Report by Nate Butler
President of COMIX35
Pastor Bud Westbrook of Huntington Street Baptist Church in New London, Connecticut USA, is the Protestant Chaplain at Radgowski Correctional Institution in Montville/Uncasville and the brother who made all the arrangements for this prison training. Pastor Bud did a terrific job setting it up and educating me about prison culture and realities.
(Pastor Bud also arranged for me to speak at his church on Sunday. First I did a special drawing/testimony session for youth, grades 6-12, followed by a children's sermon with a drawing demonstration in morning worship. At the evening service I did an informational presentation on COMIX35, along with a little drawing.)
I attended a worship service at the prison on Sunday night and so had an opportunity to meet some of the inmates with whom I would work the next day.
(Photo courtesy of the Norwich Bulletin)
Pastor Bud arranged two sessions for Monday: a morning (9-11:00) session on cartooning, open to any interested inmate, and an afternoon (1:00-3:00) session on producing Christian tracts, open to inmates who were affiliated as Protestants. We had about 12 show up for both sessions, mostly the same individuals. There were several very good artists.
Both sessions went well, and I think I learned more than I taught this first time out! There will be many challenges to overcome in helping prison inmates to produce their own tracts. I discovered they are not allowed to use staplers or any type of cutting instrument, can make no personal copies except legal documents, and are not allowed computer access because of security concerns. We discussed various options such as outside ministry support with their projects, publishing Christian comics in the prison newspaper, and drawing comics on the outside of the envelopes they send to family and friends. I even suggested they consider hand reproduction of tracts (i.e., one penciller & several inkers/copiers), using their cell window as a "light box."
I passed around a wide variety of tracts from our international collection for them to look at. I also gave out copies of Behold 3-D, Jungle Village, and Christian Comics & Games Magazine for them to keep.
Pastor Bud had contacted the media about covering the afternoon session, and a reporter and a photographer from the Norwich Bulletin newspaper showed up. The article came out within a day or so and was quite well written and photographed, I thought. (To see the Norwich Bulletin article, click here.)
Afterward, Pastor Bud wrote a great letter of recommendation for the ministry.
For future prison trainings I would like to explore using multiple faculty/volunteers (Christian comics artists/writers from the local area). I think it might work better if there was additional one-on-one tutoring help for the inmates.
This had all the appearance of a very successful and worthwhile first training event. New friendships and networks were formed, and I learned a great deal which will help with future prison trainings, Lord willing.
To God be all the Glory!