Setting The Prisoner Free

If you click back through my previous posts on theatre with former prisoners, you might notice that the reading we take to churches, Even In The Darkest Place, usually has five men on the stage.

Not today.

One man went back to jail. He's out now, but has not reconciled himself back with the group, who prays for him.

I once spoke with Wally Lamb, author of Oprah pick She's Come Undone and writing teacher at a women's correctional facility. At the time I was doing theatre with homeless women, and I admitted that I envied his position: Your people have to show up, I said. They're not going anywhere!

Selfish, I know, but it's a hazard of working with any group not locked inside four walls: People get sick. They don't show. Or maybe they go to jail.

I rewrote the script for today and took out parts that were personal to this man; other lines of his (the script is comprised of their actual words put together in stylized form) were spoken for him. The charisma of the fallen man breathed through his friend, almost as if he had been with us.

It's something to sit through a church service with men who have done time. You shall not steal, the pastor read to the congregation, and to a man who had done fourteen years for just that.

You shall not kill
, he said; in front of me sat a man who had. Twenty-one years he spent in prison.

And which commandments have I broken?

The service concluded with the singing of Charles Wesley's Oh For A Thousand Tongues.

He breaks the power of canceled sin;
He sets the prisoner free.

His blood can make the foulest clean;

His blood avails for me.


  1. Hi. Just wanted to let you know I read this and thought very deeply about it. Just not very verbal write-in-a-box thoughts. Way too deep for that.

  2. Hey--thanks, Glenn. I worry sometimes that I don't exactly invite comment, but I like writing small essays. And to be honest, I'd rather people comment because they're moved to, not because of some duty or want of a trackback.

  3. I'm starting a blog and thinking of naming it Doing Life or Prisoner Mom or Getting Caught or Parenting a Prisoner..... one of those four. Any advice?

  4. Carol, that's a great idea--for you, and for all who would read it (no matter the title--though I like "Doing Life.").

    Everyone else: Carol and her husband are behind this project I've been working on, as is their son Troy, who has been in prison for too long, despite a 360 turnaround.


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