No. 210



If you have never been in prison, and I pray God that you haven’t, have you ever wondered what it is really like for those who are locked away from society and have very little contact with the outside world? Of course the television news magazines give us some idea and then occasionally we learn about a ‘celebrity’ prisoner who is granted interviews and other special privileges. But most of the inmates are just there and while they do get to watch television, receive mail and have visits from family and friends, it is still a very lonely life.

What reminded me of this is a letter I received from a prison inmate the other day. Over the past several months I have received several letters from inmates in Arkansas, Mississippi and Michigan. This particular letter however, gave me some real insights of what prison life is really like.

The letter begins, “Mr. Davidson,... Someone sent me one of your columns and I read it for the first time. It was about being around negative people. I am in one of the worst places for negative people. I am in prison. Most of the people in here are going nowhere and are happy that way. But don’t get me wrong. There are some very good people mixed in here. Some have improved their education with the support of their families even though the only free education is college for those under 25 years of age and vo-tech for those with less than 3 1/2 years of prison time left to do.”

He goes on to say, “along with all the others I have put myself in a bad position with many strikes against me. I am guilty of my charges and deserve the time I have. I’m not eligible for parole until 2016 and finish my sentence 2024. I have alienated most of my family and friends but still have strong support from a few. Even with the negative aspects of our situation here, there are still many things we can do besides just “doing time.” With financial support from my parents I am working on my bachelors degree by correspondence. Although it isn’t as impressive as a traditional degree, I hope it will help.” He goes on to talk about other skills he is acquiring and even personal Bible study. His final thoughts are telling. “Unfortunately, many of the negative traits are influencing my thinking. I must struggle to keep my love for my fellowman and control my anger. Even the guards here get cynical. I liked what you wrote and try to keep in mind, “life is too short to be unhappy.”

This letter from a man in prison reminded me of a phone call I got one evening a while back. A wonderful lady by the name of Madeleine Bulbulian who reads my column in the Cherokee Scout in Murphy, North Carolina called and said, “I wrote to you several months ago but today’s column was so good that I just had to call you.” After visiting a few moments about this particular column, she went on to tell me that she had been clipping out my columns and sending them to a young man in the Armed Services. Madeleine said that he was back home a few weeks ago and she could tell a tremendous difference in his attitude. He told her that he really appreciated her sending the columns.

As a suggestion, why not clip out and save some of the better columns that will be encouraging and send them to an inmate in prison. This could be a wonderful ministry and all it would cost is a little time and postage. Many inmates will be out soon and some of these ideas and concepts could make a difference in their life. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)