vending machines cheaper by almost 50% for prison employees than for inmates?
Many of the inmates are being treated harshly and some are routinely being physically abused.
The phone bills (collect calls) incurred by families of inmates are exorbitant. The correctional institutions and the phone companies are getting their pocketbooks fat at the expense of the inmates' families who in many cases are already financially drained. The families just couldn't tell their loved ones not to call.
The men and women in prison need some connection to the outside world or they go crazy. They need to talk to their families and friends. They need to vent their anger and frustration. They need to be pointed to the Saviour who only could help them deal with negative emotions. More than ever, they need to know that they are loved regardless of what had happened. They need to be encouraged. They need to have hope and peace that come only from God. But, alas, the phone bills are killing the families and friends. Someone needs to look into this situation and have the cost of collect calls more affordable. It was affordable until the phone companies and the correctional institutions got greedy.
Another inmate wrote about the non-enforcement of No-Smoking regulations. Non-smokers are forced to breathe in the contaminated air caused by cigarette smoke. Some are getting sick and experiencing difficulty breathing because of this pollutant. Do prisoners have any rights? Do they have the right to breathe in pure, clean air? Is there anything we can do to rectify the problem of non-enforcement of No-Smoking regulations?
What about inmates who are wrongfully convicted? Is there such a thing? Is our justice system so infallible that we do not need to worry about wrongful convictions? Wrongful convictions are not rare and isolated cases, but, sad to say, they are very, very common. You will weep to know that there are probably in the tens of thousands and thousands who are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Shocking, isn't it? It's better to release 100 guilty inmates than to incarcerate one innocent person.
Wrong identifications, false and/or coerced confessions, bad lawyering, lack of means to seek good counsel, etc., are just a few of the causes that lead to wrongful convictions. It has been common knowledge for years that prosecutors and police often break the rules in order to win convictions. And this is a very sad situation to happen in a country that's built on the principle of liberty and justice for all.
With the DNA forensic testing of recent times, many innocent victims have been exonerated and released from prison. One inmate who served over twenty years of his life sentence was recently exonerated due to DNA test results. Another inmate, within days of execution, was also exonerated as a result of DNA findings.
Find out for yourself what you can do to help the plight of the wrongfully convicted. Click on Innocence Project to see what you can do to help and to support this endeavor that provides hope to the hopeless and serves as a bright and welcomed light at the end of a long dark tunnel to many innocent victims.
Yes, there is something we can do to help the inmates. We can write letters and send emails to our congressmen and women for they may not be aware of what's going on in the prison system. They may not realize that there are needs in prison that are not being met, that the smoking regulations approved by Congress and the President of the United States are not being enforced. They need to know these things, but they will never know unless we tell them.
Write to your state representatives about these deplorable conditions in the prison system. Encourage them to push and support legislative measures that would make post-conviction DNA testing easily accessible and affordable to the wrongfully convicted. Remind them that you favor the guilty IN prison and the innocent OUT of prison!
Write your congressmen and women about the unconstitutionality of the Jimmy Ryce Act for sex offenders and should be abolished. Briefly, the Jimmy Ryce Act allows for the civil commitment, possibly for life, of sex offenders after they have completed their prison sentences. They are punished twice for the same crime. This is double jeopardy! Actually, they are punished today for a sex crime they might commit in the future. This is absurd and totally against our legal heritage!
While most people wouldn't give a hoot about sex offenders' rights, this is not just about sex offenders and their rights. This is civil liberties being stripped away. If we do not let our views be heard today by pen or voice against this atrocity, more civil liberties will be trampled upon tomorrow. "Enslave the liberty of one human being and the liberties of the world are put in peril." --William Lloyd Garrison.
Click here for more information on the Jimmy Ryce Act. And while we're on the subject of civil liberties, click here to find out about the USA PATRIOT Act that was created to address the atrocities of 9/11. This Act is discussed in the document entitled "The Real Hero". Unknown to most Americans, the USA PATRIOT Act is nothing more than a U. S. Constitution shredding act, stripping the American people of more of their civil liberties.
But what should be our attitude toward the real criminals--those who have committed horrific crimes and are incarcerated for their acts? Should we just say: "Let them suffer and die and rot in prison?" Of course not! We need to be reminded often of Romans 6:23 "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
We, too, have committed a most ignominious crime far worse than any crime committed by those guilty inmates in prison. We have murdered the Son of the Living God. Our sins have placed Jesus on the cross. Before we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we were under bondage of sin and were in chains and in total darkness. But praise God we are freed from the tyranny of sin through Jesus Christ. A stanza of the hymn, 'There Is a Fountain', describes our condition.
The inmates in prisons need to know about the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. When they repent of their sins and come humbly to God, they will be forgiven of their sins. They will experience the joy and peace that come by knowing Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. "Angels will come to them in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven. The prison will be as a palace...the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light as when Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises at midnight in the Philippian dungeon."
There is a reward for those who have faithfully carried out the Lord's commands to help the poor, the widows, the fatherless, to visit the sick and those in prison. Matthew 25:35-37 reads: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
"Jesus identifies Himself with His suffering people.
It was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was naked. It was
I who was sick. It was I who was in prison. When you were enjoying the food from your bountifully
spread tables, I was famishing in the hovel or street not far from you. When you closed your
doors against Me, while your well-furnished rooms were unoccupied, I had not where to lay My
head. Your wardrobes were filled with an abundant supply of changeable suits of apparel, upon
which means had been needlessly squandered, which you might have given to the needy. I was
destitute of comfortable apparel. When you were enjoying health, I was sick. Misfortune cast
Me into prison and bound me with fetters, bowing down My spirit, depriving Me of freedom and
hope, while you roamed free. What a oneness Jesus here expresses as existing between Himself
and His suffering disciples! He makes their case His own. He identifies Himself as being in
person the very sufferer. Mark, selfish Christian: every neglect of the needy poor,
the orphan, the fatherless, is a neglect of Jesus in their person." --Welfare Ministry, Page 40.
P.S. If you want to be involved in a prison ministry through Christian literature and other publications, Click here for the United Prison Ministry International's website