Someone in prison once wrote to this ministry and mentioned he was reading Dante’s Inferno. He suggested that perhaps Dante got the inspiration for his book after spending a summer inside a prison. There is a prison in Texas which some people serving time there call The Glass House because the exterior walls are nothing but six-inches by six-inches squares of glass mounted in a steel grid. One wing of the prison faces due west and so in the afternoon anyone on that wing will do nothing but roast in the sun beaming through the glass . . . and no air conditioning either. For most prisons, especially the older structures, there is only one word to describe summers there: HOT! Not only do you get all sweaty and uncomfortable, everyone else around you is sweating as well. If you remember what a gym locker room smelled like when you were in school, multiply that by about a thousand and you will be close to the smell inside a prison in the summertime. Besides the odor, everyone’s tempers flare as well, both inmates and guards; needless to say, summer in prison is an especially rough place to be. So, how does one survive such a hot setting?
One thing to learn about people in prison is to never underestimate their ingenuity. For example, one way to help beat the heat is to sit in front of a fan (if you are blessed to have family or a friend who will send you money to be able to buy one). Furthermore, it is better to sit in front of the fan wearing a wet t-shirt. As the fan evaporates the water from the shirt, heat from your body will be carried away as well. Although it is available to far fewer people in prison, it is great to have a job in an air-conditioned area of the prison or perhaps work in the meat cooler in the food service department. However, for far too many people in prison there is no alternative but to sit there and sweat. For older inmates (a large portion of our prison population today due to tough on crime laws passed decades ago), summertime can be a season which turns a limited sentence into a life sentence. Likely you have heard about how the elderly suffer and sometimes die during the heat of summer in our bigger cities. Just think what it is like for someone in prison who can’t even go outside when it gets too hot inside. If there is one thing I have learned in my many years of involvement with people in prison, it is that there is no need to tell them about hell, they are already living in it. So, this summer, in the letters we regularly send to those who write to us, we try to share a little humor and a little of God’s love to help relieve their suffering.