Chaplain James E. Mitchell, Jr.

Jimmy Mitchell is a beloved figure in Southwest Virginia – a beloved coach turned pastor turned prison chaplain. He serves at one of the most secure prison facilities – Wallens Ridge- where he strives to meet the religious/spiritual needs of offenders of all faiths.


Anyone who has encountered Chaplain Jimmy Mitchell will be impacted by his enormous heart, abiding faith, gentle way and his sweet southern drawl.  Chaplain Mitchell has served in far southwest Virginia for almost 17 years! For GraceInside, Chaplain Mitchell is synonymous with Big Stone Gap, VA.  For most of those years, a chaplain serving two maximum security men’s facilities, Wallens Ridge and Red Onion, Chaplain Mitchell holds hope in deeply broken places. In 2015, GraceInside was able to focus Chaplain Mitchell at Wallens Ridge alone.

Chaplain Mitchell is the only chaplain ever hired without an official interview.  The Warden of the newly built Wallens Ridge was attending the same church and specifically called to request that Chaplain Mitchell serve his facility.  The rest is history.

Each day, Chaplain Mitchell goes “into prisons for people who have made bad choices – for whom God has given a second chance – trying to change their lifestyle through Jesus Christ.”  When asked why he does a super-max facility, he responds easily, “Sometimes when you have a calling, you just go.”

“I’ve seen people’s lives changed.  I’ve seen people who were hardened criminals change their lives in a worship service.  Great blessings of hope…I see the hope that is inside the prison.  Where there is life there is hope.  I’m sure there will come a time when the Lord is through with me – but not yet.”  Chaplain Mitchell recounts the story of a lifer who came in demonstrating his reputation for spewing hatred but he was saved in the prison and how is the chaplain’s best spokesman.  In fact, “He runs the church – WILD!”  And wonderful.

God changes people’s lives.

When not at one of the prisons, Chaplain Mitchell pastors a church named The Cave which has flourished under his care for more than 10 years.  “We see people go in discouraged and come out a mighty army of God.  We seek people who are discontent and discouraged, locked up in their minds – a kind of second prison – locked up in their thinking and in their heart.  We’ve seen over 400 saved!  It’s awesome!  It really keeps me going.  The Cave has no paid staff.  Everything that comes in goes straight back to the community.  My family works with me.  We’ve all seen God really change people’s lives. “

When not working, Chaplain Mitchell shares his love with his wife and twin daughters who are graduates of UVA – Wise, where his wife works.  When not busy, his favorite pastime is to watch his son play sports – and will play football for VA Tech in the fall of 2018.  Chaplain Mitchell loves his family, Jesus Christ and watching God transform even the most hardened and desperate of hearts.  He knows God can do it.  He’s had a front row seat for 19+ years.