Correctional officers in a county Illinois jail are marveling at the change they see in their inmates after a church stepped in with services.
“We have a quieter atmosphere,” Jasper County Sheriff Patrick Williamson told WLFI-TV. “In times past, you would hear banging, kicking, yelling, screaming, but now it’s very quiet. They get along well, they treat staff better, so we have less incidents. It just complements the other things going on in our jail.”
First Church in Wheatfield, Illinois, started their prison ministry with their pastor John Hill, who worked with the jail on an addiction recovery house for men. When that initiative yielded successful results, Williamson invited the church into the jail.
Every Thursday, faithful volunteers visit for a weekly service with chairs, sound equipment and doughnuts in hand. In only three months, the jail has noticed a big change. On one recent visit five men and four women were baptized by First Church. “The corrections officers have talked about how the entire culture of the jail has shifted,” Hill said. “The inmates are caring for one another and actually thinking about life beyond bars.”
Williamson, a professing Christian, says he knows the power that faith can have on inmates, “The ultimate goal is to help them contribute to their families, which will contribute to society, which will take away the third and fourth generations I’m seeing come back through our jails.”
Anthony Gann, an inmate arrested for drug use, has seen the powerful positive effects of the services. “Don’t give up on us,” he said. “Just because we wear these clothes doesn’t mean we are bad people, we just made some dumb decisions.”