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Yesterday, we took a tour of SCORE in Kent, Washington. We wanted to see how the facility was designed and get some ideas for our jail expansion project. The jail is located near the airport and surrounded by acres of forest.

The jail itself is immaculately landscaped. Trees dot the entryway, which is comprised entirely of windows. The lobby feels like an airport gate. Bench seating – aka chairs linked together – clump together here and there in the lobby. The receptionists sit behind glass and ask for your cell phone and ID. More skylights give the soaring ceilings an airy feel.

Once behind the locked doors, it’s different. Everything is white. High-ceilinged corridors funnel you to the control room. Like air traffic control, officers sit in an observation tower of sorts, overlooking 6 different prisoner living spaces. The men and women, segregated, milled around. Some read books from a mobile library of sorts, paperbacks on a cart. Some watched TV. Some stared into space. It seemed like the longest time-out ever. So boring.

The prisoners wore the black-and-white pajamas. Well, more like black and gray. They had socks and rubber shoes on, too. I kept thinking we were inside a Betty Boop cartoon. I didn’t realize prisoners actually wore those outfits. I expected them to be dragging a ball and chain, too.

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“The ones in yellow tops are the ward leaders. They watch the rest and help out in the kitchen or laundry,” the facility manager told us.

I moved over to another observation area.

“The ones in the red-and-white striped suits are high security offenders. Warning! Like, look out,” he joked.

I gulped.

I only saw one. She was on the phone. I silently thanked God for two-way mirrors.

We entered a holding area. Cells lined the back walls, inmates watching us from their rooms. The men’s eyes behind the window held curiosity about us. We couldn’t talk to them, nor they to us. This separation is mandated by law, and likely for a good reason. Loneliness and fear wafted out from under the doors.¬†As we wandered the labyrinth of corridors and mechanical rooms, I thanked God I was on the outside. I had the freedom to leave this place.

For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. – 1 Thessalonians 4:14

When we die, there will be a separation. It will be short. Then we’re together again for all eternity. No more sorrow, or loneliness, or fear. We will break free of our self-made prisons of torment and pain. Thanks be to God.