A VOLUNTEER'S STORY
So many sad eyes. Such drawn faces. A room where all hope is sucked from its very pores. A room devoid of color with drawn blinds and a sign reminding: "INMATES: It is a jail violation to touch the blinds!" But when we push open the heavy metal door those same faces brighten with joy as my Hope Again co-facilitators and I walk into the room for our weekly time together.
We're not allowed to hug, but Mary* grabs my hand and says, "Miss Vickie, I have a grand jury appearance tomorrow. I'm so scared I'll be indicted. Will you pray for me?"
Lorie doesn't ask for any prayers for herself but rather for her children. "They don't understand why I'm gone, and I don't know what to tell them. My two-year-old was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My mom says he cries himself to sleep every night. How do I explain why I'm in jail and can't be there to give him his four daily shots?"
From Mackenzie: I'll only be here another couple of weeks, Miss Vickie. I was indicted yesterday. 10 years in state prison. I know I deserve it but I'm so afraid."
"I got your letter yesterday. Will you please write me again? You don't know how much it means to hear my name at mail call. Actually, you're the only one who writes me," says Lisa.
Lacy is on her third time in jail; but she says, "I think I finally get it this time. I'm determined to conquer my demon while I'm inside. But when I get back out into the free world.....well, I don't have anywhere to go. And all my friends are as bad off as I am. Miss Vickie, what should I do? Where do I go?"
Twenty-two-year-old Amanda knows she will lose her three children to CPS if she's not released, lands a job and rents an apartment within the next two months. But most apartments don't rent to ex-offenders, and those who do are populated with drug dealers and users -- the very people who must be avoided by an ex-user. Hardly a place for young children. And how many employers will hire an ex-felon and pay them a livable wage?
And from Heather: "If I can help one other woman to avoid losing her children, the last 15 years will have been worth the hell I've lived and the hell I've put my kids and family through." Heather is only 30.
These are but a few of the heartaches we hear each week in the Edgecombe County Detention Center. Most of society considers these people throw-aways, people who get what they deserve. We consider them our friends, men and women who made bad choices for which they pay dearly. When a mind and body gets clean and sober, reality sets in and mistakes haunt the long days and even longer nights. You see, it's never quiet in jail. Sleep is disrupted with the constant babble in the pod. Tension is thick and mayhem is just a wrong look away.
Some of these people have walked with the Lord at various times in life but have taken wrong turns and deceptive paths. Others have come to hear of Jesus and His grace and forgiveness for the first time since being incarcerated. When we hear someone say, "it's been worth it to me to be locked up so I could meet Jesus," our hearts are humbled and blessed. For those of us who serve in prison or jail ministry, it's not uncommon to be asked: "Why would anyone want to do that?" But our reply is: "How can we not?"
And the needs don't stop when a prisoner is released. The needs have only just begun. You can make a difference in an inmate's and ex-inmate's life, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me.'
Volunteer, November 2012
*All names have been changed.
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