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Do You Write to Prisoners?

07. August 2017

Features, Christian Living,

  —Tim McCracken

Perhaps you know the refreshment of perceiving someone’s eagerness for growth in faith—perhaps that person has even asked you to come alongside them for fellowship and for discipleship. Nearly 11 years ago, I encountered a whole new field of that eagerness in the unique and defined population of the California State Prisons near Fresno, Calif.

It began with a single letter from an individual on the D-Yard at Corcoran State Prison’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF)—level 4 security. “Do you ever write to prisoners?” he asked.

(Note: A yard at SATF Corcoran is a distinct imprisonment segment of assigned security level within the larger institution; each yard is enclosed in razor wire and has both a central watchtower and five other points of watch, one in each of the five housing/cell units that surround a central exercise area about the size of a soccer field. Yard populations these days run at about 750–800 men; in August 2006, each had more than 1,000! The whole complex is surrounded by electric fence and watchtowers. Along one edge of each yard is a long administrative building for offices, education, chapel, medical services, cafeteria, etc.)

Getting to know the inmate who wrote, and getting to know a believing friend of his there, I quickly discovered the strong desire among the believers in those isolated, sequestered communities that someone from the church outside would ...

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