UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON

10

Chapter 3

 The Beginning Days of Prison

 

Now that you have some understanding of your friend or loved one’s situation in a county jail, we will progress to the first few weeks of prison life and the thoughts that an inmate has during this time. County jails operate differently from each other. Prisons, however, operate the same. Generally, what one person experiences in the transfer into the prison system, all will experience. This is a very hard time for most. People grow accustom to the way things are handled in the county jail for the three to six months or longer that they are there. The initial adjustment to the county jail takes a lot out of a person after being ripped away from their family and friends and home. Finally a person starts to acclimate to jail and find a comfort zone within which to survive. As the time grows nearer to be transferred to prison, it creates a lot of new anxiety. Prison is a place of fear, rumors, speculations, and distrust. Unfortunately, even the county jail guards try to promote fear into everyone’s mind about their transfer to prison.

On the day of transfer, the prisoner’s name is called and he knows it isn’t for a visitor or his lawyer coming to tell him some good news. His hope of getting out of jail has long vanished. All the new Christian inmate can do is say a prayer and trust God that everything will be all right. Hopefully, he has grown enough in jail to be able to do that. The guards pack him up and his belongings are sent home. For a new Christian, it means that his new learning materials that have helped him to grow to trust God will not be available to him. It hurts deeply to lose this important reading material at such a critical time. Then he is shackled down, leg to leg. His hands are cuffed to a belly chain and he is put in a squad car or van, headed to “the big house”. The result is demoralizing.

Your friend or relative arrives at the prison usually with a group of others from other counties. There is a waiting room that everyone sits in, made of steel benches, steel bars for walls and usually a bad paint job. One can feel the high level of anxiety in the waiting room. Some are quiet; some look like they are going to faint. Others are loud and act like they are at home again. Likewise, there are always instigators who prey upon the weaker and try to get them upset with others in the crowd. They generally do this for a little excitement to pass the time. If a fight breaks out, the instigators feel they have accomplished something.

A steel barred door opens up and an officer starts to call out the names. Five or six leave at a time. Of those remaining, some look down the hallway and make comments about what they see. Others sit almost in disbelief that they are really in prison. Finally, the inmate’s name is called and for a brief moment, he feels happy to be able to get up and out of that room. Then reality sinks in as he is herded like cattle into a line with five or six other men and told to strip down to nothing. He is told to get into a shower like the ones we had in high school. The prisoner is given lye soap, a very strong soap, with which to bathe. It usually irritates a person’s skin. The inmate is marched into another line to pick up his clothing which he can not wait to put on. Medical shots are next on the agenda. Following the shots, one sits on another steel bench and waits for his bed roll.

Again, the inmate waits for his name to be called at which time he is escorted to the prison living area. As he steps into this area, the immensity of it all is hard to absorb. This truly is a scene out of the prison movies that one remembers while watching TV. People are talking really loud; some are yelling. As he looks up, all he can see is floor after floor of long rows of cells; one of which is his new home. He climbs his first long climb up the

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