Inmates find faith in Clark County Jail
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Despite what they've done in the past, Clark County Jail inmates are turning their lives around, and it’s all starting with just a little bit of faith.
William Triplett is participating in his first Residents Encounter Christ Program after growing up in Tennessee and spending much of his adult life behind bars.
“I've done two stints in penitentiary there and several years in county jail,” Triplett said.
Bad decisions propelled him to hit rock bottom.
“It was miserable. Lost apartment, job, everything,” Triplett said. “It was definitely a direct result of alcoholism and drug addiction.”
Triplett was arrested and convicted of multiple felonies for breaking into his girlfriend's home, assaulting her and then stealing her car.
“I was just on a complete downward spiral. I was suicidal. I hated myself. I hated life … hated God,” Triplett said.
“We all screw up, we're all sinners ... and what are we willing to do to get out of this situation?” REC volunteer Paul Stensrud said.
Days before being booked at the Clark County Jail, Triplett had a chance encounter with Stensrud. He was serving the homeless in southern Indiana, some even former inmates themselves. Triplett was in a dark place during that first meeting, the worst in his life.
“I didn't know what to do. I didn't really know what I was searching for. I just knew that I was going to die or kill somebody else if something didn't stop,” Triplett said.
Then perhaps what most people would think is the end of the world, actually became the start of his. He was sentenced to 14 years behind bars, ten of them to be served in prison. The day he traded in his street clothes for an orange jumpsuit, he had another chance encounter with Stensrud.
“They were bringing me up on the pod and I see him. They were doing the last REC that was here, and he looked at me and said this is not a coincidence. I'll never forget that,” Triplett said.
For someone who was not religious by any means, Triplett started reading the Book of John and took advantage of the next REC session with Chaplain Stacey Leveridge.
“We just have to show them love,” Leveridge said.
“I get up every day, and I ask God to direct me because when I do things on my own, the 38 years I’ve been on this earth that I’ve been running on my own accord has brought nothing but pain and misery,” Triplett said.
“We're trying to feed them the gospel, spiritually feed them, give them that hope and just try and get them in the next direction in their life,” Stensrud said.
While Triplett started on the right path, he never graduated from the program. REC ministers say sometimes it takes a few tries.
“We're no different than they are. We get re-dos all the time," Leveridge said. "God gives us redoes.”
“It just lets us know that we can come back to our heavenly father, and no matter what we've done, he's still willing to accept us,” Stensrud said.
Ministers teach the inmates to walk in a new light so they don't end up back living among concrete walls and metal doors.
“John 3:30 - He must increase, we must decrease. And what that means is we need more of Jesus,” Leveridge said.
For some, the message resonated deep within them.
“I turned it around, go to church for myself now,” Louis Johnson said.
Some lives forever changed, not because they can't experience the world as a free person, but because they are truly alive for the first time.
“We might have to suffer a little bit in order to see what he has for us at the end of the road," Kelvin Simmons said. "Through it all, you just have to stay faithful, even though it’s very hard to do. It's easier said than done."
“God knows. He had a plan, and he's got a plan for each one of these guys,” Stensrud said.
As the follow up REC session, the inmates received communion and were left with this Bible verse: “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come close to God and God will come close to you.”
REC sessions are held separately for both men and women. The program is offered in five county jails and two state prisons in southern Indiana.
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