Q: Let's talk about prisoners. Who are our
Our jail and prison population is more than 2
million people. These are men, women and children
of every race who have lost the battle between
darkness and light. Prisoners have yielded to
the dark forces of this world and have finally
succumbed to them. They arrive in prison as losers
in total defeat, ruin and failure. Most arrive
broken-down, depressed and rejected, looking for
any sign of hope. They cry at night in their beds
when no one can see them. Others try to act tough,
putting on a front; but in reality, they have
a heart full of pain and addiction.
Many of these prisoners come from good families,
but the majority comes from broken homes where
they were emotionally and physically abused. Others
were born out of wedlock, never having known a
father figure. They come from every background
imaginable, but all of them have one thing in
common -- a rebellious and prideful heart. Each
prisoner arrives dragging their baggage of torment
that comes from deep behavioral problems -- spiritual,
mental and emotional. They are in deep need of
a heart transplant and a long process of recovery,
but most don't recognize it.
Prisoners are no different from anyone else who
is imprisoned by dark forces. Mankind is a slave
to sin. Some just haven't been caught. They are
owned by and
in bondage to their own self-destruction. Millions
are being destroyed and imprisoned without even
Q: You're saying the childhoods of most prisoners
are lacking in spirituality, right?
Exactly. Children are being raised in a society
filled with violence, with little emphasis on
spirituality. Their lives are busy with education,
sports and a variety of lessons. These are all
good things, but God and the parent/child relationship
In my case, I had a faulty belief system. I believed
my acceptance and self-worth were based upon my
performance. I felt rejected when I didn't live
up to expectations. As a result, I rejected my
parents and became rebellious.
While growing up, most prisoners were not guided
toward a relationship with God. I find that the
majority of prisoners didn't come from Christian
families, and when they have, they've rejected
the God of their parents. Regardless, most children
wonder about God, and as parents we have the perfect
opportunity to fill that need. If we don't encourage
them to fill that void with the Holy Spirit, they
will be left open as prey for every demonic spirit.
Children should know that God created them and
loves them. They will learn to love and trust
Him as they see us exemplify Christ. As we give
them our time, listen, pray for them and love
them unconditionally, they'll know they are loved.
They'll feel secure and accepted, demonstrating
obedience and trust. It's the lack of these things
that breeds damaged children, often ending up
Q: What are some of the behavioral problems
Their problems are really no different from anyone
else's. Just because there is a fence between
the prisoner and society, it doesn't make their
problems different. When these childhood problems
are not dealt with properly, the resulting pain
is temporarily medicated with illicit sex, illegal
drugs and the like. Their unhealthy desires due
to wrong beliefs create the crime problem -- drug
abuse, child molestation, rape, murder and more.
These problems include a lack of personal identity,
causing them to judge others harshly, get angry
and gossip. Others isolate themselves, fearing
everyone, especially the guards. Some are big-time
approval seekers and become extremely loyal to
gangs. Many are easily intimidated by the controlling
bullies and become overly sensitive, taking psychotropic
drugs and sometimes committing suicide. Most don't
choose to know and serve a caring God; instead
they choose other unhealthy prisoners for friends.
Most prisoners are in denial, not willing to
look at why they came to prison. They blame the
system, minimize their involvement and repress
their feelings. They have not dealt with their
own fear, anger, guilt or pain. They can't even
imagine the pain they've caused others. As a result,
prisoners are fairly impulsive, unstable, undisciplined
and lack relation-ship skills. They have no direction
or goals for the future. And, I'm sad to say most
are turned loose upon society without going through
any recovery process while in prison.
Q: How does a person in prison start this
A person doesn't have to be incarcerated to start
this process. Those who are incarcerated are more
likely to have a rude awakening. Some see they
need help because of their circumstances. This
has been called jailhouse religion, but in actuality,
we all come into the world as prisoners to our
sin and turn to God in tough times. We're born
going the wrong direction, depending on our surroundings
to supply our need.
