Boys Behind Bars–Josh’s Letter, by Ed Spencer

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Every once in a while, as a prison friend and mentor, you receive a letter from a young inmate that is packed with an emotional bombshell. I began writing this boy when he was still a teen. His “celly” (cellmate) David, asked me to continue to send encouragement to him, as David was transferred to an adult facility 6 or 7 years ago.

I continued correspondence with him consistently every month or so. Josh would always write back to me in an emotionless and matter of fact style, letting me know how he was doing and what he was doing. He has no family support except for an elderly grandmother who visits occasionally. About a year ago, he had the opportunity to be a part of the K9 training program. This program was an answer to prayer for me, as it has totally filled this boy’s life with opportunity and encouragement. He often tells me he has learned the values of caring about someone else, empathy, and responsibility, through his relationship with his dog and this K9 program. It is so awesome to see his excitement!

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This past year he has opened up to me so much more and has communicated with me more regularly. Although he rarely responds to any spiritual lines I insert into his letters, I see the friendship develop more and more. I do pray that the Holy Spirit will influence his life to know God and know who he is in Christ. I occasionally send him books, at his request, about dog training.  He is careful not to ask me for too much. Occasionally I also send him a Christian Novel like a Ted Dekker novel or something similar.

The letter I received from him yesterday really touched my heart; in it he said, “Those books are no rush, whenever you can get around to it. I don’t ever want to ask for too much, so let me know if I do so. I’m so appreciative to have you as a friend, I don’t want to burden you. You’ve helped me so much already.” (tears filled my eyes as I read that. To me it is a confirmation that God wants me to continue involvement in his life.)

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Josh would like to take a K9 training course by correspondence from the famous Tarheel K9 Training Center in North Carolina, but he will need to raise and save about $400 to do it. I did contact Tarheel for him to make sure that they would personally work with him once we raised the funds. One of the trainers agreed to be personally involved. She even agreed to take an occasional prison inmate phone call directly from him if he needs help or has questions.

Several months ago, Josh was very sad to give up his first K9 that he had trained for a year… I told him that his investment of a year of training with this dog will go on to help someone else, and that his dog would never forget him. The dogs in this program are trained for aid to the disabled. Josh now awaits his new pup which he should get before the end of the year,

Josh has been behind bars since age 13 and he is now 27. He has been behind bars for 14 years… more than half of his life. He may be eligible for parole at age 33. Pray for Josh and his future. Pray that he will find Christ in his life. Pray that God would provide the funds for him to take the Tarheel Course. Pray that Josh will receive the help and support he will need when he does get out. If you would like to send Josh a card of encouragement for Christmas or for his Birthday send me an email at

The inmate’s names have been changed in these public articles to protect the inmate. Please contact me for any further information.

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