Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I went to jail

"In jail, everyone cries at night."

I always cry when I go.  It's wrenching- listening to the stories of these women. They are so humbled by their circumstances. They sit with me at a few tables pushed together in a small, echoey, cinder block room. They all wear baggy, bright orange canvas jumpsuits. They have no makeup, no fancy hairstyles, they aren't allowed a hairdryer, just a comb. One lady Melissa, who is about 35 and the  mother of a high school age daughter, tells us all, "Your life is pretty much at a bad place if you are sitting in here."  She says, "We all know everything we have tried isn't working."

They have no pretenses, they can wear no masks. They are citizens of a new country, one called Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority. It's in large block letters on the back of their jumpsuits; a constant reminder that this is no hotel or summer camp.  Although, not even your worst summer camp experience can begin to touch the awfulness that is incarceration.

I ask them how they cope? Every woman in there looks at their Bible, and two of them pick theirs up. They all say "God."

Their only view of outside. The height from the floor to ceiling is about 30'

 I see them for about an hour and a half on Sunday afternoons. We always chat a little, then we sing. The last two times I have been, a dear sister incarcerated there named Dee has sung for us. She has a beautiful voice. The first time I heard her I just cried! I couldn't help myself.  Her soulful voice reverberated all around us and straight into my heart. I have learned that no instruments are necessary when you are desperate for the Holy Spirit to be there. He brings his own accompaniment.

Dee is a beautiful canary in an ugly cage and God is using her in a mighty way. She is reaching out to the other women there in the jail.  She is a strong believer, our sister, who made one very bad decision. She understands what brought her to this place and she never wants to come back.  Pray for her. She is hoping to be released very soon.

All the windows are bricked up. There is a very small slit at the top.

Our sisters in jail need your prayers. It's so difficult to be there. They are cut off from their family, helpless to comfort their children who miss them, voiceless to explain to their teens how sorry they are, and unable to soothe them when they are angry because Mama wasn't there for Christmas, or their birthday, or high school graduation.

For the most part their life is a wreck. They can't pay their bills, they can't help their parents or husband in any way. They can't go to the funeral of their own mother without wearing handcuffs and shackles and the orange jail clothes. They are escorted by a policeman and that's if they let you out. You can't have broken any rules to be allowed out of jail even for the funeral of your own mother.

They have broken the law and they have hurt people, but they are hurting too. They are crying out to God. Jesus tells us to remember them, to care for them as if we were there. I have been there, it's not a place where you feel cared for. I get to leave, they have to stay for years.

Time is no friend.

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