Prison B.R.E.A.K. is an acronym for Building Relationships Empowerment and Knowledge
When someone goes to prison, they are stripped of a lot of things: their family, home, livelihood, reputation and their faith. As I spoke about before, when an inmate first arrives to prison, they will experience the five stages of grief. Two of those stages are anger and bargaining. Anger is usually when a prisoner loses faith; bargaining is where they rediscover something to believe in. Faith behind bars depends on how strong you were outside of prison.
I grew up in a household where faith and religion went hand and hand. Even when I was in a jam my faith would stay strong. Of course my faith was tested throughout my life and every time I overcame an obstacle, I emerged with a deeper appreciation for life. Thankfully because I had a deep Christian faith I wasn’t easily influenced by others to become a follower or get myself caught up in a “religion” with unholy motives.
When I first went away I will admit, my faith was tried. I wanted something to believe in again and getting to know a few people in the processed seemed like the way to go. I joined a group that studied Muslim faith. Granted the teachings were not what I had grown up on, but I was learning something new and it felt good. Soon that feeling began to fade as the shade over my eyes began to expose what was really going on.
A lot of the religious groups inside prisons are not as they appear. You are usually approached by a member of these organizations with uplifting words and wisdom. If an inmate is done being angry, they will usually move towards finding faith. The perfect target to help expand. For me I wanted to be a part of something after feeling like I had lost so much of myself. Eventually I saw some of the religious groups were simply organized crime. Some even lived a lifestyle that completely contradicted the religion they studied & practiced. It made me feel uneasy in my spirit.
The groups where I was doing time either operated like a cult or had alternate motives unlike what I originally thoughtowards the end of my first sentence I began to feel like I was more involved with a gang than a positive group of brothers. Protection is prison is important and for some necessary. Promises of safety and connections became the main reason of inmates joining, oppose to wanting to be closer to God.
My second time around in jail, I made sure to keep my distance from being a part of any religious groups. With the faith that was instilled in me my whole life, I began to study and worship on my own. Having a chance to reconnect with real religion was refreshing and I could feel the change in my spirit. It’s hard to wipe out ugliness and negativity when you’re still surrounded by it. I found the authentic light again and started to walk in faith the correct way.
A Note to Convicts: Not all religious groups in prison are bad or dishonest. What I recommend is that you do your research. Your faith is the tool you are equipped with to fight the enemy and the anger. My prayer for all that are incarcerated is stay faithful throughout the process. Even on those bad days. You are bigger than your time.
Be aware of who you surround yourself with in prison. If you are new, know that people will try to prey on you from different angles — not just religion. Being around negative inmates can result in you getting more time, being hurt, or getting involved with something that’s not easy to get out of. It’s okay to find faith alone or outside of a group. Reconnecting with yourself and your God is imperative to your progression. Protect yourself and your heart. Don’t be quick to judge, but also don’t be quick to follow. Find what works for you and feels good to your soul.
A Note to Loved Ones: If there is a particular religion your family practices and you see your loved one losing faith, don’t be afraid to help them find the guidance they need. Send scriptures along with motivation to help them see the light in their situation. Support to keep the faith and staying positive are crucial to getting through a sentence — no matter how long or short. If a loved one has found a new religion in prison, talk to them about it. Make sure it’s not an impulsive decision and will actually help them daily. Look into common practices and ask questions so you have a clear understanding. Don’t assume or judge. If this newfound faith keeps them smiling and without hurt, be as supportive and informed as you can.
Romans 1:17: For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
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