Former Inmate, now Prison Chaplain, Speaks Out Against Lee Correctional Violence
COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)– A man who was once behind bars is now on the other side looking in, and reaching out a helping hand to those now in prison. Especially after the riots at Lee Correctional Institute which killed seven and injured many more. James Murray is a chaplain for prisons across the Palmetto state and said one of the biggest problems in prison is having so many people feeling like they are without hope, and the events that unfolded on Sunday showed just that.
“I was hurt. I wept. Because these were lives that were snuffed out,” Murray said.
Murray was once in their shoes, facing a mandatory sentence of 25 years. He said he knew the helpless and hopeless feeling those at Lee Correctional must have been feeling. But now, Murray has been out of prison for more than two decades and said it is all about your perception. Murray cannot believe so many had to be killed and injured over a dispute between gangs.
“That is not the definition of family. That is not how we were designed to live,” Murray said.
The Department of Corrections said prisons across the state are on lockdown, but Murray hopes to get back in the prisons quickly to help inmates realize they can be part of the solution. He said the events Sunday could have totally been avoided if contributing factors were addressed before things got this bad.
“The resources that they’re afforded to do that is inadequate. So that’s one of the contributing factors. It’s tough to provide safety when you don’t have the adequate resources,” Murray said.
He said another factor the inmates must work through is public perception and just because people are locked up, does not mean they do not deserve the basic care of a human being. As he said, he is a former inmate, but he is also a father, grandfather, and son.
“We’ve been tough on crime. But actually, we’ve been tough on people,” Murray said.
Murray said having inmates have hope changes the way they behave in prison because it gives them a reason to look to the future and responsibility for their actions.