Sixteen months ago, Maria McCrady thought yelling was the best way to handle an argument. McCrady's life was filled with anger, low self-esteem, and then drugs. That's how she ended up in the Harrison County Jail.
Maria McCrady said "I had to stand up and decide that drugs were out you know. But it's something you can't do on your own. You have to have a higher power".
McCrady's prayers were answered when the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry launched the "Life Learning Program" in early August. Chaplain Joe Collins said "There's a distinct need to offer these ladies something to help them break that cycle of crime. So life skills is the area many of them fall short on".
The inmates learn skills that will help them adjust to life after jail like anger management, balancing a checkbook, and family relationships. Those who signed-up for the 15-week program believe the class is truly a blessing.
McCrady said "I'm happy. It's something I haven't been in a long time, and I like me now".
Inmate Becky Sullivan said "I have been in here 16 months. This class is going to teach me how to get back in society. It's going to teach me how to watch my money, how to live on a certain budget, and just how to communicate with people. You don't need drugs and alcohol to communicate with people. You don't need drugs and alcohol to have joy in your life, and I found that joy, that inner peace now".
The women don't just study together, they also have to learn to live together. As part of the program, the women are housed in the same cell block, so they can start applying what they've learned in the classroom to their everyday lives.
McCrady said "We get on each other's nerves, but the family that prays together, stays together, and we do".
Chaplain Collins said "My hope is they'll leave here to become productive citizens. They'll go home and be wives and mothers that they need to be and begin to raise up children who won't repeat their mistakes".
The 16 female inmates in the first "Life Learning" class will graduate in mid-November. The Good News Jail and Prison Ministry hopes to start a similar program for male inmates in January.