By Tara Lyle
“I was naked and you clothed me: I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”
Upon first meeting Superintendent Ronald “Ron” King, one is taken in by his quiet yet strong demeanor. I still remember the first time I met him face-to-face. It was in 2014, and he had recently transferred to our facility, which houses men, women, and juveniles. In fact, it’s one of the largest facilities in the state. It’s the central hub because every offender sentenced in the state of Mississippi has to be processed here.
By the time he arrived at our facility, I had been here for 11 years. I was just going through the motions of incarceration without seeing any real change, but change was long overdue. I did my time by working, staying productive, and staying rooted in the Word. I know several other women and I had been praying for change.
I maintained communication with family and friends, but I knew there was more I could be doing in this setting. Having a face-to-face meeting with a superintendent was something new — especially for female offenders. We had been used to not having a voice at our facility, so it was somewhat of an enigma for us to have this opportunity to speak with our new superintendent regarding issues. The first time I heard about his willingness to meet with and listen to offenders caught my attention. I was impressed that we could write his office, and if he deemed it necessary, he would set up an appointment to meet with us. It felt as though prayers were being answered and that change was in the air.
I vividly remember writing Supt. King to welcome him aboard and share with him that he did have women offenders at our facility who were doing positive things and women who were seeking to get involved with positive programs. I shared with him the fact that I was a published devotional writer, and I sent him a copy of the last devotion that had appeared in a major publication. I didn’t ask for a face-to-face meeting, but shortly thereafter I was called out to meet with him. The meeting was scheduled before I would have to go to my job at the chapel. At that point I wondered why he had scheduled to meet with me. I knew I hadn’t requested a meeting, so I was a bit baffled about what was going on.
One of the questions Supt. King asked me was if I had ever thought about doing a chapel newsletter. That question caught me off guard and rendered me speechless for a moment. I told him I had not because women had not had a voice for so long that, over time, we had come to accept our silence and invisibility as normal. Some women even questioned if God could still see or hear them. When I realized Supt. King was serious about the newsletter, something instantly switched in my way of thinking. A light came on as hope and possibilities began to take root. By the end of the meeting, he had suggested that I start a chapel newsletter, and he would follow up with the chaplains to get the ball rolling. This would be a first for the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) Chaplaincy Department. When I arrived at the chapel to work and realized that Supt. King was very serious about bringing about change and opportunity, all I could do was praise Jesus for this unexpected blessing.
Since that meeting in 2014, my life at this prison and the lives of many other women have dramatically changed. The day I met with Supt. King was lifechanging as far as my view on incarceration and my spiritual growth. He ignited a fire within me that reminded me that I could make a difference within these walls. God brought him to our facility at a time he was most needed to inspire God’s people.
Supt. King is one of the most supportive prison officials I have ever met when it comes to supporting Christian-based programs and educational programs for offenders. He has proven to us that he is interested in equipping us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. As a devotional writer and playwright, I know that the Jesus in Supt. King has motivated and inspired me to keep moving and to keep growing for the Kingdom.
Supt. King is an example of Matthew 25:36. He not only manages the prison compound but also inspires offenders to participate in their own rehabilitation as well as to help others. Prisons all across the nations are in crisis with staff shortages, overcrowding, etc. We are no exception other than having a management team led by Supt. King, who leads by example. He is an everyday person with enormous responsibility who is making a difference in the lives of many prisoners.
Tara Lyle has been incarcerated for nearly 16 years at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. She enjoys working at the chapel and encouraging others in the Word of God. She became a published devotional writer in 2011, and has written two unpublished devotional books.