Inmates and religion

One of the things that tends to irritate me about long-time critters is how fast they develop religion once they’re behind bars.

And — in most cases — an inmate will get a case of Jesus in a cold-blooded, cynical attempt to game the judicial system.

This works, because the majority of county jails in Texas don’t have a full-time minister for the inmates. In most counties in this State, the spiritual needs (*snort*) of the inmates are tended to by whichever local minister has extra time after attending to his non-confined flock.

Generally, we wind up with a young sky-pilot just out of the Jesus Academy who hasn’t quite yet — despite his teacher’s best efforts — realized exactly how deep the depravity and hypocrisy runs in your average long-term critter.

I’ve seen it time and time again: the critter who sings the loudest, prays the gustiest, cheerleads the preacher, completes every question on the Bible study handout, stands in line to quiz the preacher after service and writes soul-searching letters to the preacher regular as clockwork every Tuesday and Friday; ten minutes after that critter hits freedom he’ll be sitting in a topless bar with a nekkid dancer on his lap, a glass of booze in one hand, a paw-full of her anatomy in the other, and cutting deals for all he’s worth.

I got into law enforcement in 1993. From then until now I have never — I say again my last: never — seen religion stick to a long-term critter once he’s out of stir.

Since a preacher is a Man Of God, and this is Texas, most non-critter-type folks pretty much figure that a preacher is on the side of angels (pun intended) and give said preacher wide latitude in his doings. Especially when he’s doing God-type things. Make no mistake: the critters know and count on this.

The inmates in our current jail are only allowed to receive books that are mailed from a genuine book publisher in unbroken packaging, so Reno has a pretty good idea of the answer he’s going to get when a preacher walks into the jail with an extra Bible under one arm. When Reno asks the preacher about the extra Bible, the answer is that the Bible is a gift to an inmate from the distraught mother of the critter.

Being the cynical heathen that he is, Reno gently asks for the Bible, gives it a quick once over and finds that Dear Old Mum had stuffed the spine with Acapulco’s infamous botanical export before entrusting it to the sky-pilot.

Bear in mind that Reno wasn’t the first, or even the tenth officer to contact the preacher, but because (as I said) this is Texas — nobody’s going to mess with the preacher. Not to mention the Word of God. Given a properly naive preacher, in most jails this is an absolutely iron-clad method of smuggling in contraband.

You can get stuff out of jail this way, too.

One year our town was having it’s usual Fourth of July BBQ and General Good Old Time On The Courthouse Lawn. Got some horseshoe pits, one of those inflatable bouncy things for the sprogs, and about a thousand or so men, women and bairns eating, mixing, courting, running, flirting, gossiping, snogging and just generally enjoying themselves.

I forget why I was heading back into the office, but as I’m going in the front door, I see the preacher arm-in-arm with one of our inmates coming out that very same door.

“Afternoon, pastor,” sez I, eyeing my inmate, “What’s on your mind?”

“A fine day, brother LawDog! One of God’s lost lambs has RETURNED unto Him!”

“Goodness. And so unexpected. If you don’t mind my saying, though, he looks awfully chipper and, well … mobile … for someone on his way through the Pearly Gates.”

“He has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his PERSONAL Saviour and has had his sins WASHED from his very soul!”

“That’s nice. I’m happy for him. Apropos of nothing, why is he in the lobby instead of a cell?”

“He has welcomed GOD into his soul! He is PURPOSE-driven and CHRIST-filled! Surely a new Christian may walk for an hour under GOD’S own sky? I will bring him back.”

“Oh, hell no. God may have forgiven him, but the State of Texas says he owes thirty years. Get back in that jail.”

The inmate turned a noble face to the preacher and pronounced soulfully, “That’s okay, preacher. I knowed the ‘Dog wouldn’t understand. I forgive him, and I feel sure that God will forgive him, too.”

“I can’t believe you said that with a straight face,” sez I, “Get your butt back in there.”

When I told the evening deputy about this incident, he opined that since it was the preacher, he probably would have let the preacher walk the inmate around the courthouse square a couple of times before saying anything.

Ye gods.


What the hell?
Jim Beam's got your back. Waa-aaay back.

18 thoughts on “Inmates and religion”

  1. (Hate that I can’t edit typos. Then they stare at me, shaming me.)

    When I worked in the jail, I noticed in some tanks that the resident Bible-thumper would be preaching from the Good Book whenever I came through on 30 minute time checks. Then I got into the control room, and turned on the intercom and listened in that tank. Bible-thumper would be speaking in a more… um, secular vein, chatting about scamming women, doing dope, running from the police, etc. Then I’d come back through, and as soon as I’d opened the (noisy, clanking) catwalk door, I’d hear him preachin’ the Gospel.

