You Came Unto Me

A Training Manual For Jail And Prison Ministry
Jesus said, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” —Matthew 25:43


Dress And Safety Codes


Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (Romans 13:1)


Upon conclusion of this chapter you will be able to:

            ∙          Describe dress codes applicable for all penal institutions.

            ∙          Summarize safety codes applicable for all penal institutions.

            ∙          Give guidelines for surviving a hostage incident.


Most penal institutions have specific dress and safety codes. Be sure to inquire about these, and ask for them in writing if they are available. In this chapter, you will learn general dress and safety codes applicable to all institutions. You will also learn how to survive a hostage incident, in the rare instance that one should every occur.


Each jail and prison usually has a dress code that applies to their specific institution. For example, some institutions prohibit volunteers and visitors from wearing colors that resemble inmate or guard uniforms. Be sure to ask about the rules for the specific institution you are visiting. Here are some general rules of appropriate attire applicable to all institutions:

            ∙          Do not wear tight, form fitting clothing.

            ∙          Do not wear low cut necklines.

            ∙          Avoid tee shirts with emblems and slogans as an outer garment.

            ∙          No gang-related attire.

            ∙          Do not wear see-through or revealing clothing.

            ∙          No shorts.

            ∙           For women:

                        ∙      Dresses or skirts should come below the knee.

                        ∙      Avoid attire that reveals underwear straps.

                               (some institutions ban sleeveless dresses and blouses for this reason).

Generally speaking, wear attire that is appropriate in the business world. You are there on business for the King of Kings!


"A good volunteer will follow every rule in the institution. The rule may seem stupid, but he is happy to submit himself to it. One volunteer can destroy an entire program by not obeying the rules." —A Prison Chaplain

Each jail and prison usually has a dress code that applies to their specific institution. Be sure to ask about the rules for the institution you are visiting. Adherence to the rules will insure that your Christian witness is valid and will make your ministry effective. Learn and obey all the rules at your local institution.

Here are some general rules of appropriate attire applicable to all institutions:

1.         Leave the following at home or in your car: Purses, wallets, briefcases, money and non-essentials.

2.         Always carry identification. Many institutions insist on your identification having a photo.

3.         Be prepared to submit to a search at any time.

4.         Meet and arrive together if you are coming to minister as a group. Some institutions will escort you to your destination.

5.         Be sure to adhere to the dress code of the institution.

6.         Always consult the chaplain or a staff member when in doubt. Do not assume anything!

7.         If you are ministering in a group, keep your eyes on each other, especially while entering and exiting the institution. (Note: Men should keep ladies in view at male institutions and ladies do the same for men at female institutions.) Don't stray from the group.

8.         Never run in the institution. Running usually indicates that someone is being chased or is chasing someone. It is usually perceived as a danger signal.

9.         Learn your way around the institution. Do not enter any restricted areas. Always walk on the sidewalks. Do not take short cuts (they could lead to danger).

10.       Know emergency procedures. Some institutions have alarms in the meeting rooms or give personal alarms or whistles to volunteers. You are expected to obey an officer when an order, command, direction or instruction is given. This is for your protection and the security of the institution. If you can't be an asset during an emergency, get out of the way. In the event of an emergency situation that affects a significant portion of the inmate population at an institution, the visiting program and other activities may be suspended during the emergency.

11.       In the event of a medical emergency with an inmate, know the procedure for summoning medical aid.

12.       If a crime is committed. . .

            ∙          Call for help immediately

            ∙          Secure the crime scene.

            ∙          Remain in control and calm others around you.

13.       Do not take any contraband items into an institution. These obviously include drugs, explosives, alcohol, and weapons. It also includes items that you might not think of--for example something like chewing gum which can be used as a mold to imprint keys or jam locks. Be sure to ask what is permissible to take in with you.

14.       Never take medications (legal drugs) into any institution. Do not enter the institution with your abilities impaired by medication.

