I Found Grace in Solitary Confinement

By: Rick Osborne

  • I Found Grace in Solitary Confinement

The first time I went to the hole for fighting, I was in no mood for the Bible and threw it out of my cell at the guards before the door closed. These cells are fairly sparse—a raised concrete platform for your bed, a hole in the floor for your toilet (hence nick-name "hole"), a roll of toilet paper, and a New Testament.

In late 1993, I found myself sitting on a bunk in the maximum-security unit of Millhaven Penitentiary. I had just been returned to prison from my ill-fated release (day parole) into society after nearly 16 years of “doing time” in more prisons than I care to remember. In my hand I held three grams of “tar” heroin that had been passed to me by another convict.

That night as I thought about all I had become and the life that lay ahead, I was overwhelmed with the hopelessness of the situation and decided to commit suicide. More than a few of my fellow “cons” had chosen this final means of “escape”, and it seemed that there was no other way out.

Already being sentenced to more than 20 years for multiple robberies, weapons offences, an escape, and possession of narcotics, I now had another year and a half added to my sentence for a handgun I was carrying when arrested. With my sentence recalculated, I faced about 10 more years inside the Penitentiary.

I was a junkie, a cutter, and a gang member. Nobody would care if I was gone; nobody would miss me. I had become so dangerous that when I was out on day parole, my family members hid in motels if I came to their city.

I didn’t for a minute think that God could change my circumstances; that’s not why I turned to Christ. I still expected to die in some prison fight as a natural consequence of my gang activity. But I did know that I would be right with God, and that one day my dad and I would be together in heaven.

I knew this because I had read the New Testament, especially during my times in solitary confinement (aka "the hole"). I don't know how many guys read them on the range (regular population), but the Bibles in the hole were always well worn.

The first time I went to the hole for fighting, I was in no mood for the Bible and threw it out of my cell at the guards before the door closed. These cells are fairly sparse—a raised concrete platform for your bed, a hole in the floor for your toilet (hence nick-name "hole"), a roll of toilet paper, and a New Testament.

After my action, I was immediately pulled back out of the cell, my toilet paper roll taken out by the guard, and shoved back inside. As the door was closing the guard asked, "Do you want the Bible now?" Realizing quickly that this Bible would be the only source of paper I would have for the next twenty days, I said yes.

This is where and when I first read the New Testament from cover to cover. I could relate to the criminal on the cross next to Jesus in Luke's Gospel. The criminal got to go to heaven by grace alone. Just by acknowledging his sin and believing in Jesus. I now understood grace, and asked for it.


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