A Forgotten Ministry

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them;and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Hebrews 13:3

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A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article about a new book that was released, Black is the Day, Black is the Night by Amy Elkins.

This article fascinated me. Amy Elkins corresponded with five male inmates on death row, which lead to her book of remarkable photographs. She expresses their story in an artistic way.

I have been studying about solitary confinement and prison life for awhile now.

Our entire prison and justice system baffles and troubles me. I have a burden for those who are incarcerated.

Those who have been locked up, forgotten about by family and so-called friends as if they no longer exist.

Let me share an excerpt by Amy Elkins:

“A system that uses long-term solitary confinement and capital punishment is broken. Housing someone in infinite isolation has been proven to be hugely damaging to one’s psychological and physical state. This type of isolation breeds behavioral and emotional imbalances that are bound to cause most to remain in a perpetual state of anxiety, depression and anger. Which means they are set up for failure. There is absolutely no way to rehabilitate in such conditions.  But clearly rehabilitation isn’t what they have in mind.

I have written with one man in particular who has served 20 years in solitary confinement as part of a Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentence for a non-murder related crime he committed aged 16. He has written about going years talking through concrete walls without ever seeing the men he holds daily conversations with. He spends nearly 23 hours a day in a small cell by himself and when he is let out, he is shackled and permitted to exercise in a slightly larger room by himself for an hour. How he’s gone 20 years in these conditions and not gone completely mad is mind blowing.”

I have been writing to inmates off and on now for years. You have no idea how happy it makes them to receive letters.

While sitting in their 6 x 9 to 8 x 10 feet cell, day in and day out, for 22 or 23 hours a day, with no hope of physical contact with anyone other than a correctional officer.

They describe solitary confinement or death row as hell on earth.

You may be thinking, these prisoners are criminals, they deserve what they get. They took a life or whatever, so they need to pay for what they did.

But think about it, how will they ever rehabilitate in a barbaric system like solitary confinement or capital punishment?

The system is flawed.

The Bible admonishes us not to forget about those who are in prison.

Perhaps you don’t want to visit a prison. That is understandable. It’s not for everyone.

But, if you have a burden, you could write to an inmate or two.

Some churches even have a prison ministry. If you a part of or member of a church, you may be able to get involved in their pen pal ministry.

If not, you can do it on your own; just Google inmate pen pal sites and choose an inmate to write to.

It’s best to write to the same sex, however, you may discover you identify and have a burden for someone of the opposite sex.

It is important to be clear about your position and intention in your first letter to them, so they know where you stand. Setting boundaries from the beginning is vital.

They will respect your wishes because all they desire is to be able to communicate with someone, anyone.

Believe it or not, the majority do not receive letters from anyone.

If you are concerned about your safety or of your family, you can always use an alias and rent a P.O. Box.

I highly suggest only using a P.O. Box.

If you are going to begin writing to an inmate, the most important thing to remember is consistency is key.

If you believe you won’t be able to be consistent for whatever reason, it is best not to start.

The reason why I say this, is because it will only result in another let down and disappointment for them.

They are already at a loss and suffer from hopelessness.

The only thing they look forward to is receiving letters.

If you decide to start, please make sure you can stick with it.

Writing to those in prison is a forgotten ministry, but is one of the best ways to demonstrate God’s love in action.

Is this something you would be interested in doing? Do you have any questions or concerns? If so, please comment below.

 

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  • Davey Jones

    Such a great topic! Michelle Alexander authored a book (The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness) in which talks about the exclusion of “convicts” from society, especially those persons of color. I concur that writing to an inmate would be a major ministry if it serves to convey to those people a sense of belonging.

    • http://www.ordinaryservant.com/ Pilar Arsenec

      Sounds like an interesting book. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. :)