A Death Row Chaplain Speaks on Grace and Mercy

As a young man, Chaplain Earl Smith, was lost in gangs, drugs and crime until he chose God. 

Posted in , Jul 2, 2015

Earl Smith, author of Death Row Chaplain

Some people end up in places that most of us don’t ever want to find ourselves. Take Earl Smith–he spent 27 years at San Quentin Prison, a maximum-security facility. He was not there for a crime but because he adhered to the call of God to be a prison chaplain.

He spread seeds of love and hope, and the light of God into the broken hearts of men, who were once young innocent boys, but along life’s journey took the wrong path.

As a young man, Chaplain Smith, was lost in gangs, drugs and crime until he chose God.

In his new book, Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America’s Most Notorious Prison, he writes, “The men of San Quentin and many others struggling with their place in the world face the same dilemma that I did: the choice between the difficult but righteous path and the old, destructive path. Which path we choose when confronted with these moments of decision making will determine the course of our lives-and the two paths are adjacent and unmarked.”


In working with inmates, one of the key questions Chaplain Smith asked them to ask themselves was, “Am I my crime?” In other words, did their crime define them, or are they something more and better?

Chaplain Smith reminds us, “Even if you think someone is his crime, God does not. He knows better. God doesn’t have checklist for forgiving us for our errors. He cares about one thing; that we ask Him sincerely for forgiveness through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”


Chaplain Smith is the first one to say that God’s forgiveness doesn’t mean the men don’t pay for their crime. However, it is the start of getting them on the right path. Chaplain Smith reminds us that God’s grace is available to men in prison as much as it is for each of us living on the outside.

God can raise us higher than our actions through His love and grace. How has God’s grace lifted you? Please share with us.

Lord, thank you for Your mercy and love that is available to us all. We are better people because of your grace, for each of us falls short of your righteousness.

Buy Earl Smith’s book:  Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America's Most Notorious Prison

Related Videos

View Comments