Prisons and Inmates

May 11, 2019 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

I’ve been writing to an inmate at Macon State Prison for some time now. His name is Mendez. He has an interesting story to tell. When we lived in California, I was actively involved in local jail ministry, but I’ve never done prison ministry. It’s certainly similar but the main difference is that inmates housed in local jails are either waiting for their trial, have had their trial and waiting on sentencing to prison, or they are serving their entire time in that local jail if it’s relatively short time.

Mendez has had his trials, been found guilty and given a sentence until 2081, with no possible parole prior to that. According to him, he was wrongly convicted on several charges, including attempted murder. It’s of course very difficult to know the truth because I do not personally know him nor am I aware of all the particulars regarding his case.

Reading his letters, he seems to certainly want to be clean and stay out of trouble. He says he’s a Christian and he also admits that being in prison is the best place for him because it has forced him to assess his life. He wants to be true to God. He wants to bring glory to Him while he is in prison. So, I would ask that you pray for Mendez, that God would strengthen him, that God would work through him as well.

Mendez is hoping to get a new trial, though he has experienced some bumps in the road. Ultimately, his request for a new trial was denied, so he has few options. He is appealing now.

The reality is that I have no idea what the truth is regarding Mendez. It could very well be that what he’s telling me is true, or it could be his version of truth as he understands it, or it could be a lie. In any case, please pray for him.

I write him regularly and have The Sword of the Lord sent to him as well. I’ve sent him books and encourage him to read and memorize Scripture. He says he’s doing that. His biggest problem is trying to avoid problems with other inmates, which I imagine can be exceedingly difficult.

Mendez informed me that an inmate hung himself just a few weeks ago in his dorm. Apparently, the inmate was high on ice. Other inmates who are gang bangers come after Mendez and want to work him over and so he works to avoid that as much as possible. In fact, he has another case pending where he was trying to defend himself in a fight, but the prison itself has brought charges against Mendez. In both public school and prison, it seems that if a person is caught fighting, even if only defending themselves, they are seen as guilty because they were fighting. But what’s the alternative? Should a person who is attacked not be allowed to fight back? Doesn’t really make sense.

Mendez also tells me he’s not into drugs and rarely even drinks anymore. Outside of prison, he did drink, but even then didn’t do drugs, he says. The problem? There are plenty of drugs and alcohol in prison, which he says he avoids, but most inmates do not, so they succumb to the effects of the drugs and liquor that is often homemade in prison.

I had read an article about the use of contraband cell phones in prisons that was written up in the paper. Apparently, cell phones are very easy to get and use in prison. Prisons want to use cell phone blocking technology to combat this, so I asked Mendez about it. He said Macon State Prison already has that technology but it’s easy to go around it simply by logging or plugging somehow into a Wi-Fi signal at the prison. That makes sense because cell phones can make “VOIP” calls using the Internet via Wi-Fi.

It seems that whatever technology they come up with, criminals find easy ways to go around things. I already knew that just about any drug that’s available on the streets is also available in prisons and Mendez confirmed. From the sound of his letters, it seems that he really would like to simply do his time quietly and be left alone. At the same time, he says he wants to live for Jesus and talks to other inmates as often as possible. He learns who to stay away from because of their reaction to his message.

Folks, as far back as I can remember, prison always scared me. The idea of being locked away and losing over 90% of the control we have over our lives without thinking about it is really a scary thought to me. I believe God used this rational fear to keep me away from drugs and drinking even when some of my friends growing up drifted away into those things. The thought that if I drank, got drunk, drove and possibly killed someone was, for some reason, always in the forefront of my mind. At its root was the thought of losing control by imbibing drugs or drink. It just didn’t seem worth it to me at all. Again, God used that I believe to keep me away from those things.

But imagine being incarcerated and seeing drugs and alcohol all around you? Imagine having to bunk with 100 other inmates – some of them very violent – in a dorm area where privacy is virtually non-existent? Imagine having to avoid making eye contact with people in fear that they would take your glance as a “hard look” and want to stand up to you?

Mendez also says that the food has been cut back. The prison serves food twice per day and breakfast is at 4:30am, so if you miss it, you don’t eat until 2:00pm and that’s the final meal. Eating breakfast at 4:30am? I guess you get used to it but I’m certainly not ready for that, are you?

If you want to eat more food, you need to have money to buy things from the commissary. If you don’t have any money, you don’t eat. Imagine that? Imagine not being able to go to your pantry or fridge whenever you want to grab a snack?

Mendez states that some of the guards at the prison are “on the take.” Some even sell their bodies for money from inmates. Being in prison is a real subculture and to survive, you’ve either got to be extremely tough, or extremely quick-witted to be able to avoid people and situations that aren’t good. Being “invisible” to other inmates would also help.

Now, imagine that you’re incarcerated until 2081 with no chance of parole. Mendez says that on each of his counts, the judge gave him the maximum sentence. He did not murder anyone, but his sentence is longer than some who do commit murder. Imagine your life ebbing away while you try to remain upbeat and confident in the Lord.

Ultimately, Mendez says he’s looking for a miracle to happen and certainly he needs one. As I say, it’s very difficult to know the truth about him because I do not personally know him, nor do I really know anything about his case either. We know that adage that everyone in prison is “innocent;” wrongly convicted, but clearly, that’s not true. I would say most people in prison are there because of their own actual guilt.

In Mendez’ case, he certainly seems to want to do what is right and he holds onto the belief that the Lord will open doors for him. For me, it is difficult to encourage him and at times, to even know what to say to him. I would ask for you to pray that God will give me wisdom in knowing how to respond and especially how to pray for him.

He has a son that he says he has no visitation rights to and he would really like to have visitation rights. I have no idea how that works for someone incarcerated and I had to tell him that. I deferred to his public defender but he says that his public defender seems to have no clue so he is working through the prison chaplain. Hopefully, there will be some direction there for him.

Just pray. Pray that God will turn Mendez’ heart completely to Him, that He would watch over Mendez to keep him from making bad mistakes. Pray also that if it is the Lord’s will, Mendez will get a new day in court, if he is truly deserving of it.

Not sure what else to ask for here. When I’ve personally met and worked with jail inmates in the past, it was rewarding. I was always mindful of how humble they seemed (at least the ones I worked with) and how much they enjoyed studying God’s Word together as I led them in small groups.

But quite honestly, I cannot relate to criminals and it’s not because I somehow think I’m better than they are as people. I know this is not true. I cannot relate simply because I have no walked in their shoes to any degree. I’ve never been arrested and never even lived under the threat of arrest. The worst thing that has happened to me is a speeding ticket. I am a law-abiding person who does his best to do what is right as far as the law is concerned. Because I’ve never been on the other side of the law, I’ve never been arrested, put on trial, or found guilty of anything that has a prison sentence associated with it, I simply cannot fully understand what it’s like to live within the prison system.

I know that prison is not pretty and actually very constricting. If you are a person who wants to change your life and move toward righteous living, I know that it can be extremely difficult to do because I’ve seen the toll it can take on inmates. But that’s as far as it goes for me. When I walk away from the jail having ministered for that day, I can literally walk away from it and continue on with my life.

There have been times when I’ve visited jail to minister and was turned away by the guards because there was an unsettled air within the jail. They didn’t want me to be in danger and give any inmate a reason to create problems.

Honestly folks, I cannot imagine what it’s like to be in prison, with your life controlled by others. I simply cannot fully imagine it. Please take the time to remember Mendez and all other inmates who are Christian and have made some very egregious errors that forced them into incarceration. For most of us, they are out of our sight and easily forgotten.

The Bible tells us we need to remember these prisoners and certainly, the Bible is referring mainly to those Christians then who were wrongly imprisoned for their faith, not for breaking the law otherwise. However, there is a need to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are incarcerated. Maybe they were not imprisoned because they are Christians. They are imprisoned for things they did wrong. Yet, they need our prayers to help turn their lives around, to be protected and to help them remain free from trouble while they serve their time.

Would you do that? Would you remember these people?

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Emotional virtue, Religious - Christian - Prophecy. Tags: , .

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