Those involved with the Smith County Jail ministry volunteer program met Thursday to share information on ministries in the jails and honor chaplains who serve.
Nearly 50 ministers, chaplains and jail staff members attended the meeting in the Adult Education Building of Green Acres Baptist Church.
Darrell Coslin, captain in the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, praised those who minister to inmates.
“We can’t do what you do,” Coslin said, noting that jail employees fulfill practical duties and keep order in the jail. “The spiritual needs of the inmates are an important demand that we aren’t able to meet.”
Chaplains said that their efforts include anger management classes, classes on how to live when inmates get out of jail and Bible study.
“They don’t just tolerate us,” said Chaplain Joe Fauss, referring to the inmates and jail staff, “they welcome us.”
Fauss is the head chaplain in charge of the program. He also is founder of Calvary Commission in Lindale, a Christian discipleship training school designed for people coming out of prison.
He said he has met with inmates sentenced to die for capital murder convictions. He said this is often when inmates desire a chaplain for comfort and prayer.
Retired Judge Sam Griffith also serves as a jail minister. He stressed the importance of the role of a minister in an inmate’s life.
“You never know the difference that you’re making in someone’s life,” he said.
He said that society often disregards those who are incarcerated, but that there is potential for them to be effective members of society.
“Moses was a murderer. Paul did some of his best work in prison. If those people get saved, they’ll reach people that I’ll never know,” he said.
Margie Johnson, who ministers to women in jail, said that she often asks inmates questions to gauge their spiritual state.
“Are you tired of what you’ve been doing? Do you want to change? Because God has something better for you,” Johnson said. “There is hope. God will forgive you, but you’ve got to forgive yourself.”
Jail staff allows minister visitations between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. The Smith County Jail keeps Bibles and Qurans on hand to distribute to inmates who request them, and is in search for ministers and chaplains representing many different denominations and faiths.
“We’re doing a lot, but there’s more that can be done,” Fauss said. “Our positive attitude can change people, and diffuse conflict.” Fauss says it resonates with him that everyone is entitled to the comfort of his or her faith.
Those interested in being a jail minister can contact the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, and should be prepared to fill out an application and go through a background check, orientation and training.