There is a dark place in our prisons. It is aptly called the hole. But God is creating life and goodness in the people there. He is filling the void with His life and declaring, “it is good” just as He did at creation.
The following information may be found in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Fiscal Year 2017 Statistical Report:
G/J5 – Offenders in this custody have one or more disciplinary convictions for an assault with a weapon on staff or offenders within the past 24 months; two or more disciplinary convictions resulting in a major penalty for offender or staff assault without a weapon within the past 12 months; one or more disciplinary convictions resulting in major penalties for extortion or sexual abuse with the past 24 months; primarily Line Class I, II, or III time- earning status (prison offenders only) if the offender is assaultive or aggressive in nature; or escaped from a TDCJ secure adult correctional facility within the past five years.
As of August 2017, TDCJ kept 1,326 inmates in restrictive housing — defined by the report as at least 22 hours a day in a prison cell — for six years or longer.
TDCJ inmates in so-called administrative segregation, the official term for isolated housing, spend nearly all their time inside a cell about the size of a walk-in closet. The only physical contact they experience is when corrections officers shackle them for brief trips outside their cells — either for showering, medical appointments, to exercise alone inside a cage or to visit with family while separated by a glass window.
There are volunteer ministries who go into these areas of the prison to bring hope to these men. They take inmates with them, usually, men who were once assigned to G5 themselves. We once asked the 6 facilitators in our school at that time if they had ever lived in G5. As they called out their time there, we added up a total of 60 years in solitary confinement. Four of those men at that time were going back into G5 to bring hope to the men there.
However, this is not a report on solitary confinement or its effects. The above information is to paint the setting for the miracle that transpired. This is a testimony of how God is transforming the justice system from the inside out.
One of the men currently living in G5 recounted this testimony to one of the ministers there. He said, “I love to draw, and I’m good at it. I was working on a drawing of Martin Luther King for a friend. It was an important drawing for me, and I had been working on it a long time. I needed to go shower, but I hate to because sometimes when we go, the officers will use that time to tear up our cells. And that’s just what happened; an officer “tossed” my cell. When I got back, my bunk was turned over on my drawing. It was ruined. I was in a rage. My insides burned. My head pounded. I wanted to tear into him. The two men in the cells on each side of me, who are also in my Bible class, began to call out to me, “Don’t do it, man, that’s not who you are anymore.” I thought I would explode, and I yelled, “Right now, I am!” But then I began to cry, and I knew that I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I didn’t want to be filled with hate and anger. So, I said to the officer, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have acted like that. I’m going to pray for you. The officer responded, “Why are you apologizing to me? I did that on purpose because I don’t like you.” The man responded, “Now, I’m going to pray for you even more.” Later, the officer returned to apologize. Good was returned for evil, and life won. Now, there is peace between them. This is a miracle. Peace in the midst of chaos is God’s justice. People are experiencing heaven in solitary confinement, in the hole. In the darkest place in our city God’s justice is reigning.
How is this God’s justice? Biblically, justice means to make things right. How did God make things right? God’s justice was an innocent man on the cross for the guilty. God’s justice is beauty for ashes and joy for mourning. How is that justice? How is it just that I pray for my enemies and do good to those who deliberately wrong me and use me? Why should I not seek my own vengeance? Why should I not repay evil with evil? Perhaps because to do good in the face of evil is the greatest form of love. It is the precious and powerful commodity that cancels debt, absolves guilt and fills the void of loss. It is the power that sets all captives free and destroys the work of the destroyer. It is our mission to fill the world with this love, to bring heaven into the earth. That is justice. That is making all things right. That is the justice that will transform the Justice System from the inside out.