The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails – a 500% increase over the past 30 years. The prison environment is a dark place, where prisoners face violence, anger, gangs and loneliness.
According to a 2012 report by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, more than 65 percent of those released from California’s prison system return within three years.
Something must be done!
Warehousing criminals won’t “fix” them any more than storing your broken TV in the garage will make it work again in five years. This needs to change. With upwards of 5000 men in a prison, State Chaplains average only 2 hours per week per prison yard in actual one-to-one ministry with inmates. A privately funded, full-time volunteer Yard Pastor is desperately needed in each prison yard to “stand in the gap” on a daily basis and teach these men how to use the tools in Scripture to make good decisions that will result in productive citizens when
they are released.
Statistics have shown that when the prison Chapels are open a significant amount of the time making Christian programming available to the inmates, those inmates who become involved in these programs have only a 12-17% chance of returning to prison when released Statistics have shown that when the prison Chapels are open a significant amount of the time making Christian programming available to the inmates, those inmates who become involved in these programs have only a 12-17% chance of returning to prison when released.
Life in Prison
Six a.m., an officer announces “chow” from the central tower and pops open the cell door. If you are not ready and miss the window of opportunity to go get breakfast, you will have to wait until dinner to receive a meal from the institution. After proceeding to the chow hall and back to the housing units, those who are fortunate enough to have jobs report to their assigned positions of duty, where they will work for hours. The lucky ones have jobs which pay more than $1 an hour. If you do not have a job, or if it is not your assigned day or time to work, you wait in your cell, a six foot by eight foot holding tank of concrete and steel which one must make livable. Once per day you are allowed three hours outside (if they are running yard), and three hours in the multipurpose room (if they are running day room). On any given day, for any given reason, these privileges may be taken away, leaving you trapped in your cell with your cellmate, your “cellie”. Hopefully the two of you get along and are about to coexist in the bathroom in which you live. Once a day you are allotted a shower and once a week you are given phone time if you are fortunate enough to have loved ones who put money on your books so you can make such phone calls. Most men receive no letters, make no phone calls, and get no visits. Prison can be a very lonely place, filled with drugs, animosity, and racial tensions; a place where there is no shortage of gangs who prey on the weak for their evil purposes. Thank God for the chapel services which provide a sanctuary from the madness and rays of hope in the times of deep darkness and despair.
An Inmate Writes to the inmate Congregation
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ brings about much more proven character. Today I thought about one of our Praise and Worship leaders, Dan. As he got up and spoke on his transfer from this church to Fire Camp, I noticed a certain character. Dan briefly talked about his life, but mostly he talked about our chapel and what it had done for him, and to encourage our brothers – new brothers – to keep coming. Life is tough, and the devil is a liar. I have to consider my brother’s real character in the Lord as truth. Jack our pastor here at Donovan, has been so effective in my life, and his characteristics toward me have given me a surprising peace in my heart. Coming to church has given me true character in Jesus. Jack preached on deliverance and included the verse 2 Cor. 10:5 What caught my ear in that verse was that we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. That is having real character, stay obedient to Christ. For so long in my life, the reputation has run my life. But, ask yourself this: Is that true character? I will end with this in mind: Reputation is who people think you are, but true character is who you really are. Be yourself in the Lord. God bless us. Mitch