Most people have heard the Genesis story of the
fall of mankind, and how God created Adam and
Eve perfect in the Garden of Eden, with authority
to rule the Earth. They really had it made in
their relationship with God, but were deceived
by Satan. Unbelief and disobedience then came
into the world. They became prisoners, that is,
in bondage to sin by nature, passing this to all
mankind. As a result, man took control, deciding
right from wrong instead of looking to God, trusting
in His wisdom and understanding.
The first step to recovery is to have our sin
nature changed. Instead of being born of sin,
we must be born of God, or born-again. Jesus Christ
came to make this possible through redemption
-- His death, burial and resurrection. He defeated
sin and death and poured out the Holy Spirit from
heaven to give us His divine nature. We take on
a new, incorruptible nature, unlike that old fallen
corruptible nature which propelled us toward destruction.
This new nature in right standing with God is
what propels us towards righteous actions.
Q: So you're saying that we're all prisoners
to Satan, until we are born-again, right?
That's right. You can call him Lucifer, Satan,
or the devil, but he's the jailer. Jesus Christ
went into Satan's slave market of sin and purchased
us by His blood so the enemy could no longer have
power over us. When we receive what Jesus did
for us on the cross, we are purchased by God and
become His property, given a new life. We're not
only forgiven. We're accepted, made right with
God, just as if we had never sinned. We are deeply
loved, children of God, overcomers and more. We
aren't the devil's property any longer -- Jesus
Christ frees us.
Q: Does this mean we no longer have a problem
with sinful behavior?
No, the enemy never gives up. The archangel,
Lucifer, and a third of God's angels were cast
to Earth because of Lucifer's pride and rebellion
in heaven. Those angels became the demons. They're
behind all the troublesome rebellion we see in
this world. The demons are after our minds on
a daily basis. They're out to take prisoner all
who will listen to them. They constantly cause
turmoil within our minds. Satan lies to us about
God and our relationship with Him, and other people.
He is out to rob our love for God and one another.
He is out to destroy relationships.
As we come to understand God's love for us and
into a right relationship with Him, our relationship
with others will fall into place. We no longer
allow the enemy's thoughts to take us prisoner.
Our desires begin to change as we take a stand
for truth. The secret is to rule our hearts with
God's Word -- His voice, instead of listening
to the demonic voice. We take authority over demonic
thinking through the knowledge of our righteousness,
by faith in the cross of Calvary. We, then, are
no longer tossed around, believing in delusional
thinking. As our identity takes shape in Christ,
we're quick to cast down every argument that the
demons bring. In our relationships, we stop taking
troublesome problems personally. Instead, we recognize
the common enemy and take control of our fleshly
thoughts. Our emotional life becomes stable and
filled with love; turned away from anger, resentment,
fear and harmful, childish behavior. This is called
the renewing of the mind.
Q: Do you see many prisoners turning to God
The number of people turning to God in prison
is no greater than that of society. It's true
that people focus more on God in times of hardship,
but our whole society is in a time of difficulty
like no other time in history. The Lord is saying,
"Wake up." But many of us are saying,
"Just let me sleep a little longer."
The Lord has a time and season to deal with each
of us so that we may be rescued from destruction.
He gives us the faith to be saved, and He waits
for us to receive our salvation.
Many prisoners have finally awoken to the fact
that their lives are unmanageable. They've admitted
that only God can restore them, and they've made
a decision to turn their lives over to Him. I
minister to men who have lost all hope, some in
prison for life - they've struck out. Man has
no hope to offer, so these men take Jesus Christ
as their Lord and Savior. They become born-again
of the Spirit, receiving eternal life and are
on their way through the healing process.
I see many men in denial develop honesty, by
acknowl-edging their terrible past. Many are putting
their foot down and refusing to listen to the
lies of the enemy any longer -- they're taking
charge of their selfish lives. Men are dealing
with their jealously and sexual behavior. I see
men who once were impulsive and impatient, walking
in gratitude and patience. Others are admitting
their pride and rebellion and learning to walk
in humility and love. Anger, fear, intolerance
and criticism are being replaced by acceptance,
trust and love. As they renew their minds to God's
way of thinking, this character-building process
Q: You're saying that being born-again and
going through a Christ-centered recovery process
is the answer for rehabilitating prisoners, right?
