Freedom behind bars

butterfiles in cage

Sentenced to a life sentence at the age of 26, school teacher James Rivers has been behind bars for 40 years but says he knows a "peace beyond understanding" and is "free indeed".

That is very different from the angry man he was when he first entered prison; full of rage at a sentence he considered unjust and a God whom he hated. He had lost his job for possessing marijuana, his marriage had failed and he had got what he considered was a raw deal from the justice system for a first time offence.

But the very month James entered prison, he heard a sermon at the prison's reception center's worship service and "the scales fell from off my eyes"! He could see clearly his need for Jesus to come into his heart and take over his life.

He invited God to change him and "Wow! Eternal life! My hate was replaced with love! I had a joy and peace I had never known before, which surpassed all understanding!" James recalls.

Since that time his faith in a good God has been tested many times.

After 25 years his case came up for parole but "my parole assessment sheets were falsified" and he remained locked up.

"Would that cause me to throw my Bible away?" asks James. "Of course not!"

Then in 2009 he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer.

"Would that cause me to reject Christ?" he asks again. "I don't think so!"

James says God later healed him of the cancer, which disappeared.

Although passed over for parole twice more - despite his perfect prison record - and now 65 years old, James says that he still has the same peace and joy that he experienced when he gave his life to Christ in 1976.

He testifies to the truth of the Bible verse from John 8:36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed!"

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