SOCIAL DISTANCING & THE INCARCERATED

by Christy Hoagland

The current state of the world brings on a whole new meaning when it comes to the incarcerated. These are a group of people who are already made to be “socially distant” due to being in prison and now the few gifts of contact and more has been stripped away as well.

I stated last week on social media that the Department of Corrections was still letting us “VICs” Volunteers in Corrections come into prisons and hold services. We are considered nonpaid staff, we’ve had training, TB tests, etc. And as of last week, we were still going full steam ahead to all of our services. As of just this morning, a couple services are suspended for a couple weeks and then they will reevaluate. Our team has been in agreement that if we are allowed to come, we will. We have taken extra precautions such as no handshakes and maintaining social distances to make offenders feel safe. We take their well being very seriously, their Spiritual well being is also at stake and we know that the Gospel is the greatest hope we can give them.

Last Friday night at the end of the service I asked the men at Algoa what affect this has had on them, what has changed, and what, if anything, were they doing differently. On March 12th offender visits were suspended other than attorney visits. So, for the past 12 days, no contact with family or friends other than the telephone. They are concerned for their families, what the world is even going to look like when they are able to leave prison, and so much more. As our discussion began on Friday, some things I hadn’t thought about surfaced. Parole hearings have been changed or delayed, out dates have been postponed, and some reentry home plans are not allowing anyone to come at this time. Imagine being in prison for years maybe and not being able to leave after your sentence was completed.

When asked what they might be doing differently, one man jokingly said ‘taking more naps’, others said praying more. We have been encouraging them that now, more than ever, is the time when the light of Jesus needs to shine through them. And isn’t that the same for all of us? Now, in these uncertain and strange times with things changing day by day, is the time to share the Gospel of Jesus to those around us – or not so closely around us, like, 6 feet away :).

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

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