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Harleys in Prison: Unique Ministry for Inmates

August 15, 2016

By Joseph Luce

Department of Corrections

Motorcyclists riding onto the facility grounds and through the fences

Motorcyclists riding through the fence onto the facility grounds

A half-dozen, leather-clad motorcycle riders rumbled past the razor wire perimeter fence into the Airway Heights Corrections Center recently under the watchful eye of the tower.

No, this wasn’t a return to the Concrete Mama days. These riders, part of the Christian Motorcycle Association , were carrying Bibles to hand out to inmates who wanted one. In addition, they held a concert and gave a gospel message during the July 16th event.

The association’s prison ministry goes into adult male and adult female facilities statewide, as well as juvenile facilities and the Department of Social and Human Service’s Civil Commitment unit.

Murrell Petry, who heads the ministry, said they bring their bikes to the prison each year because it brings a sense of personal satisfaction and a feeling of religious duty. Plus they want to learn more about prisons and incarceration.

Murrell was accompanied by his wife Janet, who says bringing a person into a new spiritual life of faith “feels as good as helping someone bring a new baby into this world.”

The Airway Heights bike show, an annual event for the past decade, began in the morning outside the prison chapel in the minimum security unit, it was well attended with up to 1,500 incarcerated men admiring the bikes.

The show was a morale booster for inmates and staff, fostering a free flowing discussion about the motorcycles, as offenders of all backgrounds found a common interest in the bikes and trikes.

The idea for the event first came from former Superintendent Maggie Miller-Stout, who faced a challenge in convincing facility staff it was a good idea to bring Harley-Davidsons and riders inside the perimeter to interact with hundreds of incarcerated men. However, Maggie proved correct and the program has experienced positive outcomes for both religious and non-religious individuals.

Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA) is a national organization with a 40 year history, including 24 local CMA chapters in Washington State.