Rehabilitation means to reinstate, to make good
or use-able again. Most prisoners have never been
good or useable in life. I believe prisoners need
to be regenerated; that is, changed from the inside
out. They need to be formed or created again spiritually.
This can only happen through being born-again
of the Holy Spirit.
Recently, I read from the Kairos prison ministry
material that a leading criminologist, Dr. Peter
P. Legins, of the University of Maryland said,
"I have known for many years, as have most
of the leading criminologists in this country,
that the greatest hope for an inmate to avoid
the revolving doors of our prisons is to undergo
a religious conversion experience during his or
I agree, but this must include a Christ-centered
recovery process, not support groups that develop
sin conscious-ness. Too many prisoners receive
Christ only to proclaim a self-righteous doctrine
of fleshly works. Others cover their sin with
legalism, thinking they've arrived, and never
allowing God's love to heal those character flaws
that brought them to prison. Regardless, the born-again
experience lays the foundation and provides the
power of the Holy Spirit to search out the heart
and renew the mind, power to change one's desires
and heal deep emotional scars. This process of
sanctification takes years, but if it starts in
prison and continues upon release, an inmate will
stay out of prison.
Q: Do prisoners serve God with the proper
motive or are they just doing it to get out of
I don't believe prisoners in the western United
States think that by carrying a Bible, it's going
to get them out earlier. I do believe as we renew
our mind with God's word and become true to it,
His perfect will takes place for our lives. Most
prisoners' sentences are set and others go to
the parole board, but healing through Christ is
looked on less favorably than psychiatric treatment
or being involved in secular therapy groups. In
the Bible-belt area of the United States, I feel
Christ is more likely to be recognized as the
answer, but prisoners still do their time, and
some are even put to death for the crime while
I see fewer than 10% of inmates boldly professing
Christ, but a larger percentage are closet believers.
I see committed men coming to God addicted and
imprisoned with pain, being forgiven, healed and
comforted. I see men serving God, respecting the
authorities and helping other inmates, whereas
those who don't, cause most of the trouble. The
correctional officers can't help but see this,
but inmates don't get out of prison any earlier
whatever their motive may be, unless God intervenes
supernaturally. They see Christ as the answer
to staying out of prison. They get filled with
the Spirit and experience love, joy and peace,
and can't help but tell others about their new
The Holy Spirit working through Christian inmates
actually restrains sin in prison and helps to
keep peace among the inmates. I find that almost
every inmate is willing to accept a Bible upon
arriving in prison. Christ said He came not to
call the righteous to repentance, but the sinner.
We must thank God for our Chapel programs, volunteers
and Christian inmates. They are very important
to America's justice system.
Q: That's very interesting. Can you elaborate
on how the Holy Spirit restrains sin in prison
through Christian inmates?
Christian inmates have relationship skills that
others don't -- they are the peacemakers. They
help the system more than is recognized. They
work in all areas of the institution and live
throughout the housing units. They're not segregated
in one place, so they're able to serve those around
them with their new character.
Of course, their prayers help to keep peace,
but Christian inmates are givers. They give toiletries
to those who don't have funds to provide for themselves.
They give out Bibles and materials, sharing Christ
and inviting others to fellowship. And those who
don't know Christ see Christ in those who do,
and go to them with their problems for counsel.
They need to be shown that God loves them.
As Christian inmates walk in the light of God,
darkness is exposed and men are convicted of their
sinful lives. Instead of the demons who used to
traffic in their lives of darkness, the angels
of God traffic with the Saints of light, to protect
and do battle for them. The presence of God becomes
evident as we actually see God's mighty power
and grace at work.
Q: I've heard people who visit in prison say
that Christian inmates are freer than most people
on the outside. How could this be?
That's what I've been talking about with you.
Once prisoners get born-again, receive forgiveness
and begin the recovery process, they learn to
deal with the fear, resentment, anger, etc., that
caused their pain. Many on the streets haven't
dealt with any of these relationship problems.
They're still medicating their pain with drugs,
sex and other vices.
