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Each year thousands of men and women are incarcerated in America. For those given life sentences or assigned to death row, prison will be all they know for a very long time. Most would think for those involved there can’t be anything to look forward to in prison but many inmates seem to find something that they have been missing their whole life … Jesus. Now I’m not saying every death row/life sentence  inmate is without Jesus or even goes into prison looking to find him. But the amount of inmates who confess they’ve found Jesus while in prison is something that is impossible to over look.

If you google any form of the sentence “I Found Jesus in Jail” you’ll come across pages of stories about inmates who were converted while serving. But why? What is it about prison that makes even the worst criminals want to change?

Well for starters, with many prisons having to provide some sort of prison minister or chaplain, it’s not hard for inmates to be introduced to the spiritual life while serving out there sentence.  The Pew Forum surveyed chaplains in 50 states and found that about three-quarters of the chaplains say that a lot or some religious switching occurs among inmates in the prisons where they work. Many chaplains report growth from religious switching in the numbers of Muslims and Protestant Christians, in particular.

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One of the most infamous stories of an inmate finding God while serving time in jail is Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams.

Stanley Tookie Williams III was a leader of the Los Angeles  Crips gang . In 1981 Williams was tried and convicted for four murders that took place during a convince store robbery. He was sentenced to Death row.

After a rough start in prison Williams began to transform his life.  He says the transformation was because of God. In 1996 he began writing his first book in his Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence’ series. The following year Williams did something huge by writing an apology for his role in the crips. He once again crediting God saying ”

” I am no longer part of the problem. Thanks to the Almighty, I am no longer sleepwalking through life,”

In 2004 Williams story was made into TV Movie ‘Redemption’. Although Williams petitioned for clemency several times e was put to death in 2005.

Williams is not the only inmate who claims to have found Jesus in jail. NFL star Michael Vick stated

“Through this situation I’ve found Jesus,”  in reference to his time served for his part in a dog fighting ring.

Many people believe inmates use this new found spirituality as a way for a lesser sentence. However many chaplains say the spiritual exercises are a part of the recovery process for criminals. The chaplains surveyed for  from the Pew Forum believe  access to religion-related programs in prison to be “absolutely critical” to successful rehabilitation of inmates .

I believe some truth can b found in both side. However there is no way of really knowing why this change occurs and if it is a genuine change. Only time can tell. What’s your opinion on the matter?

Words by Jessica Snyder

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