Education has value. Listening results in seeing something differently and being better for it. That doesn’t just make people better. It makes a community stronger too.
Most times, a tattoo is a positive and permanent form of expression. But not for everyone. Those in prison may get one for different reasons, and those reasons can hurt their success after release.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Sungbin Kim stood inside a locked room at the Elkhart County Corrections Center, playing a borrowed guitar.
Volunteers and workers at the 35-year old jail ministry of Elkhart County have been working hard to create a new kind of ministry for the people they help.
The jail ministry program is probably the largest of any jail in Indiana.
A new class at the Elkhart County Jail has some inmates giving back to the community. They've also picked up a unique skill.
After learning to crochet a month ago, eight to 12 inmates at the Elkhart County jail are giving back to the community by donating scarves and hats to local ministries to help struggling families keep warm this winter.
"Elkhart County is the newest of all the diocesan jail ministry teams. Recently founded through the work of Mark Griffin, the team of five or six individuals hosts discussions, religious services, and Bible studies for their incarcerated brothers and sisters in Christ."
For a few days each May, some earnest college students who want to change the world sit in a room with men and women who were on the wrong side of the law. They sit as students, as equals. One set of them pays for college credit. The other is paying a debt in jail while awaiting trial or sentencing.
“These are human beings that have made mistakes, and if we can allow them to be involved in some programs and activities that will keep them, one, occupied; and, secondly, to direct their thoughts and their actions toward positive actions,” Rogers said.
“The programs are important but the inmates don’t need a bunch of programs pushed at them. They need somebody to treat them like a friend, who values their opinions,” Martin said. “We use the programs as way to get to know the people. Our ministry is showing them the Gospel, not just telling them.”
Two years ago, Doug Cuney stood in the middle of his jail cell, feeling hopeless and that his life had no purpose. On Tuesday, Cuney stood in the middle of his living room with renewed hope and purpose in his life.
The international Inside-Out program was founded in 1997 at Temple University and Graterford Prison, both in the Philadelphia area, and has since spread to more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States and around the world.
“We’re investing,” Martin said. “We’re doing things. We may not see the result. And we have to be OK with that. We’re just called to be faithful. We’re not called to save people.”
"When Cory Martin ’00 walked across the stage at graduation, he certainly didn’t expect that God would lead him to pursue jail ministry. "
The Elkhart County Jail has revamped its visitation policy for non-volunteers making it easier for friends and family to visit with their loved one in jail.
“What struck me is that if I were blindfolded and just walked into this room and heard the conversations and discussions that took place…you would never know you were in a jail,” said Lt. Kris Klosinski, coordinator of inmate educational opportunities for the jail.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have Cory Martin serving as the Chaplain for the Elkhart County Jail,” said Rick Lambright, president of the Elkhart County Jail Chaplaincy Board, in a statement. “Cory’s leadership capacity, organizational skills and passion for ministry will take our jail ministry to a new level.”
The Elkhart Truth profiled the Elkhart County Jail’s new chaplain, Cory Martin, Friday afternoon. Their story does a great job covering the recent work he did with The Crossing, a faith-based alternative school program that is serving many communities across northern Indiana. What they didn’t cover was his past life as one of the more effective young political operatives in northern Indiana.
The new chaplain at the Elkhart County Jail has plans to organize the various ministry programs and groups active at the facility.“The jail has done a great job providing programming for inmates,” said Cory Martin. “The big thing the program has lacked is maybe a cohesive vision and direction.”
Brad Rogers is in the business of law enforcement. He prefers not to have repeat customers. And at the Elkhart County jail, something seems to be working. Rogers, the Elkhart County sheriff, said jail programs have reduced the recidivism rate for participating inmates — most often by more than half.