Prisoners have been stopped in their tracks and
given the choice to deal with what put them in
prison -- themselves. They see they have yielded
to temptations and it is time to wake up from
their sleep and take authority over their lives
in Christ. They receive new freedom by believing
and receiving the Truth -- Jesus Christ.
Q: Are you a prison-reform activist?
I'm not called into politics, if that's what
you mean. I don't fight the system legally, but
in a spiritual sense -- on a higher level. I believe
that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
is the answer to our crime problem. I guess you
could call me an activist, although I urge action
toward our common enemy -- the devil, not individuals.
I'm called to do battle in the spiritual realm.
It's not an earthly battle.
Don't get me wrong. I see no wrong in actively
pursuing prison reform in a peaceful fashion.
I am just not called into this form of service.
All I have is a testimony given to me by Jesus
Christ, and I'm called to boldly share it by example.
I would be going off course if I were to travel
in any other direction.
Q: We hear that the justice system is all
about punish-ment these days, not rehabilitation.
That's true. The purpose of prison is punishment,
not rehabilitation. The majority of society is
crying out for justice; as a result, punishment
is favored. Justice has come to mean only punishment.
It's easier to punish children than to train them.
We like instant problem solving: abortion on demand,
no fault divorce, and the like. It takes work
to raise children and stay married. It takes the
same to have a successful prison system.
We see people retaliating in vengeance. We've
talked about this extensively, but punishment
is defined Biblically as vengeance. In the New
Testament and in light of the cross of Jesus,
we see justice come into balance, which includes
grace and mercy and doing what is right.
What's lacking is chastising. It completes the
meaning of justice as it is carried out with grace
and mercy, for the purpose of restoration and
correction. Chastising suggests training with
grace, which brings reproof, admonishment and
healing. As a result, one becomes responsible
and disciplined. This brings forth character to
live in society, as opposed to expulsion and rejection
from society. This is what the recovery process
is all about -- chastisement, because 95% of the
prisoners will be released one day.
Q: We hear of so many children killing other
children. What's missing in the children's lives
that cause them to become our prisoners?
It seems these children always have problems
at home. They feel abandoned and betrayed by adults.
They end up adrift without proper guidance or
purpose -- raising themselves. They have nobody
to confide in, and to them, society has let them
These are our prisoners of tomorrow. If they
are not nurtured at home, our prison system is
expected to raise them -- to teach them right
from wrong and the consequences of their actions.
Most of these children come from abusive homes.
They were teased and failed in school, and some
are even impaired; but they all lack one thing
-- unconditional love. I believe the fantasies
found in violent television, movies, satanic rock
music and video games numb our children to a proper
understanding of reality. Also, pent-up anger,
isolation and the availability of firearms is
a lethal mixture resulting in death.
Our children need to be born-again at an early
age and Biblically raised with an understanding
of faith righ-teousness. This includes Christian
schooling, attending a Bible-believing Church,
praying together as a family, and having responsibilities.
They need a loving relationship and time with
both parents, not legalism. It is important for
them to have other Christian children as friends.
There must be proper discipline and supervision,
without overreacting to their need for independence.
Q: Charles, you've been in prison over three
decades. How do you do it?
The Bible says in Proverbs, "Where there
is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth
the law, happy is he" (29:18). The word vision
means redemptive revelation of God. I see Jesus
Christ as that redemptive revelation; He paid
the price for our sins.
My life has only one purpose; that is to testify
to prisoners and to the world that Christ died
for the sins of everyone. There's not a week goes
by that I don't hear someone say, "If God
can forgive you, He can forgive me, too."
This is how I do it. I keep it simple, and I
live to serve the Lord. I believe we're in the
last days, and if we're going to make a difference
in the Kingdom of God, we need to be busy with
our Father's business. Sure, I miss my family
deeply, but, as I, "
turn my eyes on
Jesus, the things of Earth grow strangely dim,"
as the chorus goes. I've learned to be more others-centered,
instead of so self-centered.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about our parole
I see the wrong inmates being released, ones
who will return. They go out in the same condition
they arrived because their time is up. They were
not required to go through a recovery-training
process. Those inmates whose lives are truly changed
because of faith-based recovery, don't get paroled,
but they have committed harsher crimes.
