Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Letter from an inmate in VA

I was an attorney suspended from law practice in Tennessee for misappropriation of client’s funds; I rebuilt my life by moving to Virginia. Disclosing my law license problems, I was hired as a claims adjuster and within 1 year promoted to in-house claims attorney by a large Virginia insurer. Four years after being hired, I began embezzling money to lavish gifts on family and friends. From 1996 through the middle of 2008, I traveled as a high roller (making first-class trips to both the Mirage in Las Vegas and the Borgata in Atlantic City); ate in the finest restaurants and had front row seats at shows with family & friends. However, this world came crashing down in August 2008, when I was confronted by the company president. Immediately confessing, I was arrested, convicted for embezzling over $2 million and indicted on six counts. I was diagnosed with manic impulse control disorder (a form of bi-polar disorder). I pled guilty and made significant attempts to cooperate with authorities and protect my family. However, the wife I loved divorced me; my two sons withdrew from me; friends abandoned me. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison (with only 15 suspended).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Larry, ( Back row 2nd from Left) and his fellow inmates
I read a fascinating essay about a recently launched evangelical campaign called “58”.  It’s built around the words of Isaiah 58:
“You will call, and the Lord will answer,
You will cry, and He will say ‘Here I am’.
If you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.”

As mainline churches see their numbers dwindling, evangelical Christians have found a voice and an enthusiastic following among young people who desire to make a difference, yet see church as full of self-promoting hypocrites.  Poverty, homelessness, you name it can be ended, these 58ers believe, because the power of God is greater than any social problem.
And what of the passage where Jesus remarks “the poor will always be with you?”  He said that to Judas – pre-betrayal knowing Judas was already stealing from the money bags.  It was a sarcastic rebuke.  “Of course the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned, will always be with you.  Because your hearts are closed to doing what God requires.”

I’m turned off right now by the moralism of the church I was raised in and attended every week.  Oh, we said “we’re all God’s children”, we shook hands with strangers when they arrived and did our once a quarter packing bags of food at the local pantry.  But that is touchy-feely stuff.  It’s easy and you do it and head home and say “I care”. 
God requires more.  I’m part of a leper colony.  People, good church going middle class, whites (yes race plays a role) don’t know the first thing about what goes on inside here.  Worse, they don’t care.  I’m here to tell you, God’s children are inside these walls.  They may have done horrendous things, but they are children of God and He expects each of us to be treated with dignity, and respect, and mercy.

A minister friend asked me one day “what can my church do to help the incarcerated?”  I told him what churches typically do.  They come in here and tell you “God loves you; repent”.  There’s singing and hands raised in praise.  Then the inmate is released.  Where’s the church?  Does anyone offer the inmate a bed, a meal, a job?  That’s what “58” means.
There was an old, crazy woman that came to worship at our family’s church.  She was dirty, loud, undignified and didn’t fit in with the well-heeled Presbyterians she came in contact with.  Frankly, she annoyed the hell out of me.  We did a ceremonial handwashing for a Good Friday service one year and she sat beside me.  She reeked and when I washed her hands the water turned brown.  I swore I’d never attend another service like that again.

And then it came to me one evening as I sat in receiving on a sweltering August night.  “You never fed me when I was hungry; you never visited me in prison.”  It was Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25.  As you treat the least of my children, so shall you be treated.
There’s a reason the lepers, and possessed, and filthy, and whores and tax collectors flocked to Jesus and the well-heeled ignored Him.  He carried a message of freedom unlike anything in the world.  God loves you and forgives.  You are free of your sins, and poverty, and self-loathing.  How ironic that such a beautiful empowering message has been lost on so many of us “modern” American Christians.

Isaiah 58 is a call to action and a reminder that God hears.  He will answer.  He tells us all, no matter what our circumstances, that a child of His is in need.  That child may be in a homeless shelter or even a prison.
As James reminds us, faith without works is not really faith.  Read Isaiah 58.  God’s calling us to action.

Larry is the author of this blog post. He sends written copies of his post to a friend  outside prison who posts it for him on Bars and Stripes. He is incarcerated in VA

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick - ex-cons and 2nd chances.

