During my school's April break, I had the opportunity to do two chapel services at the Windham state prison in Maine. In recent years, I've been doing the services right within the pods, or what may have been called 'cell blocks' back in the day. The inmates are not in cells, but locked rooms that all open into a common area where there is an officer's desk, TV, phone and lots of cafeteria style tables, as meals are also served on the opds. It is in that open common area where I do my programs.
My first one of the day was for a group of men, and there were a lot. Being a chapel program, it must be optional and not required; being a juggling and magic show, pretty much everybody comes. This men's pod has two floors of rooms, and everyone came. I would estimate 80 men. I love to make them laugh, and I'm always blessed when, after the show, I bring the rabbit, Cotton, around to meet the men. There's something about seeing a guy with the word "Evil" tattooed on his knuckles playfully speak baby talk to a bunny that proves to me that people are more than meets the eye. But I especially love the point in the show when the Holy Spirit gently shifts the mood, and they listen silently and thoughtfully to the story / illusion about the thief on the cross who, by God's grace, called out to Jesus as he was dying and was promised eternal life.
From the men's pod, we went to a women's pod. The set up is basically the same but smaller. As Sister Marian, (the chaplain) and I waited for the women to be let out of their rooms, we were told there would be a delay as five new women would be brought in. After they came through the common area and were shown to there rooms, all five joined the rest of the women in the common area for the show. What a blessing:being able to share the Gospel, and it was the very first thing the five new women experienced in prison. Jokingly, I told them not to expect bunnies and magic tricks every day.
At 61, doing two full shows back to back is harder than it used to be, but, after a day like that, it is well worth it.