Finding Compassion Behind Bars: A Transformative Encounter in Maximum Security

One young man's encounter with compassion and self-reflection behind bars leads to a journey of personal growth, healing, and an unexpected twist in the courtroom.


I read about Liam in a newspaper report. He had been arrested over the weekend for being an inebriated pedestrian and was sent to court.  There he yelled profanities at the judge, including the f-word. He was warned but continued, ever louder, ever more profane. With each outburst the twenty-four-year-old was sentenced an additional two weeks over his originally brief overnight detention.

I was appalled. I couldn’t imagine anyone yelling the f-word in a courtroom directly at a judge, much less doing it repeatedly. Liam’s behavior put him in maximum security, according to the newspapers. I knew that meant a twenty-four-hour solitary lockdown, with one hour each day to shower, use exercise machines, and grab a couple of books. I met with maximum-security inmates individually in a locked-down situation.

I sent a tiny prayer: Please do not let this man request to meet with me Tuesday night. I figured if he exhibited this level of disrespect and lack of self-control with a judge, I wouldn’t have a chance.

First thing Tuesday night, the officer greeted me in the lobby of the detention center and said, “We got this guy in max ready for you in CV 2.” And he gave me his…