"Former Super Bowl champion Plaxico Burress was released from prison in June 2011 after serving nearly two years on a gun charge." 1

According to an article in
The wideout caught three passes for 66 yards, one being a touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez. The WR played in his first game since 2008, just before he was indicted on felony charges and forced to spend two years in prison.
After more than three years away from the football field, New York Jets’ wide receiver Plaxico Burress has led his team to a 27-7 preseason win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night.
However, Burress said his return to the field came naturally for him.
"It just felt good to get back what I love to do so much,” Burress said. “To be honest, it feels like I never left. The ball hanging up there in the lights, I just trusted myself."
Although Burress did not seem fazed by accomplishing the task at hand, he expressed the excitement he felt for returning.
“It’s a day that myself and my family have been waiting for that would inevitably come,” said Burress. “It just felt good to get back what I love to do so much and that’s run around on a football field and score touchdowns, and compete at the highest level of competition playing in this league. It’s definitely a privilege to play.”

Remember Michael Vick?

 He was given a second chance too. Praise God for his mercy and goodness. Not all men who leave jail, however, are as blessed with stepping back into a lucrative career with many fans.   Most need extra help when they get out. Hope Aglow exists to provide mentoring, a church home and recovery programs to newly released men and women. We know God forgives, heals and restores the years the locust has eaten. We want to be sure those who are released from jail receive a warm welcome and a second chance even if they cannot throw a football for a touchdown in the NFL.

Please support us. Give generously!

God Bless you.

1. source-  blog post from Prison 6/15481

Friday, August 12, 2011

The National Prison Problem

Written by: Garry Sims, Director- Hope Aglow Prison Ministries.

Garry Sims
Do we really want to lower the recidivism rate of our prisons?

     I’m not sure. Why would I say this? Because, we continue in the same mindset that created the mess to start with and I see no signs of change. If we really want to address this problem and it is a huge problem, we must address it from the viewpoint of why the offender is in prison to start with.
This is the overriding issue of why most inmates are not prepared to re-enter or function in society; they were not prepared to do so before entering prison.
     We must understand we don’t have an inmate re-entry problem. What we have is a segment of our society that does not know how to function in society. Therefore it is not possible to address the problem of prisoner re-entry until you address the mental mind set of the men and women we are working with.

      When I started working in the prison system more than twenty five years ago (after spending two and half years in prison myself) we had men and women who had a number of social problems; but today, we have men and women who do not know how to think.

     Someone has told them what to do for most of their lives either welfare case worker, school or mental health social worker or counselor, gang leader, correctional officer, parole or probation officer. Someone has always had direct influence in their everyday decisions. From his or her first day in the Department of Corrections this has only been magnified. Someone tells them when to get up, when to eat, what they will watch on television, when to go outside, I hope you are getting the point.

How can we expect someone to make good decisions when they have never been allowed or taught how to make good decisions? You can’t rehab what you never had
     If all we do is develop a plan get their welfare or SSI check re-started, tell them where the shelter is, or how to get on the next program where someone will tell them what or how to make it until they can get a job as if that will ever come, when it is just easier to continue working the system. This leads to depression and low self-worth which leads to drug and alcohol abuse which leads to the commission of another crime or parole or probation violation which leads to jail and then back to prison.

    We must re-think this whole process in order to have a client who is able to think for themselves.
Romans 12:2 says,  "be ye not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind; that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable, and prefect will of GOD." We must have men and women with transformed minds.

     Now the real question is what is our intent? Is it to help ex-offenders work the government and social programs better or make a real difference in the lives of ex-offenders and their families?If it is to better work the system we are doomed from the start. If it is to have a positive effect on the men and women who are in the prison system by helping them develop a new positive mindset then we will be successful.

Most inmates have been a drain on the social welfare and court systems for all of their lives. They believe they are failures. Changing their mental outlook while they are in the prison system is the only way to have a positive effect on the recidivism rate.
     As a society we must be willing to at least look at the way we conduct and think of our prisons system.
This will in turn save millions of your tax dollars, which is the only reason we are looking at this problem anyway. If we truly cared about the men and women in the prison system we would have done something about this problem years ago before we spent billions of our tax dollars building new prisons which we are closing.

