“I Didn’t Have to Try to Escape Anymore”
Jim Cavanaugh spent over 20 years in federal prisons across Canada. Jim grew up in a dysfunctional home and would get progressively angry witnessing his alcoholic dad abuse his mother.
“I started stealing, and stealing led to armed robberies.”
His first 15 years in prison, Jim continued to become increasingly violent. He was hurting, withdrawn, anti-social, and he started to hate himself because he saw himself as a failure. “I hurt a lot of people in bad ways,” Jim says. “If someone had done something wrong to me and I felt justified, I would go after that person with a vengeance because I had so much hatred within me. My fellow prisoners learned that if they had a problem with me, either they needed to kill me, or I would kill them.” Jim became so hardened, he says he didn’t feel remorse.
Jim was introduced to Jesus by another prisoner who went through a conversion while in prison. This man was an ex-bank robber, and Jim had a lot of respect for him. Jim says,
“If someone other than my own friend [told me about Jesus], I would have told them to get lost. But since it was my own friend who I knew wouldn’t lie to me, and I had seen the change in his life, I knew there had to be something there that was real. He wasn’t leading his old style of life. But it wasn’t until I reached out in prayer that God met me right where I was at in that prison cell. And I started my walk of faith then with the Lord.”
Other inmates at first thought Jim’s change was a game being played—that it wasn’t real. “Yet they saw the change that was taking place over the months and years, and how I walked away from the violence. And this spoke to them,” says Jim.
Jim continues, “It was an inner-healing I received and I felt free inside. I didn’t have to try and escape anymore, I was already free. I was able to forgive myself, and have love and appreciation for myself. And then God enabled me to love my fellow prisoner and have forgiveness toward them whenever they would do something to offend me. God is bringing about an internal change, and with that internal change is external evidence.”
When Jim was released, he joined Prison Fellowship in Canada and returned to prison, a free man, to share his testimony of transformation with inmates. His story is now heard by thousands of inmates who participate in The Prisoner’s Journey® in-prison Bible study and discipleship program. He served as the regional director for the Kinston chapter of Prison Fellowship Canada and also authored Captured: To Run No More.
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