Rick has been one of my star students in Prison Fellowship’s seminary-level program over the past year that we have been holding classes at Salinas Valley State Prison. As a matter of fact, he has given himself to help other students who are struggling, and he even wrote an exegetical paper for the express purpose of teaching others how to write one properly. I now use that paper in all my seminary classes as a model for them to follow.
Imagine my concern last week as I was going over attendance and grade sheets and noticed that Rick has been missing some assignments and absent on more than one occasion.
“What’s going on with Rick?” I asked one of the other students.
“You didn’t hear? Rick’s got a date! He’s going home!”
As it turns out, Rick had been preparing for his parole board hearing. I remembered that he had asked me to write a letter of support on his behalf, but I didn’t connect the dots. When I spoke with Rick, he told me that the board was very interested in Prison Fellowship’s seminary program and wanted to hear all about it. At the end of the hearing, Rick heard the words that he has been waiting to hear since he was first sentenced to life imprisonment at the age of 17: “We find you suitable for parole.”
Now Rick is a local celebrity. He is the first lifer to ever get a parole date from Salinas Valley State Prison. As one of his classmates commented after congratulating him and giving him a big hug, “What happened for you gives me hope!”
Rick is looking forward to his release in March.
You can help other men and women in prison become strong Christian leaders through Prison Fellowship’s seminary-level training program. Click here to see how you can help.
Dave Dove is a Prison Fellowship area director in California.