Scriptures and Shackles

Scriptures and Shackles

There have been some changes in the maximum-security unit. The population has now been split between two similar units.


I went to the first unit and was glad to see two of the COs (correctional officers) that I’ve known since I first started volunteering at the jail. They know the processes for handling a population like the guys in max, and they understand that de-escalating a situation if far better than the alternatives. Early on I learned that the mother of one of the COs is also a volunteer leading a Bible Study in a federal prison. The COs are supportive of the work that I do because they have seen it make a difference for some of the men. We talked about best days and times for me to come to this unit.  It may be that I’ll just be doing one-on-one visits, which is fine since I’ve spent at least 10 years doing one-on-one visits in prison and jail settings. The COs checked with the men that were out for programming to see if anyone was interested in a visit, but there were no takers.

More about the new structure, these new units are run more like high-max units with the exception that there may be two men in a cell whereas high-max only has one man per cell. However, under the new structure there are fewer men out at a time, and greater security when the men are out of their cells. For example, the men are in handcuffs behind their backs when they move between their cells and the recreation area – which is essentially an oblong concrete and cinder block room with a basketball hoop. Once they are in the rec area each man will present his hands up to a slot in the door where the CO will remove the handcuffs. Then their hands are unencumbered when they are in the rec room. But when it is time to go back to the cells the process is reversed. Each man presents his hands to the slot where a CO will apply handcuffs. Only after everyone has been handcuffed will the door to the rec room be unlocked and the men are directed back to their cells.


As it turns out, the guys who had been my regulars were all in the second unit. Again, I spoke to the COs in the second unit to get their input on how the process should work for the men who want Bible Study or a chaplain visit. I expect things to be in flux for the next few weeks until there is clarity on the new structure.

I had one man who wanted to meet with me for Bible Study. Under the new system it means he is handcuffed and shackled while he is meeting with me. But his hands are handcuffed in front rather than behind his back so he can still hold a Bible.


It was so very humbling for me that he was willing to submit to handcuffs and shackles just to meet for Bible Study and prayer.

Would I be too proud to submit to that same treatment? This man’s hunger for the Word and for fellowship was greater than the “inconvenience” of handcuffs and shackles.

Our study was about the Transfiguration in Matthew 17.


This man is preparing to transition to prison. He has never been to prison before. The words of the study that brought him hope and encouragement were:

 Matthew 17:6-8 (NIV)

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.





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