Along a narrow hallway, women confined alone in small cells peer out as the pair passes by. Green and Bradshaw stop to touch the window of each cell, telling each prisoner that they are loved.
During their visit, one inmate tells Green about a prayer session held the previous night where five women gave their lives to Christ.
This restoration of faith for inmates in the Calhoun County Jail began in January 2009. Sheriff Larry Amerson approached Green about the jail ministry and one month later he had the program running.
Green, an ordained minister, meets with inmates daily for six to eight hours. The jail houses between 450 and 500 prisoners and Green has worked out a weekly schedule that allows him to meet with all of them. He is assisted by Bradshaw, who coordinates the women’s ministry and family outreach, along with 10 other volunteer ministers who help throughout the week.
Green says he tries to avoid preaching during these meetings. Instead, he asks the inmates what they’ve been thinking and praying about, and provides them with Christian novels, self-help books and the Bible.
“Where they are in their journey they’re feeling less as they should as a human being,” Green said. “We treat them the way the Lord would have us treat them.”
The chaplain always leaves the inmates with scripture passages to study, many of which center on peace because, he says, peace is one of the most important aspects to teach.
“They should try to maintain peace in an environment that is extremely hard to maintain peace in,” he said.
Since the ministry began, Green estimates he’s performed more than 1,000 baptisms and said he can’t begin to count how many people have rededicated their lives to Christ.
For inmates of a different faith, he makes sure to provide reading materials and bring in ministers from those religions. Green said he’s brought the Quran to Muslim inmates and ensures their meals are presented in a way that’s consistent with their faith. A pastor who speaks fluent Spanish also visits weekly to provide services.
“We love them and we care about them,” Green said. “Yes, they’re in jail and they must be held fully accountable to the jail, but that doesn’t stop us from loving them.”
It always warms Green’s heart to see outside of jail someone whom he ministered as an inmate. Seeing how proud they are to show him their family and talk about how they’ve turned their life around is “compensation you could never put a number on,” he said.
The ministry has been invaluable to the jail, Amerson said, especially its effect at keeping tensions to a minimum. The sheriff said the inmates participating in Bible studies and working with Green tend to behave better.
Typically inmates have more issues to deal with than the average person, he said, explaining that the chaplain acts as a conduit between an inmate and the outside world.
“If there’s some crisis going on with a family, the chaplain coordinates with ministers in the community that might provide that family with some assistance,” Amerson said.
Bradshaw ministers to more than 60 women each week and also speaks with family members of inmates. She said she’s always on call if a female inmate has a family emergency so she can tell the woman personally.
“We talk about relationships and how to take ownership of where they’ve been with no condemnation for what they do,” Bradshaw said.
She enjoys speaking to families of inmates, she says, and hopes to provide comfort while their loved one is incarcerated. Recently, a jailed woman asked Bradshaw to reach out to her sister. When Bradshaw got in touch with her, she was relieved to find out her sister was in jail because she had not spoken to her in three months and had assumed the worst.
“She told me she slept for the first time in months,” Bradshaw recalled.
Bradshaw and Green are still in touch with one of the first inmates they mentored four years ago, a woman in jail for drug charges. Bradshaw said she and Green were able to reach her one day during a service.
“She credits the program. She credits the fact that she listened to Richard and listened to me. She trusted us,” Bradshaw said.
When the woman was released from jail and had nowhere to go, Bradshaw paid for a motel room so she would have a place to sleep for the night. Now the woman is sober and supporting herself.
“She’s doing very well,” Bradshaw said. “I’m awfully proud of her.”