Is anything going to change? I pray so but I am not sure anyone is willing to take to risk of going outside the norm.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

and sometimes you end up here

Incarcerated women have great wisdom. The women I have the privilege of studying the Bible with, teach me something every time we meet together. Last Sunday I read them a sermon entitled, My Heart- Christ's Home, by Robert Boyd Munger, and we talked about what obedience to Christ looked like to them.

We studied from Colossians, learning about who Christ is and what He means to each Christian and the practical results of that relationship. The ladies love to read aloud from their Bibles and they are very patient with each other if one of them has trouble reading. They treat each other with tenderness and respect. It's very endearing.

We talked about the consequences of life's choices.  They always speak very matter of factly about their own lives. They are quick to point out that while they knew better, there they are- sitting in jail. They don't seem bitter at all, in fact, surprisingly they seem thankful and accept this as a wake up call from the Lord.

In case you aren't familiar with it, I have posted the sermon in it's entirety below this post.
In Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, we find these words: "That [God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph 3:16). Or, as another has translated, "that Christ may settle down and be at home in your hearts by faith."
Without question, one of the most remarkable Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ himself through the presence of the Holy Spirit will actually enter a heart, settle down and be at home there. Christ will make the human heart his abode.
Our Lord said to his disciples, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). It was difficult for them to understand what he was saying. How was it possible for him to make his abode with them in this sense?
It is interesting that our Lord used the same word here that he gave them in the first of the 14th chapter of John: "I go to prepare a place for you...that where I am, you may be also." Our Lord was promising his disciples that, just as he was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and would welcome them one day, now it would be possible for them to prepare a place for him in their hearts and he would come and make his abode with them.
They could not understand this. How could it be?
Then came Pentecost. The Spirit of the living Christ was given to the church and they understood. God did not dwell in Herod's temple in Jerusalem! God did not dwell in a temple made with hands; but now, through the miracle of the outpoured Spirit, God would dwell in human hearts. The body of the believer would be the temple of the living God and the human heart would be the home of Jesus Christ. It is difficult for me to think of a higher privilege than to make for Christ a home in my heart, to welcome, to serve. to please, to fellowship with him there. One evening that I shall never forget, I invited him into my heart. What an entrance he made! It was not a spectacular emotional thing, but very real. It was at the very center of my life. He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light. He built a fire in the cold hearth and banished the chill. He started music where there had been stillness and he filled the emptiness with his own wonderful loving fellowship. I have never regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will-- not into eternity!
This, of course, is the first step in making the heart Christ's home. He has said, "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). If you are interested in making your life an abode of the living God, let me encourage you to invite Christ into your heart and he will surely come.
After Christ entered my heart and in the joy of that new-found relationship, I said to him, "Lord, I want this heart of mine to be yours. I want to have you settle down here and be perfectly at home. Everything I have belongs to you. Let me show you around and introduce you to the various features of the home that you may be more comfortable and that we may have fuller fellowship together." He was very glad to come, of course, and happier still to be given a place in the heart.
The first room was the study -- the library. Let us call it the study of the mind. Now in my home this room of the mind is a very small room with very thick walls. But it is an important room. In a sense, it is the control room of the house. He entered with me and looked around at the books in the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the wall. As I followed his gaze I became uncomfortable. Strangely enough, I had not felt badly about this before, but now that he was there looking at these things I was embarrassed. There were some books there that his eyes were too pure to behold. There was a lot of trash and literature on the table that a Christian had no business reading and as for the pictures on the wall -- the imaginations and thoughts of the mind-- these were shameful.
I turned to him and said, "Master, I know that this room needs a radical alteration. Will you help me make it what it ought to be-- to bring every thought into captivity to you?"
"Surely!" he said. "Gladly will I help you. That is one reason I am here. First of all, take all the things that you are reading and seeing which are not helpful, pure, good and true, and throw them out! Now put on the empty shelves the books of the Bible. Fill the library with scriptures and meditate on them day and night. As for the pictures on the wall, you will have difficulty controlling these images, but here is an aid." He gave me a full sized picture of himself. "Hang this centrally," he said, "on the wall of the mind." I did and I have discovered through the years that when my thoughts are centered upon Christ himself, his purity and power cause impure imaginations to retreat. So he has helped me to bring my thoughts into captivity.
