Visiting My Son in Prison

I was sitting in the visitation room, picking at the broken tabletop as I talked to my son. At that time, we were approaching sixteen years of visiting Jason, both in jail and in multiple prisons. I asked him, “What is the single most important thing—besides Jesus— that helps you keep your sanity in this place?”

Before he could answer, my finger dislodged a piece of someone’s dried-out, leftover food from the tabletop. “This is so disgusting!” I blurted out, referring to the crud on the table. Then I realized it was even more revolting that I was picking at it with my own fingers!

I laughed out loud as I realized how it would have bothered me to be assigned a seat at that table in my B.P. (Before Prison) years. Now, A.P., I’m more focused on the person I’m visiting, rather than the furniture or décor in the room.

To answer my question, Jason said, “Visits are one of the most important things anyone can do for an inmate.” I asked him if he would write out some insights on the importance of visitation so I could share them with you. He mailed me handwritten notes that read:

Visitation is the only time when a prisoner can count on getting to physically touch (albeit very briefly) those he loves. Our visitors are also our connection to the outside world with its life, freedom, taste of fresh air, and hope. Getting to talk face-to-face, share a meal together, and simply hold hands means more than I can say.

Prison is a very lonely place and it’s inherently alienating from the life we all previously knew. Any connection through letters, phone calls, and visits shared together is a deep encouragement and reconnects us to those we love. Friends who come remind us that we aren’t forgotten and they’re comforting to the soul.

People on both sides of the fence desperately need that contact. You realize in here how very important relationships are and how much you miss everyone that you may have previously taken for granted.

Visits can also be emotionally charged and stressful—but what is the alternative? We can either choose a slow loss of connection and experience broken relationships, or embrace the risk and the opportunity of seeing each other regularly—even with the myriad of restrictions, personal misunderstandings, and hurdles of prison rules.

I encourage everyone to take a chance and visit those they care about behind prison walls. Letters and phone calls are valuable, but an actual visit in the flesh is truly priceless. It makes us know you care.

Many people have told me how hard it is to visit their incarcerated loved one.  Here’s why I go:

  • God tells us that when we visit someone in prison, it is as if we are visiting Him (see Matthew 25:34–40).
  • Visiting my son gives me a chance to know him more personally. When all we can do is talk, we often discuss important things. We also resolve weightier family issues more easily than in fifteen-minute phone calls with an automatic cutoff.
  • Visitation provides an opportunity for me to meet other prisoners’ family members, both adults and children. Waiting in long lines together gives us a chance to brainstorm about ideas for helping each other and advocating for our inmate loved ones.
  • By caring for my son, I’m able to follow God’s example . . . because He doesn’t forget us. “See,” He says, “I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

Visiting my son regularly brings joy, healing, even laughter into a very dark environment. Jason and I find comfort in discussing creative ways to show compassion to inmates and their families, followed by sharing prayer needs and praying out loud for each other. Philippians 2:3 –4 says, “In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”

His Words Over You

“I hear the voices of those in need. Remember those who are in prison as if you were there with them. Overflow more and more with love for each other and keep growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.”

Based on Psalm 69:33, Hebrews 13:3, and Philippians 1:9

Question:  What hard thing has God asked you to do and how has your obedience brought unexpected joy to your life?  (You can pre-order Carol’s newest book, Waiting Together: Hope and Healing for Families of Prisoners, on Amazon.

 

18 comments to Visiting My Son in Prison

  • Arlene Sturgill

    I read this blog with tears in my eyes because, having my son in the same place, I certainly do understand. I have most of your books Carol. They were bought for me by a member of my church. I would love to have this new book but I am disabled working only part time (waiting 2 years so far for disability) and I have absolutely no money left over after bills. I was wondering if you would consider donating a book to me so that I could continue to collect your series? I love your work Carol. When I Lay My Isaac Down helped me so much to get through the court ordeal we were facing with KC. I know this is somewhat of a brash request but my mother taught me as a child, that no one can help you if you don’t ask. My email address is asturgill@answerfirst.com

  • Helen Haidle

    Hi Carol,
    Would love to get in touch with the chaplain at this prison. Would they like to have 3 cards for each inmate to be able to write to friends and family? Would any church take time to write in cards to give to those in the prison? We would love to provide the cards/envelopes.
    See on our website: http://seedfaithbooks.com/collections/greeting-cards
    Please let me know! In Jesus, Helen (helen@seedfaithbooks.com)

  • Cheryl

    I have had the opportunity to visit a friend in Hardee two years ago and was blessed to have Jason and his dad Gene sit with us. Jason is truly a man of God. His words uplift and inspire. My friend transferred to another prison in northern Florida as I could not be more than just a friend. Now I visit my best friends son, as she is currently not able to visit. The rules ar Hardee have changed from two years ago. I have read Carols books, they are inspiring.