I'd like to see our country turn to God for revival
and as a result, see our prison authorities call
for repentance from all prisoners. I hear people
crying, "Separation of Church and State,"
but we need to invite God into our nation and
prisons to solve our crime problem. Repentance
could never be a requirement for release from
prison, but the truth is, through repentance,
the shackles fall off our lives. I see the possibility
of revival taking place in prison first and then
spreading out into society.
Q: How do we know that someone won't get out
of prison and do the same things again?
Only God knows a man's heart, but His Word says
we know them by their fruit. That is, we're known
by our own works. The Lord's brother, James says,
"Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds
is no faith at all -- it is dead and useless"
(2:17 NLT). Our works reveal the condition of
our heart. If a person's works are consistent
for years and they're walking in humility, they're
more likely to succeed on parole. If they're contentious,
proud and unstable in prison, they're more likely
to fail. It would be like the Proverb, "As
a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns
to his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).
For example, I would never return to my folly.
I have God's very best, total satisfaction in
Him and in doing His work. My foundation for life
is based on the Rock. Daily, I build on this foundation
by renewing my mind with God's Word and walking
in agreement with His work on the cross. I have
a totally new identity based on this great news,
and can't help but share it.
Q: How do you explain violent crime decreasing
since we locked up more with the new "3 Strikes
We can only afford to do this so long. Ninety-five
percent of prisoners get out of prison and 84%
return. When prisoners return for the third time,
they are kept for life. And there are more children
beginning this cycle daily.
The "3 Strike Law" may have good intentions
like the law of Moses, but the Apostle Paul concluded
after being saved: "The law of Moses could
not save us, because of our sinful nature. But
God put into effect a different plan to save us.
He sent his own Son in a human body like ours,
except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin's
control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice
for our sins. He did this so that the requirement
of the law would be fully accomplished for us
who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead
follow the Spirit" (Romans 8:3,4 NLT).
The law was given so man would avoid falling
under the curse of sin, but it could not make
man complete, and it won't solve our crime problem
today. The decrease in the crime problem that
we see won't last without a revival in our land.
This revival will have to take place in the hearts
of each individual, beginning with the head of
I'd like to give a battle cry for all families
to take a stand for righteousness. This righteousness
is received freely through identifying ourselves
with the cross of Jesus Christ. He gives us the
power to lead our households through His grace
and ability. As we sow this message of Good News
into our families, they will rise up in His righteousness
and prevail over sin.
Q: Many citizens think prisoners have it too
good and want to take everything away from them.
Won't this backfire on them?
I have said often that the tougher we get on
crime, the tougher it will get on us. Most of
these prisoners that you are getting tough on
will get out of prison at least one more time.
If society has shown no mercy, it can't expect
to receive mercy. It's time to sow mercy into
America's justice system. What we sow, we will
The move now is to take away television and radios
that the prisoners have purchased with their own
funds. This is the prisoner's only way to touch
the outside world other than collect telephone
calls, periodicals and limited visits. The prison
guards believe these items are necessary to keep
the peace and give the prisoner something to do.
Yes, I think it will backfire. It's another form
of vengeance and retaliation. This is the opposite
of what Jesus Christ calls for, that is to visit
the prisoner. He said, "Inasmuch as you have
done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
you have done it to me" (Matthew 25:40).
It's time to ask ourselves, "What would Jesus
Q: I hear of the criminals retaliating in
vengeance against law enforcement. Have you heard
Yes, I did hear recently that criminals are stalking
and retaliating against officials. In these last
days, I hope we don't see more of these evil acts.
But if vengeance continues to be sown, it will
be reaped by society.
It has been said that, "No amount of inhumane
treatment is going to right the wrong or the harm
done to victims of crime." But inhumane treatment
is likely to perpetuate the cycle of crime that
all of us want to stop.
We must come to the place where we can show mercy.
This is humanly impossible. That's why we need
revival in our nation, so we can be empowered
by God to serve in righteousness. We must be empowered
to enforce the law by the power of God, who requires
to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8).
