Over the course of time, I decided I felt called to try to share my faith with someone on death row. I began corresponding with one inmate, and over time I began writing to several others in several different states. I’m not under any illusions that the people I write to are great guys who should be out on the street. With one possible exception, I hope they never step outside of prison walls. On the other hand…
The people I write to have little or no contact with family, and there are few people who maintain friendships with folks who will never leave prison. The largest cell any of my correspondents live in is 7 by 12 feet, and they are there for 23 hours out of each day. There are solid walls between surrounding them rather than prison bars, so the only time they see a human face is when the guards look through the small grilled window or when another inmate is led by, perhaps to take a shower or meet with their attorney. When inmates are escorted to take a shower or to take recreation once a week in a “dog run” outside, they are shackled en route. They have no privacy. They are subjected to “cavity checks” frequently. My penpals in Florida, Mississippi, and Arizona don’t have air conditioning. We aren’t talking about luxury prisons here, and I’m certainly not suggesting we should provide convicted felons with all the comforts of home.
But one thing they do have while they’re incarcerated: a chance to regain their freedom if it is discovered that they are innocent. 138 people have been released from death row after evidence proved their innocence since 1973. Some of these people spent nearly two decades locked up for a crime they didn’t commit. At least one of them came within 48 hours of being put to death before his innocence was proven. We will never be able to restore what these inmates have lost… but thank God they weren’t executed in the name of “justice”.
And one other thing they’ve got as long as they’re incarcerated: a chance to develop remorse for their wrongs.. a chance for repentance.
Visiting or writing to prisoners may not be your thing, and that’s OK. Each member of the Body of Christ has a different function, a different task to accomplish. But I hope you’ll join me today in praying for prisoners and their families, and for the victims of crime and their families. And I hope you'll come back each day this week and explore another facet of the death penalty debate.
Read the entire week-long series on the death penalty:The execution team
Is “closure” a copout?
The murderer’s mom
Ways you can help
A last look