It’s altogether too easy for those of us with little or no connection to prison to dismiss and ignore the men and women behind bars. Content to live our own lives, we are quick to conclude that the incarcerated “got what they had coming to them,” and to write them off as inconsequential.
For author Caryn Rivadeneira, those perceptions began to change when she visited the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Before her visit, Rivadeneira had opposed the death penalty, but was content to take a “lock ’em up and throw away the key” approach to incarceration. Having the chance to interact with the men in Angola changed that.
“Seeing prison life firsthand and befriending inmates forced me to realize how a heart that grieves at capital punishment ought also to grieve for lives spent forgotten behind bars, too,” Rivadeneira says in an article for the “her.meneutics” blog on the Christianity Today website. “My time with the men locked up in Louisiana deepened my understanding of many things. Grace, redemption, certainly. But the word that bubbles up most is—of all things—humanity. Specifically, the way each of our humanity reflects God, the face of our Savior.”
By talking with several prisoners, Rivadeneira was reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew, telling them that when they visited those in prison, they were visiting Him.
“I don’t know where [the prisoners’] faith is,” Rivadeneira says, “But I know they are made in God’s image. I know they are beloved by God. And they need to be loved and remembered—not for the worst thing they ever did, but for their humanity. Simply because God asks us to.”
The call to “remember the prisoner” is at the heart of everything Prison Fellowship does. Be it praying for prisoners and their families as a part of our prayer team, visiting and mentoring men and women as an in-prison volunteer, lobbying for reforms in the criminal justice system with Justice Fellowship, or providing love and support for the children of prisoners and their caregivers through Angel Tree—it all begins by seeing the imago Dei in those behind prison walls, and serving them as if serving Jesus Himself.
To learn more about what you can do to “remember the prisoner,” visit our get involved page.