It's time to humble ourselves before God and
pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked
ways; then the Lord promises to hear us from heaven,
forgive our sin and heal our land.
Q: What about prison gangs. Do you know anything
Most gangs were started inside prisons and moved
to the streets upon release. There are gangs of
every race and color and many different gangs
within each race. They're all in war with one
another for their turf - their piece of the Earth.
I'm no authority on gangs, although the Manson
family had a sort of gang mentality. People who
join gangs lack their own identity and are very
much in need of acceptance. Peer pressure rules
their lives. They cry, "Give me my respect,
or I'll take it." Pride, rebellion and anger
rage through their hearts because of many wrong
beliefs and ideas they grew up around. As a result,
they have brought much pain to others and to themselves.
They have a spiritual void that can only be filled
by the God who created them. As these gang members
trust Jesus Christ as the answer, they take on
a new identity. They have a new value system and
experience true remorse, acceptance and most of
all, forgiveness for their sin.
Thousands of gang members are coming to Christ
in and out of prison. They are becoming new creations
in Christ, and for the first time, receiving respect
as men and women of God. In short, they are taking
their lives back from the enemy, who has killed
many of their friends.
Q: Do prisoners still get drugs in prison?
Sure, the drug problem is big in prison. The
prison life is very painful, and prisoners will
do almost anything to get drugs. They believe
drugs will bring satisfaction, but in reality,
they're only medicating their emotional pain.
Most prisoners have developed an addictive lifestyle.
We've talked a lot about their destructive vices.
I believe Jesus Christ is our number-one painkiller,
and every prisoner just needs to take the "Gos-pill."
They need to be free from the bondage of their
Q: What is the Christian recovery-training
This process is simply a grace group. Dr. James
Richards of Impact Ministries defines grace as
"God's ability working in man, making him
able to do what he cannot do in his own ability."
Prisoners see that only God can change their nature,
that trusting in the law, nor in their own fleshly
abilities can keep them out of prison, and that
the power to change comes by God's ability through
faith in Christ.
They recover by growing to see God's love for
them, Who made them righteous in Christ by the
finished work of the cross. They take on a new
view of the world, themselves and others in light
of their redemption. As a result, they see healing
and the ability to live a disciplined life come
forth by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Q: What can you say to encourage people to
volunteer in prison ministry?
Very often, I hear prison ministry volunteers
say, "I get more out of this ministry than
the prisoner." I can tell from their countenance
that they're receiving great blessings from the
Lord. I also see the sacrifice they make each
week by traveling long distances and spending
time away from their families. It certainly is
a labor of love.
I'd encourage everyone to pray and ask the Lord
if He would have you be involved in prison ministry.
You may not go personally into prison chapels,
but you may be called to visit one-on-one and
make a disciple. You can also provide funds for
others to bring materials, books, cassettes and
videos to prisoners and chaplains. You can volunteer
in a pen pal ministry, and especially, pray for
those who minister to prisoners.
Whatever you are called to do, act today! Your
acts bring restoration to the prisoner, and your
part helps to solve the crime problem. Your efforts
could help turn the penal system right side up.
Q: How and when did you become involved in
I've been involved in prison ministry for almost
three decades. After being born-again, I went
to work in the prison chapel. I grew up in the
Lord while working there for twelve years. It
was a full-training ministry covering every aspect
of church life. I eventually became an ordained
In 1979, a non-profit outreach called Abounding
Love Ministries, Inc. gave birth. This became
necessary in order to answer all the requests
for my book, Will You Die For Me? We make it available
free to prisoners and chaplains.
I've heard every story there is, but it all comes
down to a prisoner acknowledging their sin that
causes pain and turning to Christ. When a prisoner
truly understands that he is placed in right standing
with God by faith in the cross of Christ alone,
he will go on to grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Over the years, I've
learned that the revelation of faith righteous-ness
propels a person into a lifestyle of righteous
living, but works righteousness keeps a person
in sin consciousness. The heart of our ministry
is solely the finished work of Christ, Who made
us acceptable to God at the cross.