Why Would People Keep Going Back to Prison?
Why? Why? WHY? Why would men and women choose to endure pat downs, security checks and the hurry up and wait challenges of a prison environment? What drives people to volunteer in a prison?
Volunteers are an amazing and wonderful part of GraceInside’s ministry to the men and women of Virginia’s prisons. Volunteers do everything from individual pastoral care (in some facilities) to managing full worship services to participating in an entire weekend retreat for Kairos. Sometimes they fill the necessary role of administrative assistant consumed with paperwork to help free up the chaplain for “ministry” and other times they are in direct contact with as many inmates as possible as they fill their days on the “inside.” GraceInside’s chaplains oversee, assist and facilitate volunteer programming throughout the Commonwealth.
Sometimes those volunteers have a history. On Friday, October 30th, some of GraceInside’s board and leadership met with 10 or so volunteers for River North Correctional Center. Two of these individuals had pulled time many years ago. Both of them found Jesus while in prison and find great reward in giving back. “You have to have heart, ” says Butch Spurlin, long-time jail and prison volunteer. Without heart, he shares, you cannot begin to understand the incredible challenges facing these men everyday or how God can help it!
While at River North Correctional Center waiting for Christian Worship to get started, the group learned that the program was cancelled to due a security disruption in one of the housing units, reminding all of us present what a privilege it is to worship. That day, it would be a privilege denied to the 230 men signed up to attend Christian Worship. Yet, the volunteers, though disappointed, still gathered to pray together for the men, the staff and the environment in which they are confined and to discuss ways to enhance the ministry together.
What makes these volunteers so special? Why do they keep coming back? The answers vary. Heart. Prayer. Jesus. The transformation of the men and women. Maybe it is a particular inmate whose growth and faith shine brightly – in stark contrast to their location. Whatever it is…why ever it is, the incarcerated men and women are better for it…and so are the staff…the prisons…the families…the communities…Virginia…the Church and the kingdom of God. Whether we know it or not, these dedicated and patient volunteers make our world a better place.