Prisoners: Another help during COVID

Necessity is the mother of invention.

In addition to Father Lazarus, who is a holy man who has taken on the vows of simplicity, submission and humility, as well as choosing to live in a ‘cell’, I have also found prisoners to be an inspiration during this time too.

When you think about it, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from prisoner and prisoners that can really help during lockdowns or lockouts during COVID.

First, like the holy monks, prisoners live in a cell within a penitentiary (a place of penance). They are like the penitent monks. Granted, there is a difference in that most of them are not in prison by choice. Nevertheless, they manager to find ways to make the most of their limitations, with some even thriving despite this.

Take the following examples:

  • Prisoners develop a set routine, some of which is based on the circumstances of the prison, and some of which is their own structuring.
  • Prisoners have innovated a lot during prison and have invented many things, including the toothbrush, tattoo guns, cigarette lighters, the cure for septicaemia, ladders and many other items like items for boiling water.
  • Many books were written in prison including Don Quixote, the Travels of Marco Polo, the Pilgrim’s Progress, De Profundis, Le Morte d’Arthur, Shantaram, Our Lady of the Flowers, Mandela’s Conversations with Myself and more.
  • Prisoners have found ways to work out and to get fit with extreme limitations on their cell space, and limited time allowed out of their cell each day. Many people come out of prison fitter than they entered.
  • Prisoners have found ways to pass time patiently, including:
    • Sleeping
    • Studying trades or how to be a jailhouse lawyer
    • Playing chess
    • Gambling
    • Making in-house currencies
    • Reading
    • Writing letters
    • Running marathons
    • Learning yoga
    • Making handicrafts
    • Finishing college
    • Practicing religion

Many people in the Bible were in prison at some point in time:

  • Joseph was a prisoner in Egypt.
  • Samson was imprisoned by his enemies.
  • Jeremiah was put in prison by his own people, as were Micaiah and Zedekiah.
  • Daniel was put in the Lion’s den.
  • John the Baptist was arrested by Herod and beheaded in prison.
  • Peter, James and John were put in prison at various times.
  • Silas, Epaphras, Aristarchus and Junia were imprisoned.
  • Paul was in and out of jail multiple times throughout the Roman empire.
  • Lastly, Jesus himself was in prison after he was taken on Holy Thursday prior to his execution on Friday.

It makes sense that the Bible would be a popular book in prison, both because it is one of the books given to many prisoners, but also because many of the people in the Bible had been to prison. Many of the letters of Paul in the New Testament seem to have been written whilst he was in prison, so there is definitely a lot of empathy for those in prison in the Bible.

And so, we see that the inspiration that one can draw from the monks is not so different from the inspiration that can be draw from those who have been to prison. Both can be used as sources of inspiration during times of lockdown and lockout, because both have learned to live with less than the average person and to be productive and to thrive despite the adversity of their situations. Perhaps you can learn something from them and adapt this into your circumstances during these challenging times also.

Recommended resources: