Safe Place with Ruth Graham

The idea of prison has always given me the willies. People in cages, no freedom seems unbearable to me. I think that is the point…that if people thought about being in jail they wouldn’t do the crime  – it is to be a deterrent. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way – our prisons and jails are over-crowded. But, to be honest, I don’t know how to suggest a solution. Nor does, it seem, do the politicians.

The one person who seemed to have figured it out was Burl Cain, former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. But, like so much that is wrong with our government’s bureaucracy, not many listened to him.

But that is not what this blog is about.

I am acquainted with a young woman who was in a terrible car crash – she was intoxicated. Her 3 year-old son was killed. She was tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison – tell me what good that does!  She is under a life-sentence.  Knowing she was responsible for the death of her little boy is a terrible thing to carry for the rest of her life. But she will.

Wanting to be an encouragement to her I try to go each week to visit her in the jail before they transfer her to prison.  Because I am ordained I can go in regularly. She amazes me with her bright outlook and hope. We only have about 20 minutes each visit but she is ready with a laugh and sparkle in her eyes. We talk through a thick glass by telephone receiver – I am quite sure our conversations are monitored.

She had a copy of the KJV of the Bible so I sent her a paperback copy of the New Living Translation. (It had to be in paperback for jail to let her have it.) It is so very readable. Each week I try to find a particular Psalm then ask questions about it as it applies to her life.  It helps steer our conversations but sometimes I think she gets tired of my questions!

Anyway, I see so many mothers and father, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers waiting to go in to visit their loved one. I can’t help but wonder what their story is. No mother looks at their newborn baby and thinks one day she will visit him or her in prison. That is not part of their plans and dreams for this baby. But life went terribly wrong somewhere.

And that is certainly subject we don’t discuss in church. At least not churches that I know. We would never want people to know – so we hide behind our mask in fear that someone will find out our secret shame. How grateful I am that Carol Kent is open about her son’s conviction for murder and how she and her husband struggled to get their mind around it and their arms around him. Such a heartbreaking story – but God has redeemed it for Himself. What an encouragement she is to so many suffering in that way. You can read it in: I Lay My Isaac Down. I encourage you todo so. My sister is open about her two sons who have been incarcerated and I applaud her – she also talks about her arrest and night in jail.

Incarcerated is not an “acceptable” place to be and not a subject we talk about. How can we change the atmosphere in churches to be more welcoming to those that face such a trauma? Jesus understood there are those in prison…(Matthew 25:36) He encouraged us to visit them. Now, I realize it isn’t always possible because of regulations and credentials. But we can support those that do go into prisons: Prison Fellowship, Good News Ministry or local ministry teams. I am quite sure volunteers are always need to help drive, stuff envelops, encourage… Or we could come alongside of someone who has a loved one in jail or prison – just to be a friend, listening ear, hand to hold, wipe a tear… It all ministers greatly. No, we can’t fix it but we can help.





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