Prisoner

I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room with one of my children when I heard the door open behind me and the sound of shuffling feet and chains rattling. I immediately turned to look and saw a prisoner, escorted by two guards, with feet shackled and hands cuffed behind her back.

Yes, her.

It was a young, maybe 20 year old, woman.

I immediately thought, “She must be a violent criminal to be shackled and guarded so heavily,” and I ran through the scenario in my head of what I would do if she tried to strangle me with her chains. You know like in that episode of Walker, Texas Ranger? (It involved the mad ninja skills I know in my imagination. You do NOT want to mess with me in my imagination…)

And then I did what anyone would do. I posted about it on Facebook.

The guards told the prisoner to stand against the wall and she shuffled to a corner and stood, head bowed shamefully, facing the corner. One of the guards cleared her throat uncomfortably and told her she didn’t have to stand that way, and I don’t know what the prisoner did next because I was too embarrassed to stare any longer.

I checked my Facebook and saw that people were responding to my post with comments that made me think of more than just my first gut reaction of fear and imaginary ninja skills, but of compassion and curiosity.

Who was this woman? This girl? Why was she so heavily guarded? She seemed so ashamed, even… repentant?

When I looked back again she was being escorted into a room, head still bowed. The more I thought about her the more I wanted to talk to her.

I wanted to tell her that I don’t know why she is imprisoned, but there is Someone who can set her free. I wanted to tell her that Jesus Christ can forgive her sins, wants to forgive her sins, no matter how shameful they are. That there is good news for her to celebrate today, even while she remains shackled; Jesus died and rose again to give her eternal life!

While we waited in our little room to see the doctor, I wondered if I would see her again on our way out. Sure enough, I did. The door was ajar and I could see the doctor was examining her, asking her questions, but she never lifted her head, too ashamed to look up.

I briefly wondered if I should be brave enough to bolt in and interrupt the doctor, blurting out my speech. I never did though, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a little like Peter when the girl labeled him as a follower of Jesus, and in a moment of panic, he denied it.

I have prayed for this girl throughout the day and I will continue to do so. I still wonder if I might have said, if someone might still say something to her that would give her hope and dignity once again.

(Thank you Facebook fans who gave me some good meat to chew on today!)

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Comments

  1. Great post, Connie. I was following the discussion on FB today. It definitely gave me something to think about.

  2. Eh, busting into her examination would probably freak her out, but now you’ve got your thoughts together. Next time you face a similar situation you’ll be ready when you’re both still in the waiting room.

  3. Good post, Smockity! I think many of us would have the same knee-jerk reaction, but how many would so quickly turn a heart to compassion?

  4. One thing that really struck me was that the doctor left the door ajar so that you could see her being interviewed and examined. I imagine that wouldn’t happen to most people and is an intrusion of her privacy.

    I agree with Heather B that bursting into the doctor’s room would probably freak her out but another time you might be able to say something in the waiting room.

  5. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I cant imagine such an experience. I wondered too about the exam room door left a jar. It doesnt seem right. Thank you for posting.

  6. Jessica B. says:

    With regards to “leaving the door open”:

    What we may see as an invasion of privacy may have been just the opposite. If the door was closed, the guards would likely have to have gone inside too- hearing all of the young lady’s business. If the door was closed, and the guards were not in there, any accountability for doctor or patient is gone. If anything were to happen in there, it would be a “he said, she said” scenario. While we might hope for the best, I imagine the policies of an insurance company hoping to avoid a malpractice suit would dictate the externals of the situation.

    By leaving the door cracked open, the guards don’t have to go inside, giving doctor and patient some semblance of both privacy and accountability. The people inside the room can converse in low voices and, providing the examination isn’t of an intimate nature, listening to someone’s heartbeat and looking in someone’s ears is not exactly intrusive.

    Also…and please don’t take this to be heartless – it’s not meant to be. Part of the prison experience is to provide opportunity to come to repentance. If this young lady has, and is not just ashamed, then the Quaker experiment has worked. Hopefully, this time will provide her with the fuel (“I never want to live through that again”) to live a good and godly life when she is out. Most people, statistically, don’t reach that point. :(

    Thank you for this post. It is a great reminder to be ready in season and out of season to always give a reason for the Hope that we have. God bless you.

  7. just FYI:
    1: you likely would not have been allowed to speak to her…prison security is funny about that.

    2: Not sure why, but “guard” is now an outdated term, and to some derogatory. They are called “Correctional Officers” now. My hubby is a CO. He has never made a fuss about what they are called, but some do.

    (Like calling a “Flight Attendant” a”Stewardess”…Don’t do it! …”stewardess” is the equivalent of “escort”…like saying that lady who helps you on the plane is a fancy “hooker”.)

    Hope I didn’t offend, just trying to be helpful…someone had to explain all of the above to me, too!

    • Are you from Texas? I lived in Huntsville, TX and the whole town uses the term Gaurd. Good to know that other places use other terms, but in Texas culture this is what we say. And the point of the post is about the heart.

      • April, we love Huntsville! My husband went to college there, and we go back once or twice a year. We love to eat a good chicken fried steak at the Cafe Texan or shop in the antique stores.

  8. I think most of us would have reacted protectively for our child (just as you did) in that scenario, Connie. It is what we are programed to do, by the same Lord who set us free.

    :-)

  9. If you are really interested in reaching out to prisioners, you could always look into the local prison ministry. That way, not only do you get to give “your speech”, but you get to personally know and pray specifically with them. Prision Ministry always needs more volunteers!

  10. I can definitely back up what JC is saying. My husband was a CO in the federal prison system for several years. He still works there, just at a higher paid job doing something else. I’m sure that at whatever level (county, state or federal), they would not have allowed you to speak to the girl. Perhaps an office staff member may have been allowed to talk to her about something other than her care, but I don’t imagine you would have. And also, the term guard is outdated and almost a derrogatory term in the federal system, and quite possibly in other systems as well. They are correctional officers, and on the job are generally referred to as Officer Smith, etc.
    I can speak from the perspective of the CO that is with the inmate. Sometimes the inmate is there for routine problems, but then other times they are there because they were involved in a fight or were the victim of an assualt in prison or even for cancer treatment. In the federal system, the staff members allowed to transport inmates have to qualify with their firearms at a higher level than the other officers because they are required to shoot at center mass (heart, lungs, etc) if the inmate escapes. They are such a danger to the public that they take no chances with them. The inmate is cuffed to the bed, and his leg irons are chained and pad locked to the end of the bed. When he gets up, he has to remain cuffed. Officers that do a sloppy job of this are endangering the community, and sadly, many do not follow policy as strictly as they should. Just as you were playing out scenarios in your head of what to do next, every staff member of a prison has to do exacty the same thing. There always has to be a game plan.
    My husband is certified to do transport and goes to the hospital to sit with the inmates (with another officer) about once a week if there is someone there. This work is stricly on their days off, they are not pulled from the regular jobs to do this unless there is an emergency so it is paid overtime, and the extra money is truly a blessing because the federal system pays very well. He comes home with lots of interesting stories! And btw, the girl may not have been ashamed, she may have not wanted to be identified for some reason or other. IF she is a hardened criminal, she may be more proud of her prison stay than ashamed.

  11. That is a sad story but you might can feel better in knowing that your tax dollars paid for that doctor visit.

  12. Wow, I really admire you Connie. It is not easy for me to swallow my pride and admit when my gut reaction to something was less than holy. Thanks for being the kind of woman I can look up to.

  13. If God has given you a nudge in this direction, I would inquire as to the status of prison ministry in your area. It CAN make a difference, especially to women like this who are ready to hear.

  14. You should look into supporting your local Kairos community. They do amazing work sharing Christ’s love with prisoners.

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