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‘It’s about glorifying the Lord’: Alabama sheriff’s church program gives hope to inmates

For DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden, fulfilling the duties of his job of protecting the citizenry extends to providing opportunities for inmates to become rehabilitated through spiritual growth.

Shortly after assuming office in 2019, Welden embarked on a new initiative that he believed could bring about transformational change in the lives of inmates.

Welden and his staff at the DeKalb County Jail, which houses an average of 300 inmates, rotates shifts in supervising inmates at local church services.

“You can only get one kind of for sure transformation in life. And it’s not in jail, it’s not in a rehab clinic or any kind of mental facility or anything … The only kind of a real transformation you can get is from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Welden told WHNT News 19 in a recent interview.

(Courtesy of WHNT News 19)

Welden has been hailed by locals for his steadfast commitment to public safety. Even though he holds a tough-on-crime mentality, Welden believes offering hope through faith can serve to rehabilitate individuals. Since implementing the church program, he said, the jail has seen a significant drop in repeat offenders.

“If they are here, and they want to go, we want to get them somewhere,” declared Welden. “We want to give them the opportunity to get that transformation so they won’t come back here … There’s only one real transformation and that’s Jesus Christ and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me, it’s not about anyone here. It’s about glorifying the Lord and this is just the way we do it.”

Sherry Freeman, a DeKalb County Jail inmate, said that being detained in a correctional facility can feel isolating. However, she advised that the church experience had made a meaningful impact in her life.

“When you’re in here, you feel detached from humanity really. And just to be able to go out and be around the church people and just have human contact, it makes you feel alive and accepted,” Freeman told the news outlet.

“When you’re in here, you’re broken. Most people that come in here are on drugs and are just shattered when they come in,” she noted. “And they have no hope. And just for somebody to have a little bit of faith in us, it helps change for real.”

While acknowledging that the program had received some criticism due to concerns over inmates being allowed in a public setting, Welden, a minister himself, proclaimed that his duty was to carry out the Lord’s will.

“What I say to criticism is that I’m not worried about the things I’ve done, but what worries me is the things I have not done,” Welden told WAAY 31. “So I will stand before the creator one day, and this is going to be one of these things that I done.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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