Faith, Hope, and Forgiveness in Prison
At 43 years old, Charles has spent almost half of his life behind bars.
His journey through incarceration began when he was in his late twenties. “You are just beginning adulthood at that stage. Still childish a little bit. So I grew up in prison,” Charles said.
Charles begins his day with work in carpentry, where he helps build various items for the institution. As a peer support specialist, he conducts classes for fellow inmates, aiming to help them overcome addictions and make positive changes in their lives. For Charles, the peer support certification gave him a purpose. “I was looking forward to helping other people that were like me get their lives under control,” he said.
Receiving a Christmas Prisoner Packet
One of the most cherished moments in Charles’ early years of incarceration was receiving his first Prisoner Packet. He remembers the excitement when inmates heard the doors opening and the cart carrying the holiday packets approaching. These packets contained valuable hygiene items like soap and toothpaste, envelopes, Christmas cards, and candy.
What stood out most to Charles that first time was the Christmas cards – tokens of love that he could send to his family. “Those Christmas cards are special. At that time my children were smaller, so to send them a card, they enjoyed that. I knew how much it meant to them,” Charles said.
Each year, Charles also looks forward to receiving the devotional written by SCBaptist staff in the packets. “The holidays are a depressing time of the year, and those devotionals, it encourages you. It builds you up,” he said.
The Power of Faith in Prison
Charles’ faith has played a central role in his life behind bars. He believes his relationship with God has been strengthened through his experience in prison. “I think my faith got stronger being in prison because all you have left is your faith,” Charles said. “Faith is everything in prison. If you don’t have faith, you can lose hope. And if you lose hope, that can be a dark place.”
Charles struggled with guilt and shame because of his past. “I knew what I had taken myself away from. I took myself away from my family,” he said. However, his relationship with God and faith allowed him to find forgiveness and healing. By forgiving himself, he was able to rebuild his relationships with his family and become a better father and friend.
Christmas Behind Bars
The holiday season is a challenging time in prison. Often, the Prisoner Packet is the only gift inmates receive. Charles emphasizes that these small gestures mean the world to incarcerated individuals, saying, “We were waiting for Christmas all year.” He expressed his gratitude to the churches and volunteers who made the gifts possible. “This is the only bit of love you get, and that means a lot in a place where it’s not much love,” Charles said.
Apart from Christmas packets, Charles shared ideas on how churches and individuals can further support inmates. Charles also mentioned the need for everyday items like socks and T-shirts. “Just to get people to come in to show they care, to help lift us up, it means a lot,” Charles said.