    I never let ’em know that we overheard their digressions that coincided with our absence.

  2. Uh, Lawdog, you DID arrest the preacher for aiding and abetting the escape of a felon right? Just to well and truly put the fear of god into him you know….

  3. Reminds me of the old joke…”I found Jesus while I was in prison.”

    “No kidding? Half my cell block was named Jesus.”

    It’s amazing what a critter will do if they think it will make life inside any easier at all.

  4. So the spiritual awakening is only temporary? Keep looking, as you may find a permanent case yet. And, while you’re looking around, should you see any of the temporary cases taking a little unauthorized sojourn…

    This case is too strange to be fiction. My only question is this: What do the various ministers, preachers, priests and sky pilots say when they finally tip to the fact that they are being had?

  5. I would have let the preacher take him on a stroll around the square too…carefully shadowed by armed and dangerous men employed by state, county or local authority…and when the critter bonked the preacher on the skull to make his exit would have re-apprehended the critter and hoped the preacher learned something.
    But, hope springs eternal.

  6. My youngest brother went from preaching in prisons to actually becoming a Corrections Officer before he joined the military.

    Boy, did his eyes open up after he FINALLY woke up and smelled the coffee!

    As always, GREAT story, LD.

    Thanks for the giggles. 🙂

  7. Mad Jack,

    I don’t think they ever do figure it out. Hope springs eternal in the heart of the committed do gooder.


  8. To paraphrase the Gospel:
    One must be as innocent as the DOVE and as cunning as the SNAKE.

    Seminaries are good places to find the innocence of a dove thing. Too bad it takes a few years to understand the cunning-ness thing.

    What does it take to open people’s eyes?

  9. Long time reader, first time poster. LD, agree with 99% of your posts, and this I suppose is no exception.

    However, to keep everyone’s soul from becoming too cynical, I have the exception that proved the rule. The permanent case the poster mentioned above.

    Work for a white collar business in Dallas. We hired a guy who we later found out was a former critter (drug offenses).

    As we dug into it, we learned that he found God in prison, and since his release has become a husband, a father, and a counselor for both former inmates and troubled teens. He’s long since done with supervision, so there’s really nobody to impress with this stuff.

    On top of it all, he’s been an excellent employee. Go figure.

  10. Anon 1:19:

    Yep. Deeds, not words.

    People can say anything. But you are really what you do.

  11. Anonymous 1:19,

    It’s more common for those who come out of prison to go back to their old ways and up right back again. It’s always nice to hear that someone has been reformed and can go on a lead a productive life.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. My Felon Bro inlaw is the same way.

    After his all expense paid stay in club Huntsville, he wears his religion on his sleeve. Problem is, whenever the ho’s with the party favors come around, he’s snortin, cussin and fightin with the rest of the lowlifes.

    I think he’s a youth councelor for a Christian youth camp (snort)

  13. What about those inmates that start to follow islam? Do you notice the same tendancies there?

    Not getting at anything, just curious.

  14. Well, as a God fearing, Jesus loving, sinful man that realizes I couldn’t measure up so someone else had to do the task for me, I hope that each and every conversion, be it a jail house or a God house, it real.

    But, being an old Texas boy (turning 40 yeesh) I have been round the block to know the old saying that “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” is a very realistic view of how the world is.

    All I can say is this to the Sky-Pilots out there…God never wants anyone to break laws that are for the benefit of society. He would prefer you follow the simple rules set down by the sheepdogs guarding the wolves that wanted (or still want) to eat your sheep.

    Common sense, sadly, ain’t to common sometimes.

    Nuff said…heh.

  15. “As we dug into it, we learned that he found God in prison, and since his release has become a husband, a father, and a counselor for both former inmates and troubled teens. He’s long since done with supervision, so there’s really nobody to impress with this stuff.”

    We have at least one guy like this at my Church as well. He has a wife, kids, and is currently employed by a prison ministry program. I doubt he has the same boundless innocence as ‘Dogs sky-pilots.

  16. “Romans x:9, 10 if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.”

    However,(Psalms xliv:21) “wouldn’t God have found this out, since He knows the secrets of the heart?”

    God knows all things, and he knows who’s speaking with ‘forked-tongue’ and who is not.

    Just as one person here stated that they would listen in order to know, the LORD knows without listening in.

    It is my personal opinion that it’s just as Jesus said in Matthew (vi:5), that who prays the loudest already has their reward, these critters who cry the loudest about having found ‘Hey-Sus’ have actually already had theirs. If one actually finds Jesus Christ, the Messiah, they aren’t acting like that, ’cause the Holy Spirit won’t allow it.

    Just my opinion, it won’t even get you a cup-o-coffee.

    I am your Brother in Christ, a Child of God; and a loyal LD reader.


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