• A Sobering Look
|A Sobering Look at Life in Prison
By June Narber
In this modern age, prisons have evolved into the classic place to which the law in any given country, places individuals who have been convicted in a court of law of “breaking the law”. Certain individuals are there for serious crimes such as murder, rape, molesting a child, or armed robbery. Others are there for lesser crimes, but crimes nevertheless, such as drug use, prostitution, theft, check forgery, and so on. Prisoners are often mistreated, subjected to physical violence, and denied the most basic of human rights, the right to worship as he/she believes.
Regardless of the crime committed and the sentence assigned to any given individual, these people are still human beings. It seems that a large part of society has forgotten that. Let me explain what I mean. I hear the phrase, “well, he deserves whatever he gets in prison.” Is this true, does a man (or a woman) deserve whatever “he/she gets” in prison? What are possible scenarios that might happen to an individual in prison?
I will walk you through the lives of three individuals I have had the opportunity to interview and actually visit in their given prison environment.
What acts of violence can happen to someone in prison? Violence against one’s person is always a threat. This includes possibly getting hit, beaten repeated, kicked, thrown up against a wall, or sexual acts of violence. Maybe most of us cannot imagine having sexual advances forced upon our person, but just for a second, imagine you are a 5’8 man of medium built. All of a sudden, a man larger that you, physically forces you to the ground, rips your pants off, and sodomizes your person. The physical implications of this act are bad enough, especially if a gang rape is involved. The psychological implications are even more severe; especially if the individual has always been “straight” and has never fully mentally realized implications of homosexual related “sex acts”. It can traumatize an individual. Such scenarios are not the rarity in prison; they are often the “common daily” threat against men in correctional institutions. Imagine being a young man who had was in prison for repeated drug use, does he “deserve” to be raped and put at risk for a fatal illness like AIDS? Of course not. Violence breeds more violence. Criminals can never be rehabilitated in an environment that forces them to become even more self-defensive and violence prone.
Such Satanic acts of physical violence and homosexuality are uncalled for. No human being should ever have to subjected to a situation where these kinds of acts have risk to occur. In some cases, the threat comes from the very prison guards who are stationed there to protect and guard inmates. It is a horrid situation that would the strongest of character to endure and let alone, to have the grace of God to be spared from such a situation.
The following stories are true. The names of the individuals have been changed to protect their privacy.
Johnny is a prisoner in the country of Thailand. He became convicted of the Sabbath about six years ago. However, only recently has he ventured to observe Sabbath regardless of the consequences. The prison system in Thailand is different from the prison system here in the United States. Prisons are not heated or air conditioned. Prisoners received minimal food and water. They much buy any additional food they need to survive at astronomical prison inflated prices. They must also buy personal toiletries such as soap, shampoo, razors, and even toilet paper. If they do not have someone on the “outside” to bring them supplies in person, the guards sometimes take anything mailed to them and they never receive it. Johnny spent many a hot summer in his Thai prison cell. On some days, he felt like he was going to suffocate because there were no windows or even ventilation in his cellblock. Sometimes he did not even have adequate water to drink. In Thailand, an individual CAN NOT drink the public water because it is so polluted and untreated. Only bottled water and beverages can be consumed. And in prison, such bottled liquids are expensive to come by.
Human rights do not always extend to prisoners, especially in the prison Johnny was being held in. He went long periods of time without access to bathing facilities, suffered dehydration and malnutrition on an ongoing basis. His “lifeline” was the mail he received. In the beginning, Johnny wrote every religious group he could to try to get someone to send him money and supplies so he could “survive” in this prison environment. He admitted to me later during a personal interview that he had not always been sincere. He often lied in letters, professing “Jesus” as his Lord, only to trick Christians to send him things he needed. Later though, as God really began to work with him, he did become convicted of the Sabbath. Upon my first contact with him, I did not believe he was sincere in his faith because of the several comments he made during my visit with him-including one sexually charge comment. After returning to the United States I continued to receive letters from Johnny and over the course of the next two years, I started to see some changes in the way he wrote. He stopped asking for money and supplies and started to talk more about the Bible and the laws of God, including the Sabbath. I have come to believe that he is really committed to the truths of the Bible.
Today, Johnny is still in a Thai prison in the district of Bangkok. He observes Sabbath alone, however he stated in a recent letter to me others in his prison were beginning to understand this truth of God.
Larry is a Sabbath-keeper who has been in and out of prison in the State of Texas.
His crimes include drug use, sales, and possession. He is currently finishing out a six- year term. While Larry was not in prison, he was a practicing Sabbath keeper. Upon his first prison sentence, Larry stopped observing the Sabbath because it was just too miserable of an experience to endure. In the facility he was at, prison guards repeatedly beat anyone professing to be a Christian, and he got a “double portion” of the beatings and other forms of abuse because he was a Sabbath keeper. Larry supposed that the hostility was centered at the Sabbath because of the anti-Jewish atmosphere at this particular prison establishment. Had Larry risked Sabbath observance in prison, it is likely he would not be a live right now. On the other hand, Larry feels empty because he is not doing what his heart has convicted him of. He lacks the emotional support and network of support that is needed to be able to practice religious freedom in prison. What can be done to help Larry? We need to try to change prison laws and make freedom of religion mandatory under all circumstances.
Marcus is a prisoner in the western part of the United States. He was put in prison for first-degree murder. He murdered a man for the pleasure of seeing him bleed to death from the knife-inflicted wound to his chest cavity. Today, Marcus is struggling with homosexuality he developed while in prison after several sexual encounters with men. In addition, he became a practicing wiccan (“witch”) while in prison. Marcus is serving a thirty-year prison sentence. However, in the letters I have read from him, I think there is a chance he will come to know the Messiah. How can I say this? He is HUNGERING after something missing in his life. He has tried just about everything except a relationship with Yahshua (Christ). I have hopes that will continue to ask questions about the truths of God.
As you can see through these three examples, life in prison is hard and (for two of these examples) being a Sabbath observer can be difficult. There are dozens of cases in the states of Oklahoma and Texas of individuals who are standing up “together” to claim their right to religious expression and freedom from working on God’s Holy Sabbath day, Saturday.
While criminals deserve to be punished for the crimes they commit, we cannot accept that basic human rights are taken away from any living soul. I think more laws need to be created to protect the bodies of inmates from sexual and physical violence and laws created and ENFORCED to protect the religious freedom of every woman and man in prison systems.
What can we do to help inmates who have become convicted of the Sabbath?
First of all, we can write them letters. Second, we can pray for them. Third, we can try to network with lawyers and lawmakers to try to ensure the religious freedom of every inmate in the United States. However, I caution about sending money to any prisoner.
There are parasitic individuals who continue their life of crime even while in prison by taking advantage of caring Christian individuals that want to help them. Sending someone clothes or books are one thing, but sending money is down right stupid. My motto is give people what they need, not money that they can spend any way they want.
As followers of the Messiah and as Sabbath keepers, we must witness the truth to every living thing; and this includes loving individuals, and serving them. However, we must be wise stewards of what God has given us and not waste our resources.
I look forward to the day when every prison in the world will be destroyed. God’s just laws will spread across the land and all will obey the will of YHWH. Those who break the law will be punished according to their crimes. Some may be put to a quick death. Our Creator will NOT tolerate the kind of prison environments that exist today, because His ways are just and as the Healer of mankind, he will heal all men and women’s hearts, souls, bodies and minds where the crimes and punishments of this age will become a faded memory. Let’s pray for that day to come soon. In the meantime, let us reach out to those in prison who are seeking to do HIS will.
Copyright © 2010 June Narber, All Rights Reserved.