Finding freedom behind bars: Prisoners turn to faith

(Source: WNEM)

Several local prisoners are finding freedom behind bars with faith.

The program gives prisoners a light in what can often seem like a dark place by connecting them with whichever religion they choose.

"Bringing them out of the normal environment that they're in, into this helps them to really focus," said Chad Markwell, chaplain of the Central Michigan Correctional Facility.

Markwell has worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections for 20 years. The past five years he has been the chaplain for the Central Michigan Correctional Facility in St. Louis.

He said there is never a wrong place to talk about God, especially behind bars.

"We cover various groups from Muslim groups to Christian groups to Catholic groups, to seventh day. So we provide all of those services for the inmates here," Markwell said.

He believes they can always do more. That's why twice a year the prison invites representatives from Keryx, a volunteer based travel ministry.

Wayne Johnson is one of 35 Keryx volunteers. He said Keryx visits prisons across the state holding sessions with anywhere from 40 to 60 inmates.

"The thing that is unique about Keryx is the weekend is only the start of building a relationship with these men. We come back. A number of us come back every Sunday night and spend a couple hours with them in accountability groups talking about how has there week been. What's your closest moment to Christ this week," Johnson said.

Some of the inmates who went through the program now volunteer as team members.

"I went and it was life changing," Mark Bennett said.

The program is funded by private donations and does not cost taxpayers any money.

After the weekend program, volunteers do monthly visits with the prisoners.

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