Since I ministered in the psychiatric unit of a women’s prison for twenty-eight years, I am use to people who ask, “Do you really think those women get anything out of the church services?” Yes, I do. My favorite example is the schizophrenic woman in the back of the room.


Prison Stories

How a prized prison commodity turned ritualistic for a group of women believers

Credit: Catalina Bessell/Moment/Getty

When new prison ministry volunteers and inmate worshippers attend services at the California Institution for Women (CIW), they are invariably surprised as the inmate ushers hand them a neatly folded rectangle of toilet tissue as they walk in the door.

“Why are you handing me toilet tissue?” they ask.

“Because…

Linda Lee Smith Barkman, PhD

served 30 years in a California prison, advocates for marginalized women, and her book “Hidden Power and False Expectations” is coming soon from Urban Loft Pub.

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