Sunday, May 25, 2014

Set the Captive Free

Years ago I worked among a population that were kept inside a fence, separated from the rest of the world.  My job was to carry a loaded 12 gauge shotgun or AR 15 semi automatic rifle and make sure everyone stayed all snug and tight within the fence.  I was a Correctional Officer at two different facilities, one that housed high medium/max security men and another that was not only an intake processing facility for women but also a drug treatment facility and max security.

While working within the men's facility, I spent half of my shift on the ground walking and working in housing units or even the chow hall.  The other half I spent on the fence row in a tower, loaded weapon ready in case someone had the bright idea to hit the fence, and also keeping an eye out for some who may try to aid an inmate from the outside.   Most of the time, due to my youthful age and position waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down on the seniority ladder, I spent my ground time in "the hole", also known as the jail within the prison.

"The Hole", so infamously depicted in movies, is the place where those who choose not to follow rules within the confinement they're already in, get to go and have some alone time.  All movement is highly controlled.  The entire facility can be put on shut down if some one from the "hole" is moved from the building to another building, in order to protect him or her.  He or she is confined to a tiny 6x8 cell with the absolute bare minimums for needs.  To simply take a shower, go to or from the cell, or any kind of movement, he or she places their hands through a door within the door (a chuckhole), cuffs placed on them, and then the door opened.  Showers are monitored, clothing and toiletries are state issued and very bland and definitely not "new".  Meals are brought 3 times a day on a cart and officers like myself delivered each meal and picked up all trays.

In the men's facility, the "hole" was 2 tiered, with a fenced catwalk that overlooked the floor below.  It was noisy, with the slightest sound echoing through the entire hall.  The keys were old fashioned Folger's keys (see picture at the top of the page) and the locks were so worn you could open them with a ball point pen.  The heating was poor in the winter, and there was no air conditioning in the summer.  The ventilation lacked seriously.  It was like a scene out of Shawshank Redemption or other prison movies set in old styled facilities.  Summers were stifling inside the "hole", and honestly, the rest of the facility, due to the outdated ventilation and no air conditioning, along side tight quarters.  Bugs were rampant, as were mice and rats, skunks along the fences, and even a few deer.  It wasn't paradise to say the least.

At the women's facility, it was more "cush".   There was sufficient heating and air conditioning, sufficient space for the amount of people housed, pests weren't a problem, and everything was on one level.  The "hole" wasn't nearly as violent nor stifling, although similar practices were used for movement.  It was a much newer facility, borne from need due to flooding in Jefferson City that overtook a facility there.  At this facility, I was a "yard dog", meaning I worked the yard escorting people during closed movement times, assisting in secured counts, conducting random UA's, and also did roving patrol outside the fences as well as inside the fence checking the alarms.  The inside was nice, the outside was in a swampy area, and during the hot steamy summer months my uniform, though blue and black, was constantly brown in being covered with mosquitos.

During the times I worked in the facilities, I wasn't saved.  I was more against God, all for the pleasures of the flesh in various forms, and had a love for drink.  The things I saw in the facilities, the things I heard, they wouldn't leave my mind when it was time for me to leave the post.  So I spent off days drinking and partying and doing other things.  Nothing illegal, but not very smart either.

I was just as captive as the people inside those fences.  Sure, I could walk out the gates at the end of shift, but I was still a captive.  I could go home to my nice house, do as I pleased, but I wasn't free.

My sin held me captive.  I didn't realize it then, but I was in my own prison.

One of my many job functions within the women's prison was to process out those who were leaving on parole.  I made sure paperwork was in order for my Sargent , and had to do strip searches (yeah, ewww) on all out going inmates.  I then walked them to the edge where the gate then opened for them, and then escorted them to their awaiting ride to where ever they were going to.  To each one, I'd say, "you're a good woman, you have a chance at a new life, don't come back to see us."  And then she'd leave.

I don't know how many inside those fences knew the Lord, and at the time I couldn't have cared less.  I saw everything religious in nature as "jail house religion", a way of looking good in the eyes of the parole board and getting an early release.  I didn't believe it when an inmate would tell me about Jesus.  I mean, that was an inmate doing hard time, why should I believe them when I've been trained not to believe anything I'm told and to listen with a strong filter to detect gang activities and anything else that could be used to hurt folks?  I didn't know it then, I didn't see the true believers who were walking inside the fences.  Why?  They wore a different uniform than I.  They were the inmate, they were the "captive", I was their supervisor and more or less trained to treat them like herding cattle.

Those couple of years working inside hard core places changed my world.  I came out harder, tougher, more black and white on things.  I also believed then after seeing what all I'd seen and heard and dealt with, that if there was a God, then He wasn't in those facilities.  I mean, I even worked with 2 pastors who had congregations outside the fence, and if they wouldn't even talk about God inside, then there definitely wasn't a God.

The inmates in the facilities at some point in time will be released, either by going 12/12 (serving entire time), parole, or death.  Some have been set free by Jesus Christ while inside the fence.  Caring pastors go inside the gates and work with them, if the inmate chooses, and tries to bring hope and light to a very dark place.  Saved inmates spread the Gospel to others, and ministries are born.

It took me another handful of years to be set free after I left working in the prison system.  It took a while for me to see that I was just as guilty as the inmates were, that I deserved punishment, and that I couldn't pay for the sins I'd done.  Only Jesus could, and did....

And in 2003, this captive was set free!

Shared at:  The Modest Mom

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1 comment:

  1. Very interesting testimony! Thanks for sharing ! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia


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