County jail inmates have ministry available to them

Published 10:55 pm Saturday, September 6, 2008

Inmates’ access to numerous faith-based programs such as ministry at the Pearl River County jail appears to help them both in and out of the jail.

Ministry work has been ongoing at the county jail for a number of years. Multiple faith-based programs are available to the inmates, including Most Excellent Way and ACTS. In 2003 Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, under the umbrella of the Pearl River Baptist Association, began offering ministry. They took over ministry work where predecessors left off, by administering to the emotional and spiritual needs of inmates.

The program under way in Pearl River County is part of the Gulfport chapter of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, Prisoner Bible Brigade Director Paul Lee said. Ministry is available in both English and Spanish.

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Numerous denominations are represented by the ministry. Carl Myers, PRBA member, said that six of the nine members on the ministry’s advisory board are Southern Baptist, the remaining three are from other denominations. There are two vacancies to fill on the advisory board. One of those vacancies will be filled by a Southern Baptist while the other will be from another denomination, Myers said.

Ministry work at the jail offers worship services and a self-help Bible study course. Ministry work rotates through the population in order to cater to the needs of all interested inmates. The self-help Bible course consists of multiple tests that contain about 250 questions each. By the time an inmate has earned their certificate of completion they would have answered between 10,000 and 12,000 questions, said Assistant Chaplain Clarence Perrett.

A number of the prisoners who have been ministered to at the jail have become members of local churches after their release. Perrett, who is a pastor at the New Life Baptist Church in Nicholson, said the church has a few such members.

However, when inmates are released, temptations are a reality and can keep some inmates from joining a local church.

To help overcome some of those temptations, the program is attempting to build a facility to house newly released inmates for two to four weeks. The facility is planned to cater to the needs of males and females and will give them a means to secure jobs and rejoin society.

Funding the facility is a problem. Grant funding is a slim possibility and private funding is a challenge to consistently receive, Lee said.

“We’re praying that God will burden somebody to step up,” Chaplain Wilford Ladner said.

Ladner trains the volunteers who help to minister to the inmates. Training is a four-hour process and of the 36 who have completed training, 26 are still active in this county. Ladner said some of previous trainees have moved to other areas, where they still minister.

To better help the inmates, the ministry is gearing up to offer a new program. The program will be called Celebrate Recovery and will help inmates suffering from various kinds of addiction, Perrett said. A similar program is being offered to the public at New Life Baptist Church.

If programs such as these can help to change the inmates while they are in the jail, then there is the possibility that they will not have to return, Allison said.

The ministry is looking for volunteers to help minister, become part of the advisory board or help fund the new facility. Those interested may call 601-795-8754 or 601-569-2912.

The work conducted in the jail is helping to make the inmates less troublesome, Allison said.