I spend my day with convicted felons, I do this because I work in a state prison. I am a Correctional Officer (that is the p.c. term for prison guard.)
I don’t write too much about my job, although there is much I could say about where I work… about prison. It is a different place. It is a place where I spend my day among men who have committed crimes against the people of our communities. I have interacted with men whose crimes drew media attention and I have interacted with men whose crimes went pretty much un-noticed by society at large. I have interacted with men who are on death row, and I have interacted with men who are serving lengthy sentences, and I have interacted with men who only have a couple of years to serve.
In my time of working at the prison I have run the gamet of responding to inmate fights, working while the prison is on lockdown, sitting outside the cell of an inmate on suicide watch, observing as inmates spend time with their family and friends in the visiting room and I have even had to testify in court at a murder trial–all this along with working in the day to day life of a prison.
I have also witnessed some moments that were flowers amidst the concrete of prison, here are three short stories:
—I was working in our Inmate Activity Center (which houses the Inmate gym, library, music room, and legal library.) I watched as an inmate carried a guitar that he owned into the Activity Center… as is policy I searched the Inmate and the guitar case, as was good and in he went. A few minutes later he returned to the same spot to leave, only this time he did not have the guitar. I asked him where his guitar was. “I sold it” he told me. Thinking he sold it to another inmate (a forbidden activity) I jokingly asked him “I hope you got a good price for it.”
He then shared with me that his Mother was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. As her son he wanted to help his Mom out, and so through the music program he found a way to sell his guitar so that he could send his Mom some money.
This made an impact on me as I imagined how that this guitar kept him occupied in his cell, helping him to fill his time… he had made a sacrifice– a sacrifice for his Mom.
—A young man became a Christian while in prison. I remember him telling me that he was going to get baptised.
In a later conversation I remember him telling me his thots about his sentence of being in prison. His words were not about getting released, or finding a way via the courts to get out of prison… his told me “I took two lives, I deserve to have lost mine.”
I recall the time that I saw him turn in the required form that allowed him to have funds taken from his account. This money taken from his account was to go to a local church in our town; the church that the volunteer Chaplain who spent time with this inmate was from. What impressed me about this action of his is that I know inmate jobs do not pay much. To watch him take money and send it to a local church, a church he will never enter, made me think of the story of the Widow’s Mite.
“Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18b
This young man’s actions reflect the work going on in his heart and soul.
—I think of this past week… An inmate that I have known for a while told me that he recieved a letter from his son. A son he has not talked to in 25 years. He shared with me that his son wrote: “I think we should get to know each other.”
There is a lot of negative in prison — but if a person is willing to look, they can find a flower or two. But then that can be said for the world around us… whether at work, in our community, in our home.