Message from Dane County Jail Chaplain

Letter to congregations April 2013

There are times when it’s more obvious than others that the Spirit guides our work at the jail. Today I came to a cellblock and “J” said, “you came at exactly the right time. I am so angry I don’t know where to begin.” I listened as he described the conflict he was having with another inmate in his cellblock. He had even planned a way to hurt the other man. The level of his anger shocked even him because he studies the Bible regularly and considers himself a Christian. When I asked him what it was about the other man that aroused his anger, he said “he tries to control me and I won’t allow that.” “Try turning it around and asking yourself,” I said. “In what ways do I ( J ) control others?” The crack of a smile appeared as he realized an insight about himself. A bit of humility was palpable in that moment. Lunch was arriving so I said I’d check back with him later. When I came back I could tell the pall of anger was gone. J said, “he and I talked it through, prayed about it and it’s good now between us. In fact, he got notice today that he is being released from jail.” I prayed with J and will follow up with him another day.

There are three essential aspects to jail ministry: presence, listening, and sharing. Thanks to you and many congregations for enabling Chaplain Julia and I to be present to our hurting neighbors. I never cease to be amazed at the immense load of hurt, loss, abuse, and violence that people bring to jail. Some of it was passed down to others so now they face charges in court. Behind virtually every story you read in the paper there is another story which has never been told to someone before. Trust and safety are what we bring in Christ’s name, and forgiveness. A captive can experience release even before the jail doors open. Easter blessings to you all!

Chaplain John Mix
Dane County Jail Chaplain

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