What does freedom mean for you? That is the thought-provoking question being asked for Prisons Week this year. As Christians, we talk about freedom a lot, but what does that look like for men and women connected with our prison system?
Mark*, currently serving his sentence in prison, generously shared his thoughts with us.
There are various ways one can be free; free to choose their clothes, vocation, husband or wives, even their general demeanour. One can also be free from negative thoughts and behaviours – although this is difficult to practice every single minute of every single day – but the idea stands that we can choose to be free in terms of our behaviours and actions. Finally, we should be free from any oppression. We should have freedom of speech and be free to lead the lives we want.
One type of freedom I have not alluded to is probably the most relevant to my situation now: this is my physical freedom – to not be locked behind doors, gates and walls with staff monitoring my every waking – and sleeping! – hour.
I have been incarcerated for just over 30 months now, or 2½ years, whichever sounds more dramatic! My family have been unbelievably supportive throughout this hugely traumatic time. We have always had an extremely close bond and it did not have to take me coming to prison to realise how much I love them.
However, since my time away from them I have realised even more how much I love them, and how devastated I am to have to go without them every day.
My freedom means being able to play with my baby boy; to swim with him, teach him the time, show him how to ride a bike or kick a football. It means to share my mother’s 60th, auntie’s 50th, sister’s 40th and the countless other joyous occasions I should have been present for.
It means to be able to go to mass with my grandmother, watch Everton get beat with my grandfather, and wax lyrical with my uncle about how the Reds are back where we belong!
To have married the girl I believed was ‘the one’, and be on baby number two with her – instead of seeing my 13-year relationship be flushed down the toilet, along with everything else – that’s what I think of when I picture the word ‘freedom’.
This is the pain that stabs my heart when I visualise being free… “Here’s what you could have won!”
I miss real food, real people, real air. Road rage, traffic jams, and car parking fees. I miss my friends, my job, my sense of belonging, a purpose. I long for nature – the great outdoors, flowers, birds, trees… even wasps that would love to only inflict pain on me! I even miss the agonising chores of cleaning the house, mowing the lawn and the horrendous ordeal that is food shopping (especially at Christmas time!)
I miss me.
Prisons Week runs from 13-19th October 2019 and is a call to pray for the needs of all those affected by prisons. You can use our monthly Prayer Diary to help you pray, or use the Prisons Week video or our own Prisons Week PowerPoint presentation in your church service or group.
As you pray, ask yourself whether there is one thing that you as an individual, or as a church, can do to help any of the people that you are praying for?