A Local Perspective

Josh Caulfield

People say all the time, that you’re life comes to a complete end once you go to prison. For some people though, it’s prison that opens up their eyes to what they have been missing for all their lives. For many, it isn’t until they’ve lost it all, that they realize that they have been missing religion.

            Doug Gerardi, an employee at The New Jersey Department of Corrections, spoke about how religion becomes an important part of prisoner’s lives once they become prisoners. “For whatever the reason may be, when a lot of our prisoners come in initially, they don’t have a strong sense of religion in their lives. We’re not entirely sure why this is, perhaps their generally unstable upbringings, but things change a lot once prisoners are confined in our cells.”

            Whether they’re gang members, newcomers, or returning criminals, every offender faces a pivotal point in their lives when they need to ask themselves “What am I doing?” For a lot of these perpetrators, religion is what they turn to. It’s a beam support that many people turn to when they can’t stand up by themselves anymore.

            “It’s amazing how complete and utter solitude can change a man and opens up their eyes,” says Gerardi.  Many of our prisoners turn to religion because it almost acts as a way for them to prove to themselves that they’re making a change and turning around their lives. I see all of the time that people begin to develop a religion the longer they’re in here. Perhaps it’s the surroundings that constantly remind them of it, or just the fact that they have so much time to do true soul-searching.”

            Gerardi isn’t the only person who’s seen transformations take place throughout the duration of certain sentencings. 

            Sheriff Showoumni, a Ewing NJ local who spent sixteen years in The New Jersey State Prison for an undisclosed crime, spoke on his findings for the better half of two decades. “It’s not like you just get locked up and start believing in new stuff, it takes an incredible amount of time to yourself to be able to realize your life is missing something huge. People know that they’re gangs that flow together in prison, but it also is associated with your religion.”

            Prior to getting locked up, Showoumni was an admitted Atheist who had never given the thought of any God a chance. He spoke about how it took him approximately three years to adapt Christianity to his life. “I remember I spoke to countless people about religion, and how it affected their lives in and out of prison and it changed my life forever.”  

            Showoumni said that there were a ton of other inmates that had similar stories such as his, with self-proclaimed Atheists adapting new and opposing lifestyles. “Mostly everyone that comes in (sentenced to time in prison) goes through major life-altering transformations and more times than not, religion is the key factor.


~ by David on April 3, 2010.

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