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Fighting recidivism with faith

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:36 ESV)

Recidivism is a term used to describe inmates who have been incarcerated for a crime, released and then end up back in prison a second time having fallen back into a life of crime.

It is a major problem. In an article for CBS article entitled “Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal”, Stephanie Slifer wrote about a 2005 study conducted by the National Institute of Justice of 495,000 inmates in 30 states which found:

  • Nearly 44% of inmates were back in prison within a year of their release;
  • 68% were back in prison within three years;
  • 77% within five years; and
  • 83% within nine years.

Just punishing a person for their crime is not sufficient, a transformation needs to take place in their heart.

Consequently, when the new Decatur County Detention Center in Greensburg, Indiana was being constructed, then Sheriff Dave Durant pushed to ensure there was enough room to focus on rehabilitating prisoners to end this relentless cycle.

This included making room and providing funding for both faith and non-faith based programs, the Greensburg Daily Signal reported in 2019.

Through the faith programs inmates prisoners would receive faith guidance and an opportunity to reexamine their lives.

His goal was to change the hearts of the inmates.

“Everyone knows that the longest distance to travel is the 18 inches between the head and the heart,” Durant told the Greensburg Daily Signal in a 2019 interview.

“If you can change the heart during that journey, everything will follow suit. Whether it be alcohol or drugs or poverty that are creating the cycle, we only have to change their hearts to stop the process,” Durant continued.

He added that the program has resulted in some remarkable transformations in inmates’ lives.

On Dec 29, 2022, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office posted photos on its Facebook page of 40 men and women within the Indiana penal system who had recently been water baptized.

This was accomplished through the work of the Residents Encountering Christ (REC), a faith-based program led by Chaplain Dave Burnett. The goal of this ministry is to change the hearts of inmates and stop them from re-offending.

“What a great way to celebrate Christmas and a New Year! DCDC Chaplain Dave Burnett along with REC members baptized nearly 40 men and women after a personal, public profession of Jesus Christ in their lives. Over the past four years, nearly 300 men and women have given their life to Jesus Christ while incarcerated at the Decatur County Detention Center. All glory to GOD!,” the Sheriff’s department wrote.

After being baptized the inmates then write their names on the baptismal water tank signalling their commitment to a life change.

Predictably not every one was happy with this news of hope and freedom.

An atheist organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FRF), sent a letter to the Decatur Sheriff’s department telling it to stop posting these photos on its Facebook page, citing the separation of religion and state. The FRF threatened legal action if it refused, Christian Headlines reports.

READ: Atheist Group Complains after Sheriff’s Office Celebrates 300 Baptisms AND Baptisms at the Decatur County Jail AND Once a criminal, always a criminal?

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