May I suggest to you if you have difficulty in this little room of the mind, that you bring Christ in there. Pack it full with the Word of God, meditate upon it and keep before it ever the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus.
From the study we went to the dining room, the room of appetites and desires. Now this was a very large room. I spent a good deal of time in the dining room and much effort in satisfying my wants.
I said to him, "This is a very commodious room and I am quite sure you will be pleased with what we serve here."
He seated himself at the table with me and asked, "What is on the menu for dinner?"
"Well," I said, "my favorite dishes: old bones, corn husks, sour cabbage, leeks, onions and garlic right out of Egypt." There were the things I liked -- worldly fare. I suppose there was nothing radically wrong in any particular item, but it was not the food that should satisfy the life of a real Christian. When the food was placed before him, he said nothing about it. However, I observed that he did not eat it, and I said to him, somewhat disturbed, "Savior, you don't care for the food that is placed before you? What is the trouble?"
He answered, "I have meat to eat that you know not of. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me." He looked at me again and said, "if you want food that really satisfies you, seek the will of the Father, not your own pleasures, not your own desires, not your own satisfaction. Seek to please me, and that food will satisfy you." And there about the table he gave me a taste of doing God's will. What a flavor! There is no food like it in all the world. It alone satisfies. Everything else is dissatisfying in the end.
Now if Christ is in your heart, and I trust he is, what kind of food are you serving him and what kind of food are you eating yourself? Are you living for the lust of the flesh and the pride of life-- selfishly? Or are you choosing God's will for your meat and drink?
We walked next into the drawing room. This room was rather intimate and comfortable. I liked it. It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase, sofa and a quiet atmosphere.
He also seemed pleased with it. He said, "This is indeed a delightful room. Let us come here often. It is secluded and quiet and we can have fellowship together."
Well, naturally, as a young Christian I was thrilled. I could not think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes apart with Christ in intimate comradeship.
He promised, "I will be here every morning early. Meet with me here and we will start the day together." So, morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the drawing room and he would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase. He would open it and then we would read together. He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truth. He would make my heart warm as he revealed his love and grace towards me. They were wonderful hours together. In fact, we called the dining room the "withdrawing room." It was a period when we had our quiet time together.
But little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened. Why, I don't know, but I thought I was just too busy to spend time with Christ. This was not intentional, you understand; it just happened that way. Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss a day now and then. It was examination time at the university. Then it was some other urgent emergency. I would miss it two days in a row and often more.
I remember one morning when I was in a hurry, rushing down the steps, eager to be on my way.
As I passed the drawing room, the door was ajar. Looking in I saw a fire in the fireplace and the Lord sitting there. Suddenly in dismay, I thought to myself, "He was my guest. I had invited him into my heart! He had come as Lord of my home. And yet here I am neglecting him." I turned and went in. With downcast glance I said, "Blessed Master, forgive me. Have you been here all these mornings?"
"Yes," he said, "I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you." Then I was even more ashamed. He had been faithful in spite of my faithlessness. I asked his forgiveness and he readily forgave me as he does when we are truly penitent.
He said, "The trouble with you is this: You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to me also. Remember, I love you. I have redeemed you at a great cost. I desire your fellowship. Now," he said, "do not neglect this hour if only for my sake. Whatever else may be your desire, remember I want your fellowship!"
You know, the truth that Christ wants my fellowship, that he loves me, wants me to be with him, wants to be with me and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact. Don't let Christ wait alone in the drawing room of your heart, but every day find some time when, with the Word of God and in prayer, you may fellowship with him.
Before long he asked, "Do you have a workshop in your home?" Down in the basement of the home of my heart I had a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much with it. Once in a while I would go down and fuss around with a few little gadgets, but I wasn't producing anything worthwhile.
I led him down there.
He looked over the workbench and what little talents and skills I had. He said, "This is quite well furnished. What are you producing with your life for the Kingdom of God?" He looked at one or two of the little toys that I had thrown together on the bench and he held one up to me. "Are these little toys all that you are producing in your Christian life?"
"Well," I said, "Lord, that is the best I can do. I know it isn't much and I really want to do more, but after all, I have no skill or strength."
"Would you like to do better?" he asked.
"Certainly," I replied.
"All right. Let me have your hands. Now relax in me and let my Spirit work through you. I know you are unskilled and clumsy and awkward, but the Spirit is the Master-worker and if he controls your hands and your heart he will work through you." And so, stepping around behind me and putting his great, strong hands over mine, controlling the tools with his skillful fingers, he began to work through me.
