Lockdown Testimony

The semiannual lockdown had finally finished out at the unit. The lockdown is a 3-4 week season where the inmates are restricted to their cells 24 hours of the day as the officers go cell by cell, house by house, inspecting inmate possessions for contraband.

The summer lockdown is the most difficult given the heat. The prison isn't air-conditioned, and Texas summer days are regularly over 100 degrees. The inmates are only given Johnny sacks to eat in their cell, just a bologna sandwich and an apple for lunch and dinner, day after day after day. The calories not quite sufficient to stave off hunger pains, especially for the bigger guys. The weeks of the lockdown are hot and hungry, with no way to escape your cell and cellmate. The lockdown is a mental and physical trial of patience and endurance.

With the lockdown lifted our Bible study resumed on Monday nights, and as I hugged and greeted the men I asked my standard post-lockdown questions: "How was the lockdown? Did you do okay?"

Most of the answers I got were expected. "It was rough." "I was hungry a lot." "Long and hot."

And then I got to Kenneth.

Kenneth is a 70-some year old African American man. Kenneth is a spiritual leader among the inmates, a wise friend and mentor to many of the younger men.

"How was your lockdown, Mr. Kenneth?"

Kenneth's face lit up.

"It was wonderful!" he exclaimed.

"It was wonderful?" I asked in a puzzled tone.

"Oh yes," Mr. Kenneth went on. "The lockdown is my personal time with God. Lockdown is all about your spiritual mindset. For me, I use the peace and quiet of those days to spend time with God. The lockdowns are my spiritual, one-on-one time with God, my time to focus on God. So my lockdown was wonderful."

I listened with growing amazement and awe. Kenneth was practically glowing, recounting the hot and hungry weeks locked in his cell.

I left the unit that night thinking of my life, and praying to be more like Mr. Kenneth.

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