Student Ronald M. sent this note of gratitude with his most recent donation to Crossroads. He is one of fifty-two students who donated to Crossroads last year.
At Crossroads, we believe that every gift offered to our ministry is precious because each dollar makes a measurable impact on the life of someone living behind bars. Still, we regularly receive small gifts that catch our attention. These small gifts often arrive in uneven amounts, like $5.82 or $12.58.
Why do these gifts stand out to us? Because they were given by current students who are still living behind bars. In 2022, fifty-two active students donated to Crossroads from their prison wages.
The gifts take on additional meaning when we pause to consider the average wage behind bars. On average, prison jobs in the United States top out at fifty cents an hour, and many students and former students tell us that their work behind bars earned them as little as ten cents an hour. People incarcerated in a handful of states are paid nothing. Only the best prison jobs pay a dollar an hour.
This means that a five-dollar donation from a student meant at least five hours of work—quite possibly many more—to earn the money for the gift. These gifts can be considered a modern version of the parable of the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41–44) when we recognize the sacrifices students made to donate. In the parable of the widow’s offering, Jesus said the meager gift from the impoverished widow was precious in God’s sight because she gave greatly in proportion to the resources she possessed.
Christopher C., a student in California, started doing Crossroads in early 2022 after he was denied parole and the parole board told him to make more constructive use of his time behind bars. His cellmate recommended Crossroads, so Christopher signed up, he told us in a letter.
“Crossroads means a lot to me, so by me donating, it’s helping Crossroads to continue to put God’s Word out, something we need so desperately, especially in these times we are living in today. So, it’s only right for me to give back,” he wrote. “I took for so long with the lifestyle I chose to live, so now it’s time to give back.”
Christopher added that the changes that started in him through his lessons are a blessing to his mom and aunt in their advanced years.
“I’m so grateful that Mom and her older sister, my aunt, are still here to witness this change in me,” he shared. “All they ever wanted was for me to change. God’s Word is all about changes.”
For student Rory T., his gifts to Crossroads are his way to leave a legacy while he serves a life sentence with no chance of parole.
“I can never take back what was done, but I can move forward every day, trying to help others avoid those evils,” Rory wrote. “I may be in prison, yet I am free in Christ. That’s why I also donate. Crossroads has helped me and supported me and others, so I try to help Crossroads also spread the Word.”
Lynese C., a student in Missouri, said she made seventeen dollars a month—eleven cents an hour—through her full-time position as the chaplain’s librarian. She said men and women behind bars face a double bind financially. They make very little, yet the costs for basic items at the commissary are inflated. For example, she said a bottle of shampoo that costs $1.99 at Target costs five dollars inside the facility. Incarcerated individuals often do without necessities so they can pay for a phone call or a postage stamp to send a letter home. All the while, child support debts or interest fees pile up for men and women to deal with after their release. They also face restitution charges upon release.
Lynese said she doesn’t know how other students are able to afford donations to Crossroads while behind bars. She became a donor after her release once she began receiving a regular paycheck. She gives despite enormous financial pressures and restitution payments because Crossroads made a world of difference to her.
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