I met Robert at Dodge Correctional Institution about six months after his arrest for possession and distribution of a small amount of drugs. He came to our Tuesday morning Bible study, and we met for a pastoral visit a little more than a week later. When we met, Robert told me about his family, his life “before prison,” and he also told me about his crime.
After the Bible class had ended, I began gathering up my things to leave when the prison’s chaplain came out of his office. He motioned me over and asked in a hushed voice, “Would you be willing to talk to the inmate in my office? He just found out that his mother passed away and he’s asking to speak with a pastor.” “Sure,” I responded, and followed him back into his office.
Are you feeling lonely? One of the emotions that chaplains encounter in all of the institutions they serve is loneliness. People living in institutions are cut off from family and friends. Loved ones often can’t visit them because they are behind doors that are locked. Some of these locked doors are physical while others are emotional. What’s more, being institutionalized means that you are no longer visible in the lives of others. You cannot attend family gatherings or take part in family traditions and special events. Neighbors no longer “bump into you” in the grocery store or see you walking down the street.