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Inmates claim KJV is king in Townsville

Inmates claim KJV is king in Townsville

Inmates claim KJV is king in Townsville

8 July 2020

Courts and prisons chaplain Bob Down with a box of Bibles to be given to inmates of the Townsville Correction Centre.

By Darryl Whitecross

The inmates of the Townsville Correctional Centre can’t get enough Bibles – especially the King James version.

Bob Down, who has been a courts and prison chaplain with The Salvation Army for about 40 years, said he had given out hundreds of scriptures in that time but was still surprised at the hunger for the KJV.

“All the blokes seem to be chasing King James Bibles,” he said.

He said it was “a long story” as to why the inmates preferred the KJV, which stemmed from a time when a strong voice among the prisoners suggested it was the only version that should be read by the jail population.

“This bloke, who had found the Lord, didn’t like them reading anything else,” Bob said. “He was getting the boys to read the Bible. That was the main thing.”

Since then, Bob said, that had been the version most sought after in the prison.

“I try to offer the blokes today another Bible but they say: ‘No. I want a King James’,” he said.

Bob said many found it easier to memorise scripture from the KJV rather than the modern translations.

When chaplains were allowed back into Queensland prisons on June 15, after having been prevented from doing so as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, Bob found he had run out of Bibles to hand out.

He said he regularly received Bibles from Gideons and Prison Fellowship but his stocks had been depleted so he mentioned his predicament to Lieutenants Perry and Bronwyn Lithgow, the corps officers at Townsville Faithworks.

Bronwyn said Bob was always looking for Bibles for the prison so, when he mentioned most recently that he needed more, the corps put a call out on its Facebook page. She said the response was instant.

Lisa Lawlor, who is a member of the Faithworks congregation, said she had been considering for some time buying some Bibles to hand out in the community and, when she saw the Facebook post, “jumped at the chance” to help.

She said she ordered some Bibles through a Christian bookshop and had them delivered to the corps. These were given to Bob for the prison.

Bob said the Bible was always in demand among the prisoners.

Prison Fellowship, which produces the translation God’s Word, said recently on its website that there had been a surge in requests for Bibles “like never before”.

Bob said the God’s Word translation carried helpful information for prisoners on how to find God, how to live life in prison and how to live life when released.

Shirli Congoo, from Army’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team, had also contacted the Faithworks corps as she was wanting some Bibles for the people of Palm Island.

Bronwyn said that was also mentioned in the corps Facebook callout.

“We've since received another box of Bibles from an anonymous donor which will go to Palm Island,” Bronwyn said.

Fresh from a Sunday of leading a half a dozen church services of 10-15 inmates, Bob said his prison chaplaincy was “one of the best ministries you could ever have” – despite having tender fingers after having strummed his guitar to lead all the singing (“I learnt to play the basics a few years ago so I could accompany the choruses.") “I look forward to it every week,” he said.

Handing out Bibles was where it all started for Bob as a prison chaplain.

He said that when he was first invited to become part of the ministry all his involvement involved was being part of the ‘congregation’ inside the prison and handing out Bibles at the end.

Since then, his ministry has grown so that he has regular contact with the prisoners where he is able to introduce them to Jesus and then encourage them as their faith grows. He also has a ministry at the courts.

Bob said leading Bible studies in the prison was not allowed but the discussion sheets he used in his ministry were a good replacement.


  1. I loved this.

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