Finding faith behind bars

Luis Gutierrez, 55, has spent nearly half of his life in prison. He is also a devout Christian.

Gutierrez has spent the last 24 years behind bars and is now serving time at Hamilton Correctional Institution in Jupiter.

After committing a string of felonies in 1998, Gutierrez was offered a plea deal, but decided to go to trial. The state enhanced his charges under the “habitual offender” statue and he was sentenced to 260 years in prison.

With charges ranging from disorderly conduct to grand theft to burglary, Gutierrez has racked up a total of 15 cases in the past 30 years.

Now, however, he said he is trying to change his life.

After his mom died about 12 years ago, Gutierrez really dove into his faith. “That’s when I really started getting into the Bible study,” he said.

He came into prison knowing nothing about the Bible but now attends chapel every Sunday and is a part of the group.  

Gutierrez decided to practice religion in prison because, “I wanted to change my life, and I wanted to do something different than I did before.”

Ernest Gutierrez, his nephew, said he’s seen a good change in his uncle since he started practicing religion while incarcerated.

Luis Gutierrez recommends that other inmates should also practice religion in prison. “They got to do something different,” he said.

Now, Gutierrez is committed to his faith.

“We go to chapel Sunday; really, they got a lot of people. We try to go to Bible study. They have it in Spanish and English,” he said.

His faith is important to him because it helped him a lot saying, “Before Bible study, I used to be crazy.”

Now, Gutierrez said he’s trying to do something different, not just for him but for his family, too.

Currently, he’s trying to get a motion to revisit his case, after the judge who sentenced him retired. Gutierrez has enlisted the help of an ex-attorney who was sentenced to jail under the same judge, to acquire some knowledge to help him get a retrial and argue for time served on his behalf.

If he ever gets out, Gutierrez would still practice his faith. He’s trying to learn a vocation while incarcerated so he can do something for other people, the “right thing.”

Gutierrez believes that with the help of the Bible, he can help other people because, “If you really want to, you can.”