Going To Jail

Posted on March 22, 2006
Filed Under Evere Wonder?, Timely Issues | Leave a Comment

jail.bmp I went to jail today. Entering the booking area where you make your phone calls and await a decision about whether bond can be set is when reality begins to sink in if it didn’t while being searched in the garage holding area. Walking through sets of doors where the first needs to be closed before the second can be opened alerts your heightened senses that you are not in control. Once inside it hits you that unless you are wearing a blue uniform you can’t leave at your own choosing. Every movement is constantly monitored. Fear, panic, despair and shame circulate through your mind like the blood being pumped through an increasingly stressed heart. How can this be happening to me? What is going to happen now? When will I be able to get out of here?

Fortunately for me I was just visiting. In my role as chaplain for the Sheriff’s Office I was given a very complete tour through the entire facility. When we approached a locked set of doors, after a few moments, there was the comforting click of a lock being released. Someone high up in the command center acknowledged our presence and granted permission to continue in or out.

“Most of the people that come in here are pretty good people who are having a really bad day” was the observation of a seasoned deputy who had checked enough people in over nearly two decades to know. I would have thought that someone who has booked all kinds of people into the jail might have a more cynical view of humanity. Instead the thin line that separates those who reside there from those who can leave is often just a few bad choices. Someone who drank too much and thought they would be fine getting behind the wheel to go home. Someone else let their anger take control of them and took it out on their spouse. Another crossed over in desperation to feed a habit that was driving their life.

Driving away and looking at the jail from the outside I was struck by a couple of thoughts. First, it would be pretty easy to end up in jail; all of us are just one poor decision away. Second, how do the deputies that work in that environment deal with all of the questions that must arise in their own hearts and minds as a result of the situations they deal with every day? Most of us are confronted by the harsh realities of life occasionally; they deal with them every day.

On another level I wondered, does God see us in a similar light? Does he see men and women who are generally pretty good, but because of some bad choices find themselves imprisoned by their consequences? Is he interested in bringing about real change, rehabilitation, and setting people free? Does he treat us with dignity and respect no matter what we have done? Is God more concerned with setting people free or making sure they pay a penalty? My time in jail today showed me that it is run by compassionate people who have not lost sight of the fact that inmates are human beings and not just criminals. Maybe God is like that also. If Jesus Christ can be trusted it appears that God is more concerned with “setting the captives free”.


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