Inmates Take Part In Ministry

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

May 12, 2006

Inside the walls of a prison, inmates are not able to do day-to-day things like walk to the store, get on the Internet, or even go to their local church.

Inside the Albemarle-Charlottesville regional jail, it's the church going to the inmates through the Good News Jail and Prison ministry.

Inside the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Jail there are people who have committed crimes of all levels.

"I'm in here on a probation violation," said Aaron Atkinson, an inmate taking part in the ministry.

"I'm in here for child support and a probation violation," said John Barmore, another inmate who is part of the ministry.

Nonetheless, the two men are prisoners. Prisoners taking part in the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.

"I think I've always been a good person. I think this will increase the knowledge of my spirituality and my direction," added Barmore.

That's just what the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry wants to do with chaplains everywhere. It's been going inside the walls of our nation's jails for 40 years to talk religion.

"Society believes that if you change a man's behavior, you can change the man. We believe if you can change a man's heart, then you can change the behavior," said Alonzo Minor, the Chaplain of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

"So, what our philosophy is here, is to provide whatever services that are needed to give an individual an opportunity to change," said Colonel Ronald Matthews, the Superintendent of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Jail.

Chaplain minor leads six religious services a week. Members of his ministry say they feel good about themselves.

"For one, my prayer life has gotten better. Two, I think before I act now. I listen to people; I'm compassionate to other people's feelings," added Atkinson.

While some outside the prison may have their own views about religion inside these walls, prisoners on the inside say it's no different from being on the outside.

"I call it a pivot. It's where you're able to stand and turn around," said Barmore.

The Good News Jail and Prison Ministry held its annual spring banquet honoring all of its members on Friday. Outgoing Charlottesville City Councilor Rob Schilling provided the music.

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