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Saturday, September 29, 2012


Folsom Prison Gate
courtesy google search
Folsom State Prison is California's second-oldest prison, long known for its harsh conditions in the decades following the California Gold Rush. Although FSP now houses primarily medium security prisoners, FSP was one of America's first maximum-security prisons.

 Construction of the facility began in 1878 on the site of the Stony Bar mining camp along the American River. The prison officially opened in 1880.  Folsom was built to hold 1,800 inmates. Inmates spent most of their time in the dark behind solid boiler plate doors in stone cells measuring 4 feet by 8 feet (1.2 by 2.4 m) with 6 inch (150 mm) eye slots. Air holes were drilled into the cell doors in the 1940s, and the cell doors are still in use today.

FSP was the first prison in the world to have electric power, which was provided by the first hydroelectric powerhouse in California.

After the State of California took sole control of the death penalty in 1891, executions were held at Folsom and at San Quentin State Prison. A total of 93 prisoners were hanged at FSP between December 13, 1895, and December 3, 1937, after which executions were carried out in the gas chamber at California's San Quentin State Prison. WIKIPEDIA

With that bit of history this story is about my trip to Folsom. Over the years I had played the string bass for groups and at church. A friend who organized a gospel quartet was invited to come and sing at Folsom Prison and he wanted me to go along and play bass for them. When we arrived, the place it had a foreboding atmosphere and my uneasiness started there. After the usual delay the chaplain came and led us into the prison itself. The music was to be held in the church area of the prison but to get there we had to walk through the prisoners themselves.

As we walked down a long corridor the guard indicated for the prisoners to move to the wall area and let us pass through.

As we sauntered by the prisoners, they gave us their threatening leer, a look of hate. Of course they were trying to intimidate us as we walked by and it worked pretty good for me.

Many of these people were murderers and others who would kill if they thought it was necessary to rob and steal. I was glad to get to the chapel for there was a different feel in that place. The service went well with some of the prisoners joining in on some of the hymns and they enjoyed the quartet songs.  One of the singers was a minister and he preached a simple message and prayed for them.

There wasn't any of what is called personal work for the access to the prisoners was limited. For some reason I never thought about genuine Christians being locked up into prison but I met some who had made mistakes and were given sentences, some for a long time.

While I was glad we went I wasn't at ease until we were far away from there.

One thing that happened was while I was talking to the chaplain a prisoner came up and said his goodbye for he was getting out tomorrow. After he left the chaplain said; he'll be back, I have had him in a couple of other prisons. He just can't make it on the outside, in here he is a trustee and has status. He will spend the rest of his life in and out of prison.

These are some of the words of a song written by an inmate

Inside the walls of prison, my body may be,
But the Lord has set my soul free...
There's a Grey stone chapel here at Folsom,
A house of worship in this den of sin.
You wouldn't think God had a place at Folsom,
But he's saved the soul of many lost men.

We later went to San Quentin where there had been a murder the night before.  Getting into there was more complicated and we were checked out more carefully.

The Chaplain said last week they discovered a "still" brewing some whiskey in the chapel. They had cut the bottom out of an old fire extinguisher and put a plastic bag in it filled with stuff they had gotten from the kitchen. It was discovered when it began to smell.

We ministered there and afterwards ate with the staff. They served a good meal anchored by some fried steak.

Prison isn't a nice place to be even for a visit. There are many well known prisons such as San Quentin, Alcatraz, Folsom, and the worst of all is the Prison of Sin.

But the good news is there is a pardon provided by Jesus, for all who will accept it.

This post is Linked with Charlotte’s Spiritual Sundays

Also Linked up with Michelle’s Hear it on Sunday


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