There's much more that I must still learn and I am very far from satisfied with the product that is being turned out, but I do know that whatever has been produced for God has been through his strong hand and through the power of his Spirit in me.
Do not become discouraged because you cannot do much for God. Your ability is not the fundamental condition. It is he who is controlling your fingers and upon whom you are relying. Give your talents and gifts to God and he will do things with them that will surprise you.
I remember the time he inquired about the playroom. I was hoping he would not ask me about that. There were certain associations and friendships, activities and amusements that I wanted to keep for myself. I did not think Christ would enjoy them or approve of them so I evaded the question.
But there came an evening when I was leaving to join some companions -- I was in college at the time -- and as I was about to cross the threshold, he stopped me with a glance. "Are you going out?"
I answered, "Yes."
"Good," he said, "I would like to go with you."
"Oh," I replied rather awkwardly. "I don't think, Lord, that you would really want to go with us. Let's go out tomorrow night. Tomorrow night we will go to prayer meeting, but tonight I have another appointment."
He said, "that's all right. Only I thought when I came into your home we were going to do everything together. We were going to be partners. I want you to know that I am willing to go with you."
"Well," I said, "we will go some place together tomorrow night."
But that evening I spent some miserable hours. I felt wretched. What kind of friend was I to Christ, When I was deliberately leaving him out of my associations, doing things and going places that I knew very well he would not enjoy? When I returned that evening, there was a light in his room and I went up to talk it over with him. I said, "Lord, I have learned my lesson. I cannot have a good time without you. We will do everything together from now on."
Then we went down into the rumpus room of the house and he transformed it. He brought into life real joy, real happiness, real satisfaction, real friendship. Laughter and music have been ringing in the house ever since.
There is just one more matter that I might share with you. One day I found him waiting for me at the door. There was an arresting look in his eye. He said to me as I entered, "There is a peculiar odor in the house. There is something dead around here. It's upstairs. I think it is in the hall closet." As soon as he said the words, I knew what he was talking about. Yes, there was a small hall closet behind lock and key I had one or two little personal things that I did not want anybody to know about and certainly I did not want Christ to see. I knew they were dead and rotting things. And yet I loved them, and I wanted them so for myself that I was afraid to admit they were there. I went up the stairs with him and as we mounted, the odor became stronger and stronger. He pointed at the door and said, "It's in there! Some dead thing!"
I was angry. That's the only way I can put it. I had given him access to the library, the dining room, the drawing room, the workshop, the rumpus room, and now he was asking me about a little two-by-four closet. I said inwardly, "This is too much. I am not going to give him the key."
"Well," he said, reading my thoughts, "if you think I am going to stay up here on the second floor with this odor, you are mistaken. I will take my bed out on the back porch. I'm certainly not going to put up with that." And I saw him start down the stairs.
When you have come to know and love Christ, the worst thing that can happen to you is to sense his fellowship retreating from you. I had to surrender. "I'll give you the key," I said sadly, "but you'll have to open the closet. You'll have to clean it out. I haven't the strength to do it."
"I know," he said. "I know you haven't. Just give me the key. Just authorize me to take care of that closet and I will." So, with trembling fingers I passed the key over to him. He took it from my hand, walked over to the door, opened it, entered it, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting there and threw it away. Then he cleansed the closet, painted it, fixed it up, doing it all in a moment's time. Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!
Then a thought came to me. I said to myself, "I have been trying to keep this heart of mine clear for Christ. I start on one room and no sooner have I cleaned that then another room is dirty. I begin on the second room and the first room becomes dusty again. I am so tired and weary trying to maintain a clean heart and an obedient life. I just am not up to it!" So I ventured a question: "Lord, is there any chance that you would take over the responsibility of the whole house and operate it for me and with me just as you did that closet? Would you take the responsibility to keep my heart what it ought to be and my life where it ought to be?"
I could see his face lighten up as he replied, "Certainly, that is what I came to do. You can not be a victorious Christian in your own strength. That is impossible. Let me do it through you and for you. That is the way. But," he added slowly, "I am not owner of this house. I am just a guest. I have no authority to proceed since the property is not mine."
I saw it in a minute and dropping to my knees, I said, "Lord, you have been a guest, and I have been the host. From now on I am going to be the servant. You are going to be the Lord." Running as fast as I could to the strong box, I took out the title deed to the house describing its assets and liabilities, its situation and condition. Then returning to him, I eagerly signed it over to belong to him alone for time and eternity. "Here," I said, "here it is, all that I am and have forever. Now you run the house. I'll just remain with you as houseboy and friend."
He took my life that day and I can give you my word, there is no better way to live the Christian life. He knows how to keep it in shape and deep peace settles down on the soul. May Christ settle down and be at home in your heart as Lord of all. *

