Jail staff, inmates receive prayers from community



Local pastors and church members took turns reciting names of people at the Jackson County Jail.

It started with Sheriff Rick Meyer and continued with names of his officers, reserve officers, dispatchers, jailers and office staff.

Then names of female and male inmates were recited.

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Before and/or after saying the names, a prayer and a Bible verse were shared.

The nearly 200 inmates inside could hear and see each person stepping up to the recording device outside thanks to computer tablets provided to the jail pods. Community members gathered outside the jail and standing around the front of the building could hear every word through large speakers that were set up.

The power of prayer was felt by the many attendees, who also lifted their hands in the air as religious songs were sung before and after the event by Michael Goodpaster.

At the end of the community prayer event Saturday at the facility in Brownstown, attendees walked around to the fenced-in recreation area to see female inmates, who came out in two different groups and were greeted by claps and words of encouragement.

Then they made their way to the opposite end of the building to wave at the male inmates, who looked through the barred windows and waved or held up signs.

Jail Commander Chris Everhart said the event, hosted by New Day Residents Encounter Christ, made an impact on all involved.

“We’ve always had just an outpouring of help from the community and community involvement,” he said. “The community has always been there to participate in programs for the jail and help in any way they can.”

New Day Residents Encounter Christ is a three-day evangelistic event held in county jails. Over the course of the weekend, the focus is to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ with residents. This is done through talks, table discussions, times of worship, prayer and communion.

The mission is to make Jesus Christ known to men and women who are incarcerated in prisons and jails in the state, according to newdayrec.org.

Everhart said the first program was in August 2019, and the second one was in February of this year. Each time, there were separate weekends for male and female inmates.

“We divided it, so we have usually seven or eight people out of each pod. That way, it’s fair,” he said. “We do a lottery system of who’s interested, and then we just draw names out of a hat based on their classification level.”

Maximum security inmates are restricted from attending the event, but minimum and medium inmates can sign up to be a part of the lottery system. There are 40 men and 40 women chosen each time.

“They hear a set of 15 talks, and each talk builds upon the other through the weekend,” said Robin Everhart, a member of Central Christian Church in Seymour who participated in Saturday’s event.

The talks are led by pastors and lay leaders.

“The first talk doesn’t even have Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, nothing in it. It’s just to kind of get them interested,” she said. “There are different spiritual moments in it, and that’s where people come face to face with Christ, and they can make a decision whether they are going to follow Christ.”

Chris Everhart said several inmates have been released from the jail and kept in contact with members of New Day Residents Encounter Christ.

“There were a few gentlemen that went through August of 2019 and they’ve been out of custody since and are doing quite well,” he said.

One man who attended Saturday’s event used to be an inmate and now attends church and is doing good, Chris said.

“He did a pretty good stint in prison, but he got out and hasn’t been back. He showed up and said, ‘Man, I’ve never seen anything like this before.’ He was impressed,” Chris said.

Robin was happy to see a woman attend who once was an inmate.

“Oh my gosh! Joy,” she said of her reaction to seeing the woman. “There’s nothing better. That’s what I live for is to see a life change in people. We’ve got to show the love of Christ. That’s the only thing that’s going to change them. My prayer always for them is that they hear the spirit. It’s all about surrendering to Christ.”

Chris said Residents Encounter Christ events were being conducted inside the jail, but all programs have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris had several meetings with Russ Sutton from Cornerstone Community Church in Seymour about doing a community prayer event, and the Residents Encounter Christ board approved it.

Shawn Mahoney helped with the technology so inmates could hear and see what was going on.

“We’re just trying to use technology to our benefit,” Chris said.

Word got out to pastors and church and community members from around Jackson County.

Chris looks forward to similar events in the future.

“I talked to Russ and I said, ‘Maybe we should make this an annual thing,'” he said. “I think this will be an annual thing. Inviting the community and getting the public here, if they want to involve themselves, they can.”

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For information about New Day Residents Encounter Christ or to volunteer, visit newdayrec.org or email [email protected].

Donations also may be made on the website or mailed to New Day Residents Encounter Christ, 3129 25th St., No. 369, Columbus, IN 47203.


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