Monday, December 30, 2013

Prisoners, Parents, and Prayers

Hebrews 13:3a  “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself”.   NLT

You may think this is an odd verse to be included for parent's of special needs kids. If you read on you'll see that it can be quite relevant when severe mental illness is involved.  I was as guilty as the next person to prejudge and convict criminals without much thought to them or the families they come from. Frankly, I used to skim over this verse and just give it a “quick” read without much contemplation.  Or I would think of those in the Bible that shouldn’t have been in prison.  But this verse really doesn’t distinguish the prisoner.   Then I got a taste from a parent's perspective of jail.  I now look at all prisoners differently, but for today I am going to touch on the special needs prisoner and their families.  

I made the call to the police department right after David got on the plane to come home after fleeing the country.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as a mother.  I had reported him and now he was going to be arrested when the plane landed.  That indeed happened and he was taken to jail.  As a mother you must know that I did imagine what it was like for him.  In the few days that he was there he was on suicide watch for half the time. We were fortunate enough to be able to video talk with him almost every day and the pain in his voice and on his face was almost unbearable.  We couldn’t just give him a hug over the monitor or tell him everything was going to be o.k.  We knew he had to be held accountable for his actions, but we also knew that much of his trouble was due to his illness.   This is a dilemma too many parents of grown kids with severe mental illness have to deal with.  We knew it was the best possible place for him at that time which was a hard thing to swallow. It was heart wrenching to say the least.  

Because of this, I now had a new appreciation for prison ministries and understood a little of the toll it puts on families when a loved one goes to jail or prison.  I can't even describe the varying emotions I went through and was shocked to find out the financial toll a family can go through if they want to stay in communication with their loved one.  

The really big thing that I came to realize is that many inmates in both jails and prisons suffer from mental illness.  I strongly encourage you to read the article I have linked below about prisons being the new asylums (an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill).  Because of this experience, I could now read this verse and really start to relate to it and understand it much better.  I was no longer apathetic about it.  I also realized that however undeserving I might think someone is in prison that only God knows their heart.  

My son was a Christian with a mental illness that he didn't have enough insight into.  The illness was untreated, undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and mistreated for so long that it was taking it's toll on his mind and his very life.  As a parent, I was helpless to force treatment on him.  I knew it was the best place for him, which in itself is quite a sad statement of how our society has fallen short in helping those with severe mental illness.  It's a terrible place for a parent to be put in.  I couldn't call a hospital and get him admitted for care.  I knew I was not alone.  

Unfortunately, my experience as a parent of a special needs prisoner was all too typical.  There are many such parents out there that would love some encouragement and prayer.  My challenge to you is to regularly pray for these prisoners and their families to be comforted by the ultimate comforter, Jesus.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to put ourselves in the “shoes” of those that we may not believe are deserving of remembering.  Help us to remember their families who suffer with them and lastly remind us to pray for them and their families.

Photo credit UK Telegraph


  1. Very powerful Ann! So many parents are needing help with their mentally ill children/adults and finding none. Thank you for this.

  2. Wow Ann, so sorry you had to go through this, I can't imagine the heartbreak you had, and the difficult decisions you were faced with as a parent. I never thought of mental illness as one of the leading causes of people in prison, but that makes total sense. Mental illness is a blip on the radar and needs to be given more precedence and funding. I hope our society is changing, given the violence in schools, malls, airports, etc. There is more conversation happening now, hopefully that is the momentum that is needed for change.

  3. I agree Jill. Getting the word out there is the key.