Gypsy's Travels


Friday, December 14, 2007

Prison Time

I just got back from jail. I have been several times before and in several different facilities, but this was my first time in this one. There were major differences between previous visits and my presence today.

Previously, my visits were monitored by armed guards and detectives, who chatted amicably among themselves but were constantly aware of every movement made by anyone. They stood watch carefully while I collected blood and / or hair samples, or documented body markings / bruises / trauma. Every one of the people I saw protested that they were innocent of any wrong doing.

Today, I visited the jail, with a small group, as part of a ministry from my Bible study class. "Christmas packets" had been assembled form approved items donated by several groups. Each inmate received exactly the same things in her packet - a pair of tube socks, a package of peanut butter crackers, a small candy cane, a set of hotel-type toiletries, and a blank card in a stamped envelope. One of the women dressed as Santa Claus and did a lot of "Ho-ho- hoing."

We visited two different "pods," which were nearly identical in construction. One very large room Divided by a small brick wall into a sleeping side and a sitting side. A guard sat in a raised area, with a divider in front, doing paperwork. The sitting side of the room had tables and benches. The sleeping side had steel bunks built into the walls. Some of the beds were neatly made and their articles stashed carefully at the end. Others looked as if they might never have been made. In one of the pods, almost everyone was in bed when we arrived, about an hour after lunch. There was a T.V. in each pod, but none was turned on. Another low wall separated the toilets from other areas. Our presence did not stop anyone from using the facilities. There was NO privacy.

Our group handed out a donated religious magazine, an apple, and a prepared packet to each of the inmates. We could only distribute "approved" items and everything had to be equal.There were a lot of tears. Just the sight of Santa brought tears. We passed out hugs and good wishes with the goodies, and prayed with those who requested it. I asked the deputy who was shepherding us, about the recidivism rate. She told me that most of the women have been in 5-6 times. She believes they mean well and try to stay on the right path, but when they return to the same dysfunctional situation, they fall back into their old ways.

The things that surprised me:

  • Several mentioned how good we smelled and I don't think any of us was wearing perfume.
  • They were so happy and excited to receive the small gifts we gave them.
  • "Look, real soap and shampoo, not jail stuff!"
  • "I heard about the socks and I have been waiting!"
  • Almost everyone put on the socks and ate their treats right away.
  • How young most of them were.
  • How many tears were quietly shed, as they brushed them away and tried to hide them.

I am fully aware these women are reaping the fruit of their bad decisions and we reached them at a very vulnerable time in their lives, but I hope things will improve for them and they have a chance at happiness.

Matthew 25:42-45

I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

2 comments:

  1. Life is just a constant reminder that, but for the grace of God, go I.

    ReplyDelete

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