In Prison: Grace! by Robert T. Casey
She donned the uniform that women wear in our state correctional institutions, stood in our sanctuary,
and told the story of an inmate named Hope. Many of us who participated in that worship service earlier this
year, when the Reverend Lynn Litchfield spoke, got new insights into prison life, chaplains’ ministry, and the
importance of sharing and exemplifying the Gospel of Jesus Christ with folks who are incarcerated. We
learned about prisoners’ lives being turned around when they see and hear about the grace of God– the love
and forgiveness which comes when one responds and follows the Christ.
We were particularly moved as Lynn told about Teresa Lewis, only the second woman ever executed by
the state of Virginia. Lynn was Teresa’s chaplain for much of the time between Teresa’s conviction and her
execution. The circumstances involved in Teresa’s conviction and execution were troubling, if not tragic, but
the grace and love which Teresa found and manifested all the way to her execution were awe inspiring.
Lynn Litchfield served as chaplain for more than a decade at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for
Women. She serves now as the Director of Development for GraceInside, Virginia’s Prison Chaplain
Service. This interdenominational prison ministry began in 1920 and now provides 30 some chaplains to the
more than 30,000 persons incarcerated in our state correctional institutions.
In 1920 this ministry was fully funded by seven Protestant denominations. It had one chaplain and a total
budget of $4,300. Since then the number of correctional institutions and the number of prisoners have
expanded exponentially. The funding has greatly expanded also, but not enough to keep up with the multiplication
of institutions and prisoners.
This year’s budget is $1,450,000. Though it has a working relationship with the Department of
Corrections, GraceInside receives no taxpayer support. Denominational funding has not been able to keep
up with the need. Less than half of the chaplains are full time in institutions which cry out for more service.
GraceInside is more and more dependent upon individual Christians and individual churches. GraceInside is
appreciative that The United Methodist Men in our church have been making an annual contribution for a
number of years and that our congregation has contributed several times through the Advent or Lenten
special offerings. Some of our individual members have also been quite supportive.
I’ve known about and appreciated the ministry of GraceInside for close to 60 years. In the 1960’s I
served briefly as an adjunct or additional chaplain for someone on death row, and for more than twenty
years I have been associated in one way of another with GraceInside’s governing body. I’m impressed with
the chaplains. Ninety percent of those in prison will one day be released back into society. Twelve thousand
are scheduled for this year. I’m impressed with the fact that Virginia has the lowest recidivism rate in the
country. I like to think that it has something to do with the chaplains and their ministries as well as with the
ministries they help to facilitate such as Kairos. And I know that virtually all that I give goes toward
supporting the chaplains and their ministries, since the state takes care of the buildings and maintenance.
Gregory Saunders, an ex-prisoner has written, “I want every prisoner to know what I know. And I want
everybody out there to know what I know. Without chaplains, lives will be lost.” GraceInside seeks to save
Grace Inside may be contacted at 2828 Emerywood Parkway, Richmond, VA 23294.
Telephone: (804) 358-7650
(Written for The Messenger, Williamsburg United Methodist Church’s eNewsletter August 2018)