Is a massive revival breaking out in Alabama’s prisons?
Most news reports about Alabama’s prisons focus on the chronic overcrowding problems that have placed the state at risk of attracting a federal takeover of the system. The problem has been so bad, in fact, that in a year in which the Alabama Legislature seemingly could not agree on anything, lawmakers managed to pass sweeping prison reform with only five dissenting votes. The bill is expected to shrink Alabama’s prison population by 4,500 inmates over the next 5 years. It also reduces the penalties for some nonviolent and drug-related crimes and strengthens the state’s parole program.
But while those efforts to reduce recidivism — the tendency for former inmates to return to prison again — deserve the coverage they have received, another trend in the system seems to have been largely overlooked.
Revival has broken out in some of the state’s prisons.
Richard Green, the chaplain of the Calhoun County Jail in Anniston, has performed more baptisms since 2008 than most pastors do in their lifetimes.
“As of today there will be roughly 1,664 [inmates baptized] in the last six and a half years,” he said earlier this month.
And on Monday, Church of the Highlands, Alabama’s largest congregation with an average attendance of 32,500 across 12 campuses, announced that their prison ministry saw an incredible 100 inmates baptized in a single day at Bibb County Correctional Facility earlier this week.
“We had a tremendous celebration last night,” the church posted on its Facebook page. “God has forever changed their lives!”
“The purpose for prison should be to rehabilitate,” said one commenter on the post. “What better path to rehabilitation is there than a declaration of God?”
And many local officials believe prison ministries around the state have not only changed individual lives, but are also helping to decrease recidivism rates.
“We believe that if someone has a true change of heart they can have a true change of life,” said Judson Brewster, a corrections officer at the Calhoun County jail.
Check out the video below for an inspiring story of one inmate whose life was forever changed by an Alabama prison ministry.
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) June 9, 2015