Prayer Transforms Argentina's Most Dangerous

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In La Plata, Unit 25 is the country's only Christian prison. The 270 inmates of this medium security facility are all Christians.

"We run the prison mainly according to Biblical precepts," said Daniel Tejeda, director of Unit 25. "The staff believe that the prisoners have the potential to change and the inmates indeed prove it."

"There are a lot of prisoners here with serious criminal records--murder, robbery and rape. But the staff understands that when the prisoners committed these crimes, they did not have Christ in their hearts," he said. "Their hearts changed when they got to know Christ in prison and now they view life differently."

According to government figures, only 5 percent of inmates released from unit 25 commit a crime again. That compares to 45 percent released from all other Argentina prisons.

Argentinan authorities chose to transfer one of their most wanted criminals there. Hector Sanchez raped, killed and buried the bodies of two young girls in concrete.

"The Lord rescued me because I was a bad person--a very bad person," Sanchez said. "Actually. I did things I wasn't suppose to do outside of the prison. Maybe I thought nobody was watching me or that nobody saw what I was doing. But now I know the truth that Christ the Lord watches over the things I did that have been terrible in the eyes of God and men."

"Sometimes I think that if He has rescued me and gave me this opportunity to be here in this prison, it is because he has a purpose for my life," he said.

A strict, daily routine trains the prisoners to be spiritually disciplined. Every new day is ushered in by worshipping God. As night falls and the inmates retire, five intercessors take up their post and begin a prayer watch during the long hours of the night.

"Many pastors think that we are weak Christians and in need of ministry," Pastor Jose Cordoba said. "But we indeed strengthen ourselves in God's word. We pray and minister to each other continually. We also minister to our own families and others that come here."

"We are the pillars in our families," he said. "Many pastors come here and speak to us about the love of God. They come from their churches where they get poor responses from their own congregations, but they come here and we overwhelm them with our response."

Unit 25 has seen zero attempted escapes or riots. If there are any problems, prisoners are spiritually disciplined. Their punishment? To pray more, fast, and read the Bible.

"A person that is locked up is frustrated with the monotony, he's in a pit and he wants to get out," Tejeda said. "It is here where he can look up and see God. God gives him a hand, pulls him out, heals him and renews him.

"This is not unique to this prison," he added. "This can be done in other countries. If you want to see what you've never seen before, start doing what you've never done before."

*Original broadcast May 9, 2008.

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