  • Jen @ INMATES MATTER TOO

    Really enjoyed your blog. Please come check out InmatesMatterToo.org We’d welcome you as a mother blogging for us. The families need to hear more stories like yours. 🙂
    God Bless 🙂

  • Julie H.

    That was beautiful. Thank you.❤️

  • Paula Holmes

    My son says that it’s the only time he can forget where he is at and can feel somewhat normal. I Praise God for every minute I am there.

  • Sue Badeau

    This is such a good piece, Carol. In addition to all that you wrote, it is also important to know that states and local and federal government often have laws and policies that place incarcerated people in facilities hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their family, friends and loved ones – such as our son who is currently in a very remote area in Michigan – it is impossible for us to get there to see him with any regularity because of the distance and cost and others I know are in even more dire situations. We need to lobby the authorities to stop this practice and to make it more accessible and affordable for people to visit their loved ones who are in prison. Thanks for all you do!

  • anon

    I have followed your story over the years, and have often been encouraged and overwhelmed at what you have endured. I have wept at the grace you have shown and grieved at my own lack of it in my hard place. I realized when I first read your story that you were “called” to serve in a very hard place. you have not despised your cross, but have carried it with grace and honor that I envy. Your son is a credit to you, your husband and the Kingdom of God. What satan intended for evil, God has redeemed over and over, “those who go forth weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them”. Have you seen the sheaves?? Do you see them everyday, or do you only rejoice in them from afar like the Hebrews 11 faithful one’s, not many of whom saw the fruit or realization of their faith. If you had turned away in anger, many of us would have read your story as a blip on some random news show and forgotten, but here you are so many years later, and the story still resounds in the universe with news THAT JESUS SAVES!! HE REDEEMS!! HE RANSOMS, AND RESCUES AND DELIVERS. Corrie Ten Boom asked her sister why God would allow them, THE ONLY CHRISTIANS, to go to the concentrations camps. She replied” because we are the only christians here!! It is true many of us are called to serve in hard, hard places, and many of us struggle daily for grace to do it well. you have done it well, Carol!! your testimony, and Jason’s humbleness and faithfulness and willingness to be redeemed and used, are magnificent. I did not want to go to my hardest place 20 years ago, I am still here, and I have lost EVERYTHING here, EXCEPT my faith in a God I didnt know when I came here. Will I ever come out of here? My grief is not in this cross, it no longer offends me, but in the knowledge of how badly I carried it for many years. I want so much to do it well! For my life to testify of HIM! To not disgrace his name and reputation by giving in to fear, despair, hopelessness, but to rejoice in deliverance I cannot yet see, but by faith. How I have prayed your faith would not fail you in the darkest times, because I have witnessed the terribleness of when that happens, when the cross offends those who have to witness it. and now many years later I can testify with JOB (6:10) My comfort in great affliction is this: that I have not denied the Words of The Holy One.” God bless you.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Carol, this is so beautiful. I love that you live nearer your darling boy and that you and Gene can visit him more frequently. I was reading today about waiting….something I had written in my journal from back in 2012. I realized how alone I felt in the waiting, but I was comforted to know that God was waiting with me. I know that JP knows the Lord, so he knows that Jesus is always waiting with him, never to leave him. Still, how precious for JP’s own parents to be the hands, feet, and smile of Christ–to give him *tangible* hope in his waiting and a warm arm of embrace. God made us to need touch. And why would that change because someone is mostly inaccessible behind walls? In fact, your encouragement to us demonstrates that our touch and reaching out to those incarcerated is more important than ever…as we provide a form of emotional and relational freedom to our incarcerated family and friends that they absolutely need. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your book I know is a message which needs to be heard, and I am pleased to share it. Love, Lynni

  • Sharron Grodzinsky

    Hello Carol, I just discovered your blog and find we are in the same situation. My son is in USP Beaumont Federal Prison. I have been visiting him for a total of 12 years. Since he has been in the Federal Prison system, it has been difficult as I live in Las Vegas and he has been incarcerated in Tucson, South Carolina and Texas. Except for Tucson, where I drove to, I have to fly and rent a room. In both South Carolina and Texas I also had to rent a car and drive from an hour to two hours after the flight. But, the visits are worth it even if they are infrequent.
    I have also written a book, “Waiting on the Outside”. It won first place for non-fiction in the Predators and Editors 2015 contest and is available on Amazon. Ill be looking for yours. I am sure we will have some of the same problems, trials and tribulations in our stories.
    I have written to some of my son’s friends and have found that some of them have no one to write to or to visit them. It just makes me stronger and more determined to continue my support with out failing.
    Thanks for your blog and I am happy to have found it. Blessings to you and your son.

