Saturday I went with SportsReach Ministries to a State Pen. in Southeast Texas. This ministry group plays pick up games of basketball with inmates. We had 19 guys total. A good friend, CB, has been asking me to participate for about a year and I finally agreed, but said I would referee instead of playing. We left early and arrived at the Gurney Transfer Unit about 9 am. It was truly an experience. My knowledge and experience of the prison system is from watching documentaries on cable. This particular unit was more of a hold over area for inmates awaiting final sentences or placement in Texas. We were told the longest anyone could be kept was 2 years. Some people are there as short as a few weeks.
I feel like I went for various reasons: 1) I was asked by a brother in Christ 2) it was a ministry opportunity 3) I was curious about prisons 4) A really good friend of mine is serving time and I could possibly witness what he is going through.
Since it was Saturday there were about 10+ cars being searched at the initial gate. Our 4 vehicles got to bypass the search, but each of us had to show our drivers license before proceeding. We then met a lady Sargeant we escorted us each step of the way. She was a super host and it seems she is well liked and respected by the inmates.
Today I am only going to share a few general things. I was only briefed on a few dos and don'ts. We only took our bags of sports items and a driver's license. No money, phones, etc. We were to only use first names and were not to give the inmates anything. The inmates were all dressed in whites and did not have any identifying numbers. Of the 60 who were allowed the privelege of playing about 50 were black with the other 10 being split between white men and hispanic. This unit houses up to 2100 men.
I was there on the inside, shaking hands, calling fouls and sweating amongst America's, or should I say, Texas' outcasts.
I'll blog about general observations and experiences this next week.