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What happens in prison changes our community. Changed hearts = changed lives!

God Behind Bars intends to introduce prisoners to God's life-changing principles, thereby helping them turn their broken road of failure into a solid pathway of personal success.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"The Lord sets the prisoners free;..." Psalm 146

 I have never served time. My perspective on prison ministry is not from the inside. When I walk into jail on Sunday, I get to walk out and go wherever I want. I am not bound by parole or probation.

The women with whom I have had the honor to share Christ while they are in jail do not have that luxury. Of the twenty or so women I have met with regularly, five have been released; two of those are out on bond. The other three served all of their time and are now on parole, which is still a tether to the jail.

To be imprisoned is a humbling, terrifying and life changing experience. I base this statement on my relationship with the women who are there, and my friendship with our Director at Hope Aglow, Garry Sims who served time in Draper prison in Alabama.  Our founder Ed Martin, served hard time on a chain gang in Tazewell, VA. Hope Aglow was built on the reality of Christ's call to "remember the prisoner as though you were there", a passage found in Hebrews 13.

What does the Bible have to say about prison and prisoners?

"The earliest occurrence of the word "prison" in the King James Version is found in the narrative of Joseph's life in Egypt. The term used, namely, cohar, means perhaps "round house" or "tower." It seems probable that among the Hebrews there were no special buildings erected as "jails" in the premonarchical period, and perhaps not before the post-exilic period, when the adoption of the civic institutions and customs of surrounding nations prevailed. In Egypt and Assyria, on the contrary, there were probably public buildings corresponding to our modern jails. Among the Hebrews, rooms in connection with the royal palace or the residence of prominent court officials would be used for the purpose. 1

 In the New Testament "prison" generally occurs for the Greek word phulake, which corresponds to the Hebrew word mishmar, - translated " prison" in the following verse-

"Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Matt 5:25
 In one passage "ward" is the rendering in the King James Version (Acts 12:10). In connection with the imprisonment of John the term used is desmoterion, "place of bonds" or "fetters" (Mt 11:2); the same word is used in the case of Peter and John (Acts 5:21,23), and of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:26). But the more common term is also found in these narratives. In Acts 12:17 "prison" renders a Greek word which means "dwelling." In Acts 5:18 the King James Version, "prison" is the rendering for another Greek word, namely, teresis, "watching" or "ward"  In Acts 4:3, the King James Version employs "hold" as the rendering for the same word. This would correspond to the modern "police station" or "lockup." 1

 The word prison is found in the Bible 175 times, the word prisoner is found 118.

