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One Bad Decision

Fred Boeninger has been teaching a PPM Bible study at Walker State Prison for many years, but he’d never been on a tour. Recently he joined a group from Bethel Bible Village for a tour that included testimonials from several prisoners, a walk through the dorm that sleeps 60 inmates and a peek at an isolation cell.

“The security officer took a couple of the kids into the cell and closed the door,” Fred says. “For one long moment they imaged living in a completely closed room with a hole in the door the size of a coffee cup.”

The guard pointed out an 18-year old inmate who made a very bad decision just 30 days before he would have been out of isolation. During a fight with another inmate he yelled “I’ll kill you!”.

“Those words earned him shackles, total isolation, and probably an eight-year prison term,” Fred says. “The guard told them, ‘Your words mean a lot.’ It was a good message for these kids to hear.”

During the tour Fred saw one of his Bible study participants, Terrell, and shared his story.

“I first met Tirrell when he was in the Hamilton County jail. He was one of 20 guys who participated in a weekend of spiritual discernment that I led. Tirrell told us he would not be back next week to the Bible study,” Fred recalls. “He was a young black guy from the Orchard Knob area and said ‘They are letting me out. Pray for me.’ And of course, we did.”

“I told him about my Bible study at 6:30 a.m. on Fridays at Wally’s. I promised to buy him breakfast the morning after his release, but he didn’t show up,” Fred says. “At Walker two months later, a young black man called out to me ‘Hey preacher, you owe me breakfast!’ and I knew who it was.”


Tirrell admitted he had made one more bad decision. On the evening of his release from the Hamilton County jail he had reunited with some friends and they broke into a home in Catoosa County. Now he is serving five years in Georgia and attending Bible study at Walker State Prison.

“Just last night Terrell came up to let me know he is getting out in a couple of weeks,” Fred says. “He got permission to move back to Chattanooga. I’ve invited him to breakfast. I hope he comes.”


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