Editor’s Note: Vikki Hankins spent 18 years in federal prison for a non-violent drug crime. Today she lives in Orlando, runs her own business, and is a contributor to Freeline Media Orlando. Vikki reflects here on the issue of faith and the role it plays inside prison.
ORLANDO — The other day I read an article about prisoners and the chapel that I found interesting. But there were a few statements in the article that have crossed my mind concerning imprisonment, people of color and oppression.
I’ve often compared the prison system to modern day slavery — in particular when laws are constructed that target a specific race and mete out punishment that’s harsher for one race of people while other races receive lesser sentences for virtually the same crime … moving on. But I have also have another perspective when it comes to prison, purpose and spirituality.
I was raised with a very strong spiritual background; my mother made sure my siblings and I knew God. I’m grateful. Had it not been for all of the spiritually rich food she fed me, I don’t think I could have made it through some of the uncontrollable things that have happened in my life.
Throughout history there have always been people who were “sent” into prisons to mold them into great leaders. During the latter parts of my incarceration, I would reflect on some of the greatest historical Biblical leaders who were either incarcerated or in a place of oppression.
As I reflected on this while simultaneously pondering why I was truly in prison, I began to see things a little bit differently about my life. In particular I paid more attention to the thoughts that began to arise about my existence as I wrote my autobiography.
Writing my book forced me to pay attention to details that ultimately influenced my thought process on imprisonment. I believe there are certain people that God has plans for, and sometime He has to put them in a place where they have no choice but to face up to why He put them on Earth in the first place.
This theory of mine does not apply to every person who winds up isolated from their family, in a noisy and overcrowded prison — or for the person who lives like a hermit. But the one thing that I have come to terms with is that it applied to me.
When I was involved with illegal drug activities, I would often run into people that would try to take advantage of me, or people that would do almost anything to purchase drugs. Whenever I look back on this, it pains me to think of these people who did things they wouldn’t normally do. One night there was a man who stopped my car; it was clear to me he was highly upset and very high on drugs. I stepped out of my car to find out what the problem was. What I didn’t realize was that the guy had a gun.
Nor did I care.
The guy put the barrel of the gun directly on my forehead; I could feel the cold metal against my skin. When he placed the gun there, I told him to “pull the trigger.” I meant these three words with all of my being. I was already dead inside because of the trauma from my mom’s death by suicide; I didn’t want to live anymore, and this was my escape from life.
But just as he began to register what I’d told him to do, a car came out of nowhere and sped around the curve, and the headlights startled the guy. He ran away.
When I began to look at that moment in my life from a spiritual perspective, I was able to see a message for me that I now completely understood. God spoke through that intervention; I told this man to kill me, but God said No Vikki you are going to live, I have plans for you. Of course I could not see it in this ‘light’ on that night, but during my 15th year of imprisonment, I reflected on that night and saw it exactly as I just shared with you.
This incident along with several other factors of my life, gave me a deeper understanding to the word purpose. I did extensive research on Biblical characters, in particular Moses; as a result of murder, Moses had to run to an isolated place in order to prepare himself for the great work he had to do. Paul was a man who did time in prison and wrote 13 books of the same Bible that we carry today; Joseph was yet another man that God used for his will.
There are a number of people that God had a purpose for that were imprisoned, either through their own actions or the actions of others, including people of our day and age – Nelson Mandela in South Africa comes to mind.
Whatever the case, purpose and spirituality has its place amongst the imprisoned.

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