Here is an in depth study from, a wonderful resource for word study.


  • Antiquity of.
    Genesis 39:20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.


    • State.
      Jeremiah 37:21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
      Genesis 39:20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

    • Common.
      Acts 5:18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

  • Dungeons attached to.
    Jeremiah 38:6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.
    Zechariah 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.

  • Were under the care of a keeper.
    Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.


    • Persons accused of crimes.
      Luke 23:19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)

    • Persons accused of heresy.
      Acts 4:3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
      Acts 5:18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
      Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

    • Suspected persons.
      Genesis 42:19 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:

    • Condemned criminals till executed.
      Leviticus 24:12 And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.
      Acts 12:4-5 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

    • Enemies taken captive.
      Judges 16:21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
      2 Kings 17:4 And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison.
      Jeremiah 52:11 Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.

    • Debtors till they paid.
      Matthew 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
      Matthew 18:30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

    • Persons under the king's displeasure.
      1 Kings 22:27 And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.
      2 Chronicles 16:10 Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.
      Mark 6:17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.

  • Confinement in, often awarded as a punishment.
    Ezra 7:26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.

  • Confinement in, considered a severe punishment.
    Luke 22:33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.


    • Court of the king's house.
      Jeremiah 32:2 For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house.

    • House of the king's scribe.
      Jeremiah 37:15 Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.

    • House of the captain of the guard.
      Genesis 40:3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.

    • Prisoner's own house, where he was kept bound to a soldier.
      Acts 28:16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
      Acts 28:30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
      2 Timothy 1:16-18 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

  • The king had power to commit to.
    1 Kings 22:27 And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.

  • Magistrates had power to commit to.
    Matthew 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.


    • Said to be in ward.
      Leviticus 24:12 And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.

    • Said to be in hold.
      Acts 4:3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

    • Often placed in dungeons.
      Jeremiah 39:6 Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.
      Acts 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

    • Often bound with fetters.
      Genesis 42:19 If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses:
      Ezekiel 19:9 And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.
      Mark 6:17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.

    • Often chained to two soldiers.
      Acts 12:6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

    • Often fastened in stocks.
      Jeremiah 29:26 The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.
      Acts 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

    • Often kept to hard labor.
      Judges 16:21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

    • Often subjected to extreme suffering.
      Psalms 79:11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die;
      Psalms 102:20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;
      Psalms 105:18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:

    • Fed on bread and water.
      1 Kings 22:27 And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.

    • Clothed in prison dress.
      2 Kings 25:29 And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.

    • Sometimes allowed to be visited by their friends.
      Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
      Matthew 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
      Acts 24:23 And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

    • Might have their condition ameliorated by the king.
      Jeremiah 37:20-21 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there. Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

    • Often executed in.
      Genesis 40:22 But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.
      Matthew 14:10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

  • The king had power to release from.
    Genesis 40:21 And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand:

  • Magistrates had power to release from.
    Acts 16:35-36 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.


    • Strictly guarded the doors.
      Acts 12:6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

    • Responsible for the prisoners.
      Acts 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
      Acts 16:27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

    • Put to death if prisoners escaped.
      Acts 12:19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.

    • Often used severity.
      Jeremiah 37:16 When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;
      Jeremiah 37:20 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.

    • Sometimes acted kindly.
      Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
      Acts 16:33-34 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

    • Sometimes entrusted the care of the prison to well-conducted prisoners.
      Genesis 39:22-23 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.


    • Deep afflictions.
      Psalms 142:7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

    • Hell.
      Revelation 20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

    • Bondage to sin and Satan.
      Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
      Isaiah 49:9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
      Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

What are we called to do?   Care about people who have made some bad mistakes and are being punished very harshly for it.  They know they have messed up, but they are human beings that Christ died for and that gives them infinite value, worth and dignity. Care enough to support your church's local ministry to jails and prisons. Consider volunteering, contact us for more information on how to start a prison ministry.

Remember those in prison as though you were there with them.  Heb 13- If you won't go, send us. We will take a Bible and share Christ. Pray for us.