NFL’s Torrey Smith says trip to notorious prison led him to question his view of forgiveness | 4/18/2019 | Staff
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Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith has shared how a recent ministry trip to the largest maximum security prison in the United States changed the way he views forgiveness.

Smith, the 30-year-old former University of Maryland standout, penned an op-ed posted to The Undefeated earlier this month where he explained the “transformative” experience he had during a Pro Athletes Outreach trip to Lousiana State Penitentiary.

Chaplain - Len - Vanden - Bos - Pro

Through chaplain Len Vanden Bos, Pro Athletes Outreach runs a ministry called Higher Ground, which takes former and current NFL players as well as Christian leaders to prisons to share the Gospel with inmates.

Although Smith has visited prisons many times over his career, he wrote that the visit he made to the prison built on a former plantation in Angola, Louisiana challenged the assumptions he had about rehabilitation and forgiveness.

Angola - Security - Prison - People - Sentences

“I knew that Angola was a maximum security prison filled with people who were facing lengthy sentences, some convicted of violent crimes like murder or rape but others convicted under the state’s harsh habitual offender laws for which Louisiana is famous,” Smith explained. “I also assumed from everything I had heard that people would be locked in small cages with little interaction with each other outside of the prison yard.”

But to his surprise, what he saw was a community of men that didn’t seem like they were imprisoned at all.

Plainclothes - Wore - Chains - Men - Room

“Some were dressed in plainclothes; no one wore chains,” he wrote. “The men slept in a big room with bunk beds, which reminded me of the 1999 movie Life, where Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play two Harlem bootleggers sentenced to life in prison for a phony murder charge,” Smith explained. “The reality of what I saw was a lot to take in, and as we walked around, I wondered how could the most violent men in Louisiana live...
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