“Line up right here!” Get in a straight line!” “Do what I tell you to do!” “When you hear the code 2 alarm, crouch down on the ground, and don’t move!” screamed a prison guard to about 10 teenage boys who were visiting San Quentin State Prison in California, a historic prison known for housing the most violent criminals in the country.
In horror, I watched Beyond Scared Straight, the hour-long documentary series on A&E that follows inmate-run intervention programs that exposes at-risk teens to the realities of life behind bars.
These particular teens were participating in the Squires program, a juvenile delinquency deterrence program that brings delinquent youth to San Quentin Prison to speak to inmates and witness firsthand the horrors of life in jail.
The teens were there because they’ve disrespected authority at home and in school, sold drugs, robbed and assaulted innocent people, stole cars, and used drugs.
My heart went out to them because many came from broken homes, were simply misguided, and were seemingly without hope. But what was even more shocking were the conditions at San Quentin State Prison.
The prison environment at San Quentin is hostile, violent and chaotic at best. Fear, anxiety, anger, wrath, and rage are the predominant emotions. Inmates scream and yell obscenities for sport within their cells. You can be killed, beaten, and maimed any minute of the day. Rape, murder, and assault are commonplace.
My question is why? Why? A naive question I know. But I just don’t understand it.
I know prison ministries exist, but from the looks of things they don’t seem to have as big of an impact as the Kingdom of God should have on the kingdom of darkness. I’ve heard that people get saved in prison and turn their lives around, but it seems as though Satan and his kingdom rule and reign. So I ask, “Where is Jesus in the prison system? Where is He? The prisoners, guards, and the administrators need the Lord of Glory badly.
Prayer: Lord, please have mercy on those young teens who are witnessing firsthand the harsh realities of prison life, and help them turn their lives around before it’s too late. And may your powerful Holy Spirit permeate the hearts, minds, and souls of all the prison inmates, guards and administrators in America and abroad, in your Name we pray, amen!