I've visited people in prison before. It could be the least favorite thing I've done in ministry. I'd venture to say that it's worse than doing a funeral. When someone dies, you know how it ended. When someone's in prison, you don't know what the future holds. There's a local guy who's been coming to Echo who was locked up for a month for stealing some CDs. I just found out a couple of days ago and went to visit him today at the county detention center.
The thing I don't like about visiting prisons is that you [the visitor] are made to feel as if you are guilty too. First, all the parking lots around the justice center are expensive; most places charge a flat fee of $10 after forty-five minutes. I drove around for ten minutes until I came across a parking meter.
Then there's an endless line of questions and papers to fill out all so you can spend a few minutes talking to an inmate on a telephone on the other side of half an inch of plexiglas [fortunately, I knew the guy who was checking in the visitors, so I had an easy go of it]. And usually you're forced to wait upwards toward half-an-hour just to see the prisoner. I talked to this guy about twenty minutes and it took me an hour and a half to get in and out.
But the worst part of the entire experience is seeing all the families that are torn up because someone's in jail.
As I visited this guy, there was a young girl with a four-year-old son visiting his father; one of this kid's earliest memories is going to be seeing his dad behind bars.
And as I left, I got on the elevator with this guy wearing a UC sweatshirt and jacket. Looking to make some small talk, I asked if he was excited about the new basketball coach. Appearing confused, he answered, "I haven't really been paying attention. I'm just trying to figure out how I can get my wife out of here." I really didn't know what to say, so I think I just expressed my sympathy. Then he added, "Well, they've got her in detox, so maybe she's made it through." I asked his wife's name, and he told me it was Anna. I told him I'd pray for her.
As I said, visiting prison is rough; you never leave feeling better about yourself. If only people would think how many lives they were affecting when they committed their crimes. If only they knew in advance the toll their mistakes would take on their families. It breaks my heart.
That's why I don't like going to the prison.