  • Tami

    God bless you Carol,Gene and Jason. The Lord continues to use your story to bless and encourages so many! Agreeing with you in prayer for a continued miraculous move of God’s hand in your lives!

  • Jackie seidel

    Your blog couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m currently waiting for my background check to clear in order to visit my son in prison. It’s so heartbreaking not being able to have any contact at all during this time my mind goes crazy!! I know the Lord has it under control!! Thank you for your blog !

  • Elizabeth Murphy

    Dearest Carol,
    It always amazes me how you take your own very hard situation and use it to both challenge and encourage others. The particular hard circumstance doesn’t matter, you point people to Jesus and inspire me to look at it His way, love the person His way, step into the hard place He would and be brave with the courage of Christ. Well done good and faithful servant. Grateful for you.

  • Linda Daniel

    I have followed you and your inspiring stories for many years. Carol, you and your husband Gene & Dear Jason are God-sent angels to the thousands of broken-hearted Moms trying to endure this horrible dark life with their incarcerated sons! It just never gets easier and never goes away (with a Life sentence) and without God and the few people like you and your family, I don’t know how we would continue to hang on. God Bless You! Linda

  • Lynn holloway

    Carol, I had the opportunity to hear you speak several years ago at First Baptist , Texarkana Tx. I , too, have a son in prison , who is serving a life sentence. He has been in Texas Prison Systen 16 years. He is my youngest son, 36 years old now. I , like so many thousands of other Moms, have learned all too well, what a new kind of normal truly means. Just a funny,friendly card or anything that lets them know you are thinking about them, care about them as fellow human beings. So many, literally multitudes of offenders, never hear another word from the outside. Friends and family dont have time for them, put them out of their minds, are now embarrassed by them…These men and women need just a little encouragement . It takes very little time and/or money to let them know someone cares. If anyone would like to make the difference in someone’s life, I would be glad to provide the address of the facility my son is in. There are over 3,000 men there. Thank you for taking time to read this.
    God bless each of you and your families. lynn Lynn.oden

  • Arlene Sturgill

    I have had the pleasure of meeting you, Gene, Jason and your wonderful mother while visiting my son Kyle at Hardee. Sadly my son was transferred way up into the Panhandle to Okaloosa CI and in the 7 months he has been gone, I have only been able to see him one time. I find that when I tell people I miss my son and wish I could visit him, I still, even after 7 years gone, find people who say that if he did not do the crime he would be home with me all the time. That is true but he did make his mistakes and for that he is in prison paying for his actions. But what people do not seem to understand is that visitation is not only important for the inmate but for the family left behind as well. My family is a very small one, just my daughter and her son, my son and I so not having him in my life has been a devastating thing for me. I went into a deep depression when he was sentenced and lived in such despair. It is only through my faith that God has a bigger plan for us that I am able to go on each day. Seeing my son in person, being able to hug him and see him smile… seeing with my own two eyes that he is still okay.. is what gives me peace. Jason is blessed to be able to see you on a regular basis. And you are blessed to be able to see him. My son will be eligible for another good adjustment transfer in 5 months and we are praying to get him closer to home this time. The camp he is at has no real religious programs, no self improvement classes.. no real classes of any kind for him. He is currently trying to hired on in the library just so he can have something positive to do. I ask that you pray for Kyle and I that we be once again blessed with the ability to see each other on a regular basis. I miss my son and he misses his mom. Blessings and love to your family Carol..

  • Treva Whitley

    Carol, I just lost my mother March 6 after taking care of her for years. Matter of fact I took care of her and my brother who was released from prison after 31 years seven years ago, because he was dying of cancer. I knew my mother could not bare to know he died in there by himself. So I fought to bring him home, and by God’s grace only did they release him. I enjoyed visiting my brother at the prison, but the emotional part of it was very hard, especially watching my ill mother having to leave her son again. We were treated like we had committed a crime sometimes. I drove to Richmond last week and could only cry thinking about the many time we had traveled that road with my mother to see him. It was the most painful thing I had to watch, seeing a mothers love for a son who she couldn’t protect any more. I am glad that you are able to enjoy and show others the walk of the Lord while in there. But truly it was a difficult time for me and am grateful I got the opportunity to take care of him in his last days. May sound sick but I was able to truly show him the love I had missed out in the past years. God bless you for what you do and your outreach to others.

  • LISA GARDNER

    I really need help in coping with my sons incarnation. I have been so depressed since all this happened. Hes only on his second year of 25 to 35. I have been so depressed that I haven’t been able to be the support that he needs and I feel so bad for letting him down. I hope finding other mothers will help me and my son.

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