Religion: The inmates disguise

Curtis, Denton Brantley

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Seven Hot Topics Concerning North Carolina's Prison System Religion: The Inmates Disguise by Denton Brantley Curtis My experience concerning this topic is authentic and genuine, and as a Christian myself, I've been involved (faithfully) in the cooperate setting of Christianity within every prison where I've served my prison term. In the central region of North Carolina at a prison named Odom Correctional Inst. located in Jackson, North Carolina, my job assignment was a chaplain clerk. It was my job to set up the services for every religion under the chaplain so inmates could practice the religion of their choice. I did this for three years. At another prison in the central region named Warren Correctional Inst. - located in Manson, North Carolina I was also a chaplain clerk for almost two years fulfilling the same duties I had at Odom Correctional Inst. (which is now a minimum custody facility) I've witnessed with my own eyes an inmates devotion towards their religious preference. Whether it be Islam, Wiccan, Catholic, Buddhist, Jehovah Witness, Native American, Christianity. I've seen it all for years. In the Christianity I've played the drums for six prison choirs and I've taught and preached the Bible now for almost fifteen years, so I have experienced a lot concerning religion within these prison walls. I don't mean to be pessimistic in my writings, but I can only bear witness to what I have experienced. I want to say that presently (2016) every month I correspond and talk on the phone with seven ex-inmates, that are my brothers from a spiritual perspective that served prison time with me and are now out in society. These men are now law abiding citizens, leaders in their households, and neighborhoods, honest business men, loving fathers, and husbands. However behind prison walls, they were devoted to Christ and Christianity. (Note: true devotion to anything or anyone will compel a person to examine themselves to ensure that devotion remains pure free from anthro-centric contaminates!) It's not that religion is wrong, but like a lot of things that were created good, humanity has either perverted it or destroyed it. Religion is about a relationship, not some type of formal worship service or liturgy. These seven ex-inmates came to understand that. Any crime committed by an inmate has its root in selfishness. Perhaps these inmates were involved in many relationships upon entering the prison system, but lacked true devotion to those relationships. These men never took the time to examine themselves. Thus the relationships hurt (some destroyed) because they followed themselves. A lot of inmates that enter the prison system have come to the end of themselves, when that happens an inmates natural response is to embrace some type of religion, while still misunderstanding what religion really is about. It's about a relationship. If it's about a relationship then it means another person is involved, and if you care and/or love that person, you will not deliberately live a life, or do anything to offend them, but you learn what pleases that person, even if it means completely changing who you are! In fact a lot of marriages don't last because a man may spend a lot of money on buying his wife gifts and that's expected but if the marriage is going to last he must be the gift, and give himself to his wife daily! A man can give and never give himself! Concerning religion inmates do it all the time. They go through the rituals, liturgy, a bunch of prayers, fasting. They give a lot, but never give themselves. On the western region of North Carolina at a prison called Marion Correctional Inst. located in Marion, North Carolina, I served my prison term from 2001 to 2005. It was at this prison that I was faithfully involved in the Christian faith. I was playing the drums for the choir, and in 2003 our volunteer Sunday school teacher Dan Lavender, became ill and could not return. So the chaplain asked me if I would teach the class and after responding by saying no, I finally said yes. On Sunday mornings I could shine and put on a show. On Wednesday evenings I could play the drums and preach, and in my disguise (religion) people thought I had it all together. The truth was that I was falling apart but my disguise (religion) said I was fine! However when I returned to my dorm and entered my prison cell, and laid my head on the pillow the tears would flow from my eyes so bad that my face would swell up. I can remember crying until I could cry no more. I had bitterness in my heart, anger and unforgiveness towards someone I felt had a role in me being convicted. In my mind there was still the residue of the physical and psychological abuse I suffered as a child along with my siblings, and on top of that the pain I suffered from the battles with not having female intimacy and images of pornographic scenes from the past, it became unbearable. However I used my religion to hide the true me, it was my disguise. If I had entered society in that condition, I would have either returned to prison with another prison term or I would've ended up dead. The truth is that inmates use religion for many different reasons, in fact some religions have different privileges, and inmates manipulate the administration to receive those privileges food, tobacco, etc. For a while I was caught up in the cooperate form of religion until in the year 2011 I was enrolled in school (electrical wiring and quality food service) at a prison called Eastern Correctional Institution on the eastern region of North Carolina in Maury, North Carolina. Together both schools lasted one year and six months. I spent the entire time (one year and six months) going to school and back to my cell. For the first time ever I was not involved in any type of Christian gathering. I attended no Christian services (not saying that the services were not genuine) but for the first time during my prison term it was time to face some inward(s) issues, and put them to rest! For so long I used religion as a way to escape from the real truth. I needed to be alone face to face with myself and Jesus. A true relationship requires alone time. It's called "intimacy". I had been running back and forth, trying to counsel others and help them, when I needed help and counseling. The help and love (support) I received during this time did not come from within the Christian community within the prison walls (for they were like me) but the help and love (support) came from men and women who had experienced the same thing I was going through. They had been face to face with themselves and God, and understood that religion is all about a relationship, yes a relationship that not only changes an inmate but allows an inmate to change themselves from the person they were upon entering the prison system. Which brings us to the purpose of true religion. (please remember that I am writing in regard to my experience concerning this topic) Its (religion) purpose is designed to not only change a man (inmate) but to teach him how to live. Throughout the years I've served in prison, I have witnessed religion change a lot of inmates, however those same inmates never developed something called virtue (moral excellence). If religion is going to be effective in the lives of inmates there must be a balance (equality). A inmate must be fully devoted to understanding and receiving analytically, and the other/and/or part of the balance devoted fully to application spiritually (personally). Around the same time that North Carolina prison's changed from department of Corrections to the Department of Public Safety, a lot of chaplains were laid off around the prisons in North Carolina, because the state was trying to save money. I believe (subjectively speaking) that was a terrible mistake. The chaplains that I met throughout my prison term were seasoned (experienced) and cared about the inmates from a moral and spiritual perspective. Now that ninety-eight percent of them are gone religious matters along with the hearts of inmates has been left in the hands of inexperienced cold hearted inmates and administrative officials. Religion within North Carolina's prison system has undergone a lot of changes, however true religion is not bound and will always prevail! Religion: The Inmates Disguise

Author: Curtis, Denton Brantley

Author Location: North Carolina

Date: April 21, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 12 pages

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