15.       Never take cameras or tape recorders onto prison grounds without permission. Photos are considered a security risk if they fall into the wrong hands.

16.       Never leave your clothing (coats, sweaters, etc.) where it may be picked up and used by prisoners in an escape attempt.

17.       If you are given keys, keep them on you at all time. Do not lay them down anywhere! If you are responsible for closing up a room and locking it, be sure to search the room

before doing so. Check store rooms, under desks, corners, bathrooms. Be sure it is empty.

18.       Officers assigned to entrances, exits, and gates are responsible for identifying you and for

searching any car, package, purse, or briefcase that passes through. When the officer at the gate is processing a visitor or inmates, do not interrupt him.

19.       Do not take messages to or from inmates--verbal or written--outside the institution. Passing messages for prisoners to others outside could--unknowingly--be contributing to an escape attempt.

20.       Many institutions issue an identification badge or card to volunteers. Be sure to wear or carry this with you at all times on institutional grounds.


Chances are remote—but if you are providing services in correctional institutions you must be alert to the possibility of being taken hostage. The following guidelines are used with permission of the American Correctional Association:

1.         Be cautious of heroics. Don't act foolishly.

2.         Be cooperative and obey hostage takers' demands without appearing either servile or antagonistic.

3.         Look for a protected place where you could hide if either authorities or inmates attempt to assault your location with force.

4.         Keep calm.

5.         Keep a low profile. Avoid the appearance of observing crimes that rioters commit. Look down or away. Avoid interfering with their discussions or activities.

6.         Do not make threats against hostage takers or give any indication that you would testify against them. If inmates are attempting to conceal their identities, make no indication that you recognize them.

7.         Be reluctant to give up your identification or clothes. Loss of these things is demoralizing. Inmates will use them for bargaining. Be especially resistant to exchanging clothes with an inmate. This could put you in much greater danger in case of an assault.

8.         As a result of the stress of the hostage situation, you may have difficulty retaining fluids. If it is possible and the hostage incident is lengthy, try to drink water and eat—even if you are not hungry.

9.         Do not say or do anything to arouse the hostility or suspicions of your captors. Act neutral and be a good listener if your captors want to talk. Be cautious about making suggestions to your captors as you may be held responsible if something you suggest goes wrong.

10.       Think of persuasive reasons the hostage takers should keep you and the other hostages alive and not harm you. Encourage them to let authorities know your whereabouts and condition. Suggest possible ways you or others may benefit your captors in negotiations that would free you.

11.       If you, as hostage, end up serving as negotiator between inmates and authorities, messages between the two groups should be conveyed accurately.

12.       If there is an assault to rescue and shots are fired, drop quickly to the floor and seek cover. Keep your hands on your head. When appropriate, identify yourself. Do not resist being apprehended until positive identification is made.

13.       Even though you must appear disinterested while being held hostage, observe all you can and make notes immediately after your release. All of these things will help in subsequent prosecution of the rioters.

Most important—in addition to the above practical guidelines—pray fervently and maintain your dependence on the Holy Spirit. Remember that nothing happens without God's permission. Therefore, keep in mind that "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). You have nothing to fear. God will deliver you according to His will and time frame. If need be, He can send legions of angels to rescue you!

A final note: Please do not let this necessary discussion of safety codes and hostage-taking discourage you from entering the prison ministry. Your are in more danger on the highways of your city than going into a prison! Inmates have even been known to shield volunteers from rioters because they knew they really cared.


1. Write the key verse from memory.




2. Describe appropriate dress codes applicable for all penal institutions.



3. Summarize safety codes applicable for all penal institutions.





4. Summarize the guidelines given in this chapter for surviving a hostage incident.





5. Obtain a list of the dress and safety codes for the institution in which you are visiting or ministering. Insert these in the final section (Chapter Thirteen) of this manual which is designed for material unique to your specific institution.

(Answers to self-tests are provided at the conclusion of the final chapter of this manual.)