It’s been dozens of days since Kerry Gant has seen her husband’s face. He’s quarantined in prison because his cell block is a COVID-19 hot spot.
“When you’re quarantining in prison,” Kerry said during a recent webinar with Prison Fellowship®, “it isn’t like quarantining in your house. It’s not like you . . . have access to all the luxuries of our nation. When you are quarantining in prison, that means lockdown. That means you’re in your cell for 23 hours a day.”
That’s what life was like for her husband for a 21-day stretch inside his 6-by-9 cell.
Isolated and anxious
COVID-19 spreads so fast behind bars because social distancing is next to impossible. There is rarely any personal space in prison.
Kerry’s husband is just one of thousands of prisoners in this country that have been affected by the current pandemic. To date, 57,017 positive COVID-19 cases and 601 deaths among men and women living and working in prison have been reported.
A friend of Kerry’s husband who is incarcerated at the same facility recently got sick and presented a fever. Kerry’s husband recommended he contact an officer and report his symptoms. “Guys are hesitant to report that they have [symptoms] because . . . in some cases, quarantine means lockdown, and isolation means solitary [confinement],” Kerry says. “And then you are isolated and cut off from your family, and that’s the last thing that any person in prison wants.”
Her husband’s friend did report his illness and was later tested for COVID-19. He tested negative, but her husband didn’t hear anything for three days. During that time—and with all but one hour of his days spent in isolation—Kerry’s husband got so anxious that he had an anxiety attack. “He stayed up all night that night and wrote his last will and testament in case he didn’t make it,” Kerry recalls.
A call to prayer
When prisoners are in lockdown, not much can be done for them by people on the outside. But there are some ways incarcerated men and women can stay in touch with their loved ones.
Prison Fellowship is partnering with Flikshop and Stand Together to provide free messages and photos to hundreds of incarcerated men from members of their friends and family this summer. The messages of love and support will be sent on postcards, via U.S. mail. Flikshop has made it possible to instantly share selfies and special moments with any incarcerated person.
Kerry says its hard to stay connected to her husband these days. “We find ways to connect via email, and we’re thankful for that.” (Some prisoners have limited access to secure email without internet.) “We read books together and do devotionals together,” Kerry added. “But ultimately, our phone calls are limited.”
What can’t be limited is prayer. God calls his people to remember the prisoner, and while we can’t be there in person for them right now, we can intercede for them. And we should.
To help you pray more specifically for men and women in prison, check out our regularly updated map of how COVID-19 is impacting prisons in each state and our resource showing how many and through what mechanisms people have been released as a result of the pandemic. We also put together this guide for how you can pray for prisoners, prison staff, and their families during this crisis.
How you can remember the prisoner
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that the Body of Christ come together to care for those affected by crime and incarceration. That’s why Prison Fellowship has created these additional resources and action steps for you to prayerfully consider:
- Use Prison Fellowship’s simple online tool to contact your federal and state lawmakers and request that they allocate funding to meet pressing needs within correctional facilities and limit the use of incarceration in certain circumstances.
Outrageous Justice® is Prison Fellowship’s free small-group study that explores the criminal justice system through a biblical lens, current events, and personal stories. While many places of worship are closed, this could be an excellent opportunity to lead or participate in an online exploration of God’s heart for justice and ways to pursue hope and restoration in our communities. Click here to download your free copy today. If you’d be interested in joining an online small group hosted by Prison Fellowship staff, you can find more information and register here.