Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Inmate 46857 by Eddie Charles Spencer

book cover

Inmate 46857
by Eddie Charles Spencer
with Lafon Walcott Burrow

Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Winepress Publishing
First Released: 2005

Source: A neighbor recommended this book to me and loaned me her copy.

Book Description from Back Cover:
INMATE 46857 sat on his prison cot at Parchman Penitentiary in 1982 fingering his homemade knife and contemplating murdering two fellow inmates just to strengthen his tough reputation. As the nineteen-year-old convict visualized himself stabbing his intended victims, God intervened and provided deliverance. The encounter took only a moment, but getting there had taken a lifetime. Instantly, all the years of anger and rejection flashed before Eddie Spencer's eyes.

As memories flooded back, Inmate 46857 felt the pain and poverty of his childhood. He pictured himself the morning his only pair of shoes had fallen apart and his mother sent him to school wearing his sister's shoes. As Eddie stepped into his first grade classroom, his classmates taunted him, "Look at Eddie Spencer. He's got little-girl shoes on!" Humiliation and revenge gripped his young mind, launching him on a journey of crime and violence in the streets of the Mississippi Delta

Finally, Eddie recalled the night he slipped into a house, pointed a gun at a sleeping man's face and demanded, "Give me all your money!" His victim handed over the cash, but he also spoke some amazing words that Eddie would never forget.

As the words replayed in his head, Inmate 46857 knew exactly what he must do. He put away his "shank" and made the choice that changed his heart.

Inmate 46857 is an insightful Christian memoir. Eddie described memories of events in his childhood of abuse, neglect, and poverty that formed him into an angry, violent child who longed for respect and security. He went on to steal--initially, for food, then to supply his drug habit and for the thrill and feel of power. By the time he was sent to prison, he didn't see any hope for his future. He was controlled by his anger, and all he knew how to do was create fear in people. But God reached out and offered him another way--one that would only occur if Eddie truly surrendered to Him.

Eddie's childhood was a sad one and not very fun to read about, but it was very enlightening as to how someone can grow so hard and so angry. He "got religion" as a child because he felt pressured to, but no one explained what that meant. He later "accepted Christ" to please those who had shown kindness to him, but it was only when he'd lost control of himself that he finally, truly surrendered to God. Then he faced the scary prospect of the other inmates now viewing him as weak and attacking him. He wondered how God could protect him as well as how he was going to keep from losing control to his temper again. But God knew the answers.

The last 33 pages described Eddie's post-conversion struggles, which were very interesting. I'm involved in prison ministry and work with a young, angry man that's like Eddie in many ways. I'm planning on giving him a copy of this book to encourage him that it's safe to surrender to Christ. Right now, he believes in Christ, but can't let go of maintaining "his reputation." (I work with other inmates who know him and, ironically, his reputation isn't one of fear-inspiring awe like he thinks it is. But now I better understand why his reputation--what he thinks it is--is so important to him.)

This book was written in a conversational tone, was well-written, and kept my interest from start to finish. I'd highly recommend this insightful memoir to those who work in jail and prison ministry, those who work with troubled kids and teens, and those who have anger and trust issues.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
It only takes a moment to turn your life around. It doesn't matter who you are or what circumstances you find yourself in, God can make things different if you'll just let Him. I know that for a fact. I used to be the angry inmate in the prison mug shot on the front of this book before God gave me a new shot at life.

Inmate 46857, that's me. At least the me I used to be. A convected felon imprisoned by my anger and sentenced to ten years mandatory in the Mississippi State Penitentiary for armed robbery and attempted murder. Take a look for yourself. My seventeen-year-old face is already hard with hate. My lips are tight, barely able to hold back the cussing and hollering. My dark eyes defy everybody in authority.


That prison camera pretty much captured the real Eddie Charles Spencer the day in June of 1980 when they locked me up at Parchman Penitentiary. A furious boy living in a grown man's body. I'd been chased by inner demons since before I learned to write my own name. By the time I was ten years old, I'd turned into a gun-toting kid-criminal so out of control the law couldn't wait to lock me up. I had finally gotten myself incarcerated on account of the violence and crime I'd created running in the streets of the Mississippi Delta and, even though I knew I didn't really have anybody to blame but myself, I was dead set on getting even with the world.

Except for God's grace, I know where I'd be today--either lying in my grave or still locked up in some prison. Instead, I've been out of jail for more than a decade and I don't even resemble--inside or out--the angry criminal in that mug shot.

Now I want to share with you the story of the person I used to be and how God transformed me into the new man I am today. I'm hoping that once you hear about my life you'll see for yourself that if God can change me, He can change anybody.

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