McDowell Technical Community College

High Country Prison Ministry

Do You Know What I Know?

By Jody Griffin

Mitchell and Yancey Counties 

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

Christmas is coming soon. Families are making plans for gifts and food and celebrations. But not all families are able to get excited about the Holiday season. Some are suffering. Some are crying. Some are wrestling with questions like, “Why isn’t Daddy here with us?” or “When will Mommy be home?”

While it is sadly true that many children of incarcerated parents may be struggling with the answers to these questions this Christmas, it is also tragically true that there are children and loved ones of correctional employees faced with the same reality. And for these families there is no “projected release date” set as a boundary for the current period of imprisonment.

No, for these children and family members, their Daddy, Mommy, sister, brother, spouse or significant other, son or daughter will never be coming home. They are not coming home because of the decisions of one or more others to steal the futures of those charged with insuring their safety and well-being. They are not coming home because they were killed fulfilling their mission of securing the safety of the incarcerated and the professional staff that serves the incarcerated.

Do you know what I know? The truth is that a career within the walls of any correctional institution is a career that carries great risk. Just ask the families of Veronica Darden, Justin Smith, Wendy Shannon and Geoffrey Howe from Pasquotank Correctional. Just ask the family and friends of Meggan Lee Callahan of Bertie Correctional Institution.

Each of these dedicated people left home one day this year to go to work. And by the day’s end, they were severely injured or killed in the line of duty.

Do you know what I know? Do you know that any day the employees of any prison go to work could be their last?  And do you know what I know? Correctional employment in most states equals some of the lowest paid professionals in any field.

So, why do they do it? If the work carries risk of life and limb, and if the work promises little if any financial benefit, why would people subject themselves to such conditions? I know the answer because I have the privilege to witness it every day…

The reason most of the people do what they do in the dark and difficult circumstances they do them in is because of the difference they can potentially make in some else’s life. That’s right. You read it correctly. They do what they do because they ultimately believe that public safety is worth it. They do what they do because in some way they know that this work matters, and that of those they protect, some will be changed by the experience of incarceration and find hope for a new life direction.

It is an incredible honor for me to serve as Community Funded Chaplain at Avery Mitchell Correctional Institution. Every day I witness the high level of dedication present in the commitment of Custody and Program personnel. I see the earnest expressions of those who serve in administrative roles, medical and dental technicians, mental health professionals and social workers. I see case managers scrambling to meet ever increasing caseloads and specialty staff like food service professionals who literally face the aforementioned risks every single day. Every. Single. Day.

Do you know what I know? The good people who work and the good people who volunteer to serve behind the walls and within the gates do so at great risk. They are deserving of the prayers of all people who know and value their dedicated service. They literally depend on the goodness of people in the surrounding community to pray for their protection and for the accomplishment of their mission day in and day out.

As the Christmas season approaches and you hear the popular Christmas tune, I pray that you will consider these words and answer the questions we have pondered these last few months. Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Do you know what I know?

There is a light that shines in the darkness. It is the Light of Life. His Name is Jesus. And He has promised that ‘ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’.

May the Truth of God’s Word be alive in our hearts and through our lives this holiday season. God Bless you for reading, for caring and for PRAYING!  Merry Christmas!