Prison Ministry Enters Second Year In Harrison County Jail

For two years now volunteers have gone behind prison walls to show inmates how God can make a difference in their lives. The Good News Prison and Jail ministries arrived at the Harrison County Jail in 2001. Since then, Chaplain Joe Collins says attendance at weekly worship services has more than doubled.

Some prisoners say the spiritual guidance they're getting in jail will help them long after they get out. Maurice says going to jail brought him a different kind of freedom. He's free from drugs and alcohol, and is now influenced by people who encourage him to follow the word of God.

"If they didn't come in then we would probably be leading ourselves astray because we do need outside instruction," said Maurice. "We do need trained professionals that are stronger in that area, and we can, in turn, take what we know and help others."

Each week 450 Harrison County inmates turn to worship and bible study for answers to their problems. Chaplain Joe Collins says if a jail's only purpose is to warehouse prisoners, it's counterproductive.

"It protects society from them, but it does nothing to change them," said Collins. "Ninety-five percent of them one day will be released and unless something is done to change your heart, to change your mind, they're going to return to the street simply as criminals who had a vacation."

Bill Frith is one of about 60 volunteers who makes the prison ministry possible. He's found that the people on this side of the prison gate aren't all that different.

"It's not that everyone who's in here [are] the only people in the world who are sick, but they just have a lot more difficulty denying that they have a need in their life that they can't handle," said Frith.

The prison ministry also gives counseling to the guards. Chaplain Joe Collins say the guards need the support also because of the stressful nature of their jobs.