What does a Bible mean to someone who is incarcerated? Certainly, it can be the difference between knowing and accepting God’s forgiveness and living with tremendous guilt and bitterness. But for some, a Bible is just a book. At least, at first.
“When I received a ‘Free on the Inside Bible,’” recalls one prison inmate, “I needed it more for weightlifting in the county jail. I was about 18 years old. I only read the parts that everyone talked about.
“I couldn’t bring myself to believe. Not until I turned 31 and was about to get sent back to prison for the second time. Then I realized my life was a mess and I couldn’t control it.
“I needed help.
“A few of my friends pulled me up and started talking about Jesus and convinced me to check out their Bible study. That night I felt Jesus knocking at the door [of my heart] and I let him in.
“After that, I started reading the Bible and, for the first time, understanding it. Since I’ve been reading it… it’s changed me and my life dramatically. I have repented and know I’ve been forgiven for all my sins.
“I thank my Savior, Lord, and King for not forsaking me. And thanks be to God for making me free on the inside!”
For others, a Bible can be their last hope and comfort in a desperately lonely place.
“So many times in my journey through the prison system,” writes another inmate, “I have been left in a cell with nothing but a Bible. I thank God every time for people and organizations responsible for allowing these to be placed where I can find them.
“Having God’s Word has been a lifesaver for me. At points, my sanity has been pulled from the depths of the pit of despair with a simple reading of the text. Despite the long road ahead of me, I feel confident I can face any challenge with Christ by my side. Thank you for freely providing this Bread of Life!”
“I have been in prison for five years,” an inmate named Gary wrote, “and not too long ago, I did some time in the ‘hole’ [solitary]. One of the first things I found in the cell was one of your Bibles. For 30 days that Bible came alive to me; it saved my life. The Lord opened up my heart and spoke to me. Now I know God lives in me and he will never leave me or forsake me. The ‘Free on the Inside Bible’ saved my life!”
For still others, God’s Word provides a way to return to the God they once knew, but have drifted away from.
“I want to thank you all for the ‘Free on the Inside’ Bible you sent me,” writes an inmate in South Carolina. “I rededicated my life to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With my new Bible, my reading has become a lot easier and my understanding of the Word is so much better. It has helped me so much in keeping with my faith.”
Studies have found that the prison population has a lower literacy level than members of the average U.S. household. That’s why the “Free on the Inside” Bible utilizes the New International Reader’s Version – an easy-to-read version based on the NIV.
As the psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” When Bibles reach inmates in the emotional and spiritual